Hamilton and Scourge National Historic Site of Canada
Lake Ontario, Ontario
Image of the cannon
© National Geographic, 82-1874, 1982.
Lake Ontario, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1812 to 1812
Event, Person, Organization:
Hamilton and Scourge
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: Naval Memorial Garden in Confederation Park, Hamilton, Ontario
The wrecks of the Hamilton and Scourge are rare examples of vessels used during the War of 1812. Designed as merchant schooners, both were converted into American warships once hostilities began and each played a role in the capture of Fort George on May 27, 1813. While stationed off Port Dalhousie, they capsized and sank with a loss of over 50 lives during a sudden squall in the early morning of August 8, 1813. Discovered 90 metres below the surface of Lake Ontario in 1973, these remarkably preserved wrecks are outstanding archaeological records of shipbuilding and naval warfare of their time.
Description of Historic Place
Hamilton and Scourge National Historic Site of Canada is located at the bottom of Lake Ontario 11 kilometres north of Port Dalhousie, near St. Catharines. The site is comprised of the wrecks of two American gunships, the Hamilton and the Scourge, which sank during the War of 1812. The ships are in a remarkably good condition, despite their initial sinking and despite some decay brought about by the passage of years at lake bottom. A sizeable debris field surrounds the two wrecks, and it is thought that the site contains numerous artifacts. The official recognition refers to a perimeter around the two shipwrecks in their existing spatial relationships.
Hamilton and Scourge was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1976 because: they are rare examples of vessels of the War of 1812, of any type, that have survived to this day, and are in remarkable condition, and contain a vast historical treasure of shipboard articles.
The Hamilton and the Scourge were originally constructed as merchant schooners, but both were pressed into service by the Americans and modified for military purposes at the outbreak of the War of 1812. On the night of August 7-8, 1813, a sudden squall came over the American fleet stationed off Port Dalhousie, causing both ships to capsize and sink. Less than a quarter of the over 70 crew members aboard both vessels, survived. The loss of life was the greatest single loss of life on the Great Lakes during the entire war. The wrecks were discovered in their current location in 1979 and were purchased from the United States Government by the City of Hamilton. They have been the subject of several underwater archaeological investigations.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, October 2006.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: the location of the ships at the bottom of Lake Ontario 11 kilometres north of Port Dalhousie; the underwater archaeological remains of the two ships in their current condition and location, including the hull, fragments of the vessel and the surrounding debris field; the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains associated with the wreck, which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent, including all remains of a naval, military and personal nature.