War of 1812 – Shannon and Chesapeake

Talk about frustrating. I have started down another rabbit hole, and what an amazing history this is.

Since arriving at my new job in Halifax, I have been enamoured (a strange term, I know) with the history of the Old Naval Burying Ground on the grounds of CFB Halifax. In operation from ~1783 till its closure ~1905, the past curator Naval Museum of Halifax (then known as the Maritime Command Museum) curator (Marilyn Gurney Smith) was able in years past to compile a list of the dead totaling about 950 (which I have entered in an excel sheet!). The list has grown through further research to approach 1100.

The burial ground is an unassuming plot, maybe a couple of acres in size with only 85 or so headstones.

It is because of this unassuming nature, the fact that there could easily be 1500-2000 burials, and the fact that the plot is largely forgotten that has stoked my interest. Well, that and the fact that I walk by it every day.

Perhaps most amazing is the fact that this forgotten cemetery is the final resting place of five British seamen (Able Seaman Francis Dixon, Landsman Francis Alberts (Alberto), Able Seaman John Antonio, Landsman Owen Callaghan and Ropemaker Peter Lawson), who died of wounds after being delivered to the Old Naval Hospital on 6 June 1813. There are two men (Samwell and Stevens) buried in St Paul’s Old Burial Ground. Amazingly, their original headstone resides in St Paul’s Church.

As well, it is very likely that approximately 12 sailors of the USS Chesapeake who were grievously injured in that 14 minute battle of 1 June 1813 off Boston that so shaped Halifax (and Royal Navy) history. The fact that we Canadians (British citizens then) have pretty much forgotten this action is astonishing.

So, long story short, it is with great pleasure that I have learned of a conference being held at SMU in August 2014 about the role of the maritimes in the War of 1812. I hope to make a presentation at that time about the Old Naval Burying Ground.

A final thought – there were 35 men killed in that intense, bloody engagement. Only 7, that I know of, are memorialized anywhere, and that is here in Halifax.

What a town.


1 thought on “War of 1812 – Shannon and Chesapeake

  1. Thank you for posting and good luck with the presentation, Russell.

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