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George Downie was a British Royal Navy officer during the War of 1812. He commanded the British squadron which attacked the American fleet anchored at Plattsburgh Bay in Lake Champlainmarker during the Battle of Plattsburghmarker on September 11th, 1814. Downie was leading into battle inexperienced crews, many of them from provincial units and not from the cream of the Royal Navy, against American forces which had both time to prepare and were readily familiar with that area of the Lake. Early in the ensuing battle, Commodore Downie was crushed by a cannon aboard his flagship HMS Confiance and killed instantly; the gun having been struck on its muzzle by a cannonball from the U.S. flagship Saratoga which had sent the piece reeling backwards onto him. One eyewitness later recorded how Downie appeared when the gun, which weighed several tons, was removed:

" His skin was not broken, a black mark about the size of a small plate was the only visible injury. His watch was found flattened, with its hands pointing to the very second at which he received the fatal blow."

The loss of Downie, who was arguably the most experienced Officer in the British fleet, greatly increased the odds of the American forces winning the engagement that day.

A 24 pound cannon from the captured Confiance, the same gun responsible for the death of Commodore Downie, can be found today on display in front of Macdonough Hall at the United States Naval Academymarker in Annapolis Marylandmarker. The deep indentation on the muzzle of this gun left by the ball from the USS Saratoga is still present.


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