Plan of the Siege of Plattsburg and Capture of the British Fleet on Lake Champlain
Tanner, Benjamin & Henry Schenk Tanner
Date of Creation:
Tanner's map shows the positions of the American ground forces around Plattsburg, and of the British and American fleets in Plattsburg Bay.
It was printed to accompany Benjamin Tanner's large engraving of 'Macdonough's Victory on Lake Champlain, and Defeat of the British Army at Plattsburg'.
In a repeat of General Burgoyne's ill-starred 1777 campaign, in mid-1814 British General Prevost led a huge force of veteran Regulars down the west side of Lake Champlain. They were supported on the Lake by a small fleet under Captain George Downie, sailing in the 37-gun HMS ‘Confiance’. The invasion was halted at Plattsburg, New York, where the Americans won a decisive victory through a combination of Prevot's timid generalship and American Commander Thomas Macdonough's brilliant naval tactics.
Macdonough’s squadron lay anchored in Plattsburgh Bay on September 11, 1814, when it was attacked by Captain Downie’s flotilla. The sides were evenly matched, but the American ships had rigged “springs” on their anchor cables that allowed them to turn their undamaged sides toward their enemy. The two-hour action left the British flotilla defeated and Downie dead. It also deprived General George Prevost’s army of naval support in its attack on Plattsburgh. Prevost withdrew to Canada the next day.
This cataloguer thinks it quite likely that the map is the work of Henry S. Tanner, the younger brother of Benjamin Tanner, who was an established engraver who had trained with Peter Maverick, one of New York City's earliest engravers, born there in 1775. The younger Tanner served an apprenticeship with his older brother after moving to Philadelphia in 1810, eventually becoming “a leading figure in establishing commercial map publishing in America and [bringing] the atlas as a cartographic form to early maturity during the "golden age" of American copperplate printing. He combined the skills of a geographer with those of an editor and engraver to create authoritative maps during a period of unprecedented growth in topographical knowledge of North America. He represented the emergence in the world of American publishers of specialized maps, and he placed map compilation and atlas design on a newly scientific basis, introducing uniform map scales for maps in atlases and documentation of sources employed. He crucially reinforced the brief impetus Melish had given to the rise of homegrown American map publishing and set standards that later publishers took for granted" (Michael P. Conzen for ADNB).