Writing the six-book Caroline Abbott series for American Girl gave me lots of opportunities to develop fascinating aspects of history into plots. Even so, the story of Sackets Harbor during the War of 1812 is so rich that I had to leave lots of things out.
All along, I hoped that I’d be invited to write a mystery for Caroline. And I was! Traitor in the Shipyard will be available in February, 2013.
As I did research and developed ideas for the original Caroline books, I found many references to historical events that seemed perfect for a mystery plot. After all, Caroline Abbott lived right on the border between the United States and British territory. Before war was declared, people on both sides of Lake Ontario frequently traveled back and forth.
Once the war started, no one was sure if they could trust former friends and neighbors. Who had decided to be loyal to the United States? Who chose to work for the British?
British spies were particularly interested in American shipbuilding efforts. When Traitor in the Shipyard begins, Caroline, her family, and workers at Abbott’s shipyard are racing to build ships the American Navy desperately needs to defend Sackets Harbor from British attack.
Meanwhile, workers at the Navy shipyard are finishing the USS General Pike. At the time of its launch in 1813, Pike was the largest warship on Lake Ontario.
Caroline knows very well what’s at stake. In chapter one, she talks with her friend Hosea, a sailmaker:
“Have you heard when General Pike will be ready?” she asked. Once complete, the frigate would be the mightiest vessel ever to sail Lake Ontario.
“The sails aren’t finished.” Hosea glanced over his shoulder, as if making sure that no one else could hear. “The navy is also waiting for a shipment of gunpowder. With twenty-eight cannons aboard, General Pike needs ten thousand pounds.”
“Gracious!” Caroline was startled.
“And until Pike launches, the British rule the lake.” Hosea looked frustrated. “It’s maddening to see our fleet bottled up here to protect General Pike while British ships cruise about Lake Ontario at will.”
“Papa says the navy’s most important job right now is protecting General Pike,” she said.
Hosea nodded. “Our enemies want desperately to seize or destroy Pike before it ever sets sail. If that happens, the war on the Great Lakes will be lost.”
Caroline looked back over the harbor. If the Americans didn’t get General Pike into service soon, they might not be able to defend themselves.
Caroline is worried when she learns that spies may be lurking in Sackets Harbor. Then, a long lost friend of Papa’s shows up. Papa is delighted to give him at job at Abbott’s, but soon, strange things start going wrong. Caroline is sure a spy is making trouble at the yard—but it is one of Abbott’s trusted workers, whom she has known all her life, or could it be Papa’s dear friend?
I hope you enjoy Traitor in the Shipyard as a good adventure story… and I also hope it helps you imagine what the people of Sackets Harbor faced every day during the War of 1812.