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June 17, 2013

The U.S. Brig Oneida Prepares to Set Sail as a Traveling Exhibit

ANCHORS AWEIGH FOR THE U.S. BRIG ONEIDA! - The painting of the U.S. Brig Oneida was unveiled at the opening reception of the third annual Oswego War of 1812 Symposium. The artwork was commissioned to commemorate Oswego's role in the war and will soon be displayed at various locations around the Oswego County and the North Country. If you would like to schedule an exhibit, call the Fort Ontario State Historic Site at 315-343-4711. Pictured from left are Peter Sterbak, Fort Ontario; Ian Mumpton, Fort Ontario; Dr. Gary Gibson, naval historian; Oswego Mayor Thomas Gillen, Tim Ames, artist; Jordan Chaimoff, Fort Ontario intern; Jenny Emmons, Fort Ontario; and Paul Lear, chairman of the Oswego War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee and superintendent of the Fort Ontario State Historic Site.

OSWEGO, NEW YORK - The third annual Oswego War of 1812 Symposium may be in the history books; however, the bicentennial commemoration continues with the traveling display of the "U.S. Brig Oneida," by award-winning local artist Tim Ames. At the event, Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen unveiled the painting which is now being shown in the Oswego County Legislature Chambers, 46 E. Bridge Street, Oswego, New York.

"We wanted to create a permanent monument to one of the significant roles that Oswego played in the War of 1812," said Paul Lear, chairman of the Oswego War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee and superintendent of the Fort Ontario State Historic Site. "The U.S. Brig Oneida, built in Oswego between 1808 and 1809, was involved in more actions throughout the campaign than any other warship. The Oneida Painting Project came about as a result of our discussions to honor this interesting fact."

Lear added, "The Great Lakes were a major action theater in the War of 1812. Harbors housed ship-building ports and military strongholds and many key battles were fought along the shores of Lake Ontario. The military strategy was that whoever controlled the lake also controlled the outcome of the war."

The U.S. Oneida participated in the first battle of Sackets Harbor and the capture of the British schooner "Lord Nelson," in June of 1812; the capture of York (now Toronto), Canada in April 1813 and Fort George, Canada the following month; and the Niagara River blockades of 1814, before peace was declared later that year and the War of 1812 ended.

The brig was sold in the spring of 1815 and later repurchased by the U.S. Navy before being sold to a lumber company in Clayton, N.Y. in 1825. As a working timber ship, she sank in the French Creek Bay several years later. A cannon and an anchor were recovered and can be found in the Clayton Memorial Park and French Creek Bay Marina respectively.

The idea to honor this historic vessel on canvas came when Lear received an e-mail from the NYS Cultural Arts Council with information about a Community Arts Grant Program offering funding for a variety of projects, including commissions for pieces by local artists.

"I thought, 'what a great idea it would be if we could find a local artist with experience painting ships and pair them up with naval historians Dr. Gary Gibson and Col. Clayton Nans, also a ship modeler, to produce a painting of the U.S. Oneida as a lasting tribute to Oswego's bicentennial efforts'," said Lear.

With the seed of this idea planted, Lear attended the opening of Lakeside Artisans in Oswego's Canal Commons. There, he noticed Ames' paintings of ships and seascapes and invited him to participate in the project.

In February 2012, the Friends of Fort Ontario received word that the project grant had been approved and planning began. Lear, Ames, Gibson and Nans met regularly to exchange historical information and graphics and to review drafts of the painting, which was completed in December 2012.

Ames is currently producing prints of the painting as well. They will be available for sale at Lakeside Artisans, located in Canal Commons, West First Street and at the museum shop at Fort Ontario State Historic Site, East Fourth Street, both in Oswego.

The Oswego War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee is also inviting municipalities and organizations to join in the commemoration by displaying the painting.

Lear said, "The project's mission has always been to share this with residents and visitors across the North Country so they can learn about and enjoy this superb testament to Oswego's history."

The painting will tour museums, schools, municipalities, libraries and other locations before a permanent home is selected.

If you would like to schedule a display of the painting, contact Paul Lear at 315-343-4711 or paul.lear@parks.ny.gov.

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