Battle of Lake Erie Historic Site
Lake Erie - Ohio Historic Site

Battle of Lake Erie

Where is the Battle of Lake Erie?

The Battle is remembered at the Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial located within the Village of Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

Put-in-Bay (Battle of Lake Erie) Map

Did you know: In 1812 the British Navy was 65 times larger than America’s.

THE BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE(Put-in-Bay)

Although the American Army in the War of 1812 was unprepared to fight a long campaign against a superior British force, suffering several major defeats around Detroit, upstate New York and other areas, the colonials did manage to produce some surprising victories on the water. Due to an abundance of high quality hardwood timber all along the East Coast and skilled craftsmen who produced swift-sailing clipper ships, the Americans were able to out sail and score victories against many British vessels. One of those victories was on Lake Erie.

After the USS Chesapeake was overpowered in battle against the British in June 1813, its Captain James Lawrence was mortally wounded, yelling to his crew “Don’t give up the ship!” before he died. The line became a rallying cry for U.S. sailors everywhere. That September, Oliver Hazard Perry re-named his ship Lawrence after the hero of the earlier battle and was on Lake Erie. Perry was accompanied by his sister ship the Niagara commanded by Lieutenant James Elliot, along with other vessels ready for action. He’d given orders to Elliot to lie back in support of the Lawrence in case they stumbled onto a major armada of enemy ships. On September 10th, Perry sighted them and squared off against British Captain Robert Barclay commanding HMS Detroit. A momentous broadside occurred between the two vessels, the Lawrence getting hit repeatedly and its crew badly bloodied. Despite what appeared to be long odds, Perry sailed even closer to the Detroit and her sister ship the Queen Charlotte, enduring further cannonades, Perry himself miraculously surviving even though musket balls whipped through his hat. He was wondering the entire time about the location of his support ship the Niagara, which he hadn’t seen during the entire battle.

The Lawrence was badly damaged and listing, but just at that moment, Perry spotted the Niagara and decided to make a daring move. He got into a small sailboat and had a few of his men row toward it while in plain sight of the large British fleet. Moving toward his support ship, his men held up a flag with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship!” emblazoned on its surface. Amidst a hail of gunfire, Perry and his small crew reached the Niagaraunscathed and he proceeded to take command, turning it directly into the center of the British armada. Aggressively attacking the British vessels, the Niagara inflicted serious damages on several of them- and Perry’s action inspired the rest of his fleet to finally join in the assault. One by one, the American ships inflicted a heavy toll on their adversaries and the Detroit surrendered, along with the other British ships.

It was the first time an American vessel had conquered an entire enemy fleet. As he relaxed in the silence after the battle, Perry wrote a note to his commanding officer, General William Henry Harrison, the future President. Perry’s words would inspire many soldiers and sailors afterwards to fight against difficult opponents. “We have met the enemy and they are ours…” was a fitting tribute to the bravery of Perry and his men. He had engineered a turning point by opening up the shipping lines along the Great Lakes, allowing America to hold them for the remainder of the war.

Today the Battle of Lake Erie is commemorated at the Perry Victory & International Peace Memorial where there is an open air observation deck, a memorial wall listing all of Perry's ships and a rotunda with the interred remains of both British and American Officers.