Don't Give Up The Ship!
The Bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie
September 10 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, the Naval victory led by South Kingstown-born hero Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry during the War of 1812, also known as the Second War of American Independence.
As PHS prepares to commemorate this important date in history here at home, historians and reenactors at Put-In-Bay, Ohio, are readying for a celebration of epic proportions.
PHS is developing a series of observances of Commodore Perry's historic voyage and battle of September 10, 1813. We are working now to bring a traveling exhibit to the Old Jail or Hale House, depending on the timing of its availability. We are also gathering objects from our collections and others on loan to display for the community. We hope to sponsor a speaking program at Hale House in the fall, all of which will be announced in upcoming newsletters and emails to PHS members.
In the meantime, we encourage our members, and others in our communities and beyond, to renew their understanding of Commodore Perry and the Battle of Lake Erie, as well as other aspects of the War of 1812, which, among American wars, tends to be less known and understood, but whose origins run much deeper than might be expected, particularly with regard to westward expansion.
The cultural legacy of the battle is far reaching. It is believed that, although the War's outcome was inconclusive, it marked a turning point in American patriotic sentiment, as reflected in the poem-turned-anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner," by Francis Scott Key. The flag that inspired the anthem was flown over Fort McHenry after the Battle of Baltimore, which followed the devastating burning of Washington, D.C., by the British. These events fell nearly one year to the day following Perry's victory on Lake Erie.
Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, aboard the brig U.S.S. Niagara, won the first U.S. Navy fleet action at Lake Erie, and captured an entire British squadron. Perry reported the victory in correspondence to General William Henry Harrison:
Dear General: We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop. Yours with great respect and esteem. O.H. Perry
(Harrison went on to become the ninth President of the United States, and the first to die in office in 1841.)
From this battle emerged the famous imperative, "Don't Give Up the Ship!" which was emblazoned on the flag that Perry hoisted before the Battle of Lake Erie. However, contrary to popular belief, these were not Perry's own words, but those of his friend Captain James Lawrence, who uttered them before being killed aboard the U.S.S. Chesapeake during an earlier battle in June of that year.
There are several interesting sources of information about Commodore Perry, most centered around the Put-In-Bay, Ohio, site managed by the National Park Service, and the bicentennial observances scheduled in that part of the country. There are several other sites that offer information on the rationale and battles of the War of 1812.
Lake Erie Heritage Foundation (LEHF)
Visit www.battleoflakeerie-bicentennial.com for educational materials and information about events commemorating the September 10 anniversary. The mission of LEHF is to support the maritime history of Lake Erie brought forth and recorded as the Battle of Lake Erie that took place on September 10, 1813, promoting the importance of the lake as a public, historical, and cultural resource.
Among the activities sponsored by the LEHF in 2013 is a reenactment of the battle, in which citizens are invited to participate. One may enlist to become one of the 557 original crew members of the Niagara; or join the fleet by enlisting a personal watercraft as one of the 1100 vessels that participated in the battle; or join the militia and participate in demonstrations on land. Visit the website for more information.
The Perry Group
LEHF works in conjunction with the Perry Group in supporting the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial. Also known as The Friends of Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, the Perry Group is a volunteer, nonprofit organization working with the National Park Service and the local, national, and international community to commemorate the Battle of Lake Erie and celebrate the long-lasting peace among Britain, Canada, and the United States. Visit www.theperrygroup.org.
Bicentennial of the War of 1812
America's Navy: Keeping the Sea Free for More Than 200 Years
Www.ourflagwasstillthere.org is a very comprehensive site that provides detailed information about the War's timeline and battles, incorporating video and other media.
To commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, in collaboration with partners and city, state, and county officials, put on special events all over America in 2012, and have future events in planning for 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, located at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, was constructed in 1913 to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, and in celebration of long-lasting peaceful relations between Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. The Memorial, maintained by the National Park Service, is a 350-foot Doric column, constructed with federal funds and donations from nine states, including Illinois, New York, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
While Perry's remains are interred in Newport, R.I., those of six other officers slain during the battle are buried under the memorial's rotunda. Learn more at www.nps.gov/pevi.
Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island
Last but not least, we turn to statewide efforts to commemorate Perry in a most majestic manner. This non-profit organization seeks to complete the construction of its tall ship S.S.V. Oliver Hazard Perry in time for a July 4, 2013, commission, to serve as ambassador to Rhode Island's world-class marine trade history, and to function as an educational vessel. While some of the website is incomplete, a good amount of information on the project is available. Visit www.tallshipsrhodeisland.org.