GREAT LAKES / SAINT LAWRENCE RIVER
WEST INDIES / GULF COAST
* James Island * Charles Island * Nuku Hiva * Downes Expedition * Porter Expedition * Typee Valley * Valparaiso (Capture of USS Essex) * Seringapatam Mutiny * Action of 9 May 1814
The BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE, sometimes called the BATTLE OF PUT-IN-BAY,
was fought on 10 September 1813, in
* 1 Background
* 1.1 1812 * 1.2 1813 * 1.3 Blockades of Presque Isle and Amherstburg
* 2 Battle * 3 Casualties * 4 Aftermath * 5 Reconstructions and memorials * 6 Reasons for the American victory * 7 Order of battle * 8 Footnotes * 9 Notes * 10 References * 11 Further reading * 12 External links
When the war broke out, the British immediately seized control of
Lake Erie. They already had a small force of warships there: the
sloop-of-war Queen Charlotte and the brig General Hunter . The
schooner Lady Prevost was under construction and was put into service
a few weeks after the outbreak of war. These vessels were controlled
by the Provincial Marine , which was a military transport service and
not a naval service. Nevertheless, the Americans lacked any counter to
the British armed vessels. The only American warship on Lake Erie, the
brig Adams, was not ready for service at the start of the war, and
when the American army of Brigadier General
The British took Adams when Detroit was surrendered, renaming her
Detroit . Together with the brig Caledonia , which had been
commandeered from the Canadian
North West Company
Late in 1812, Paul Hamilton , the
In January 1813, William Jones (who had replaced Hamilton as the
Oliver Hazard Perry had earlier been appointed to
command on Lake Erie, through lobbying by
Jeremiah B. Howell , the
Senior Senator from
Robert Heriot Barclay was appointed to command
the British squadron on Lake Erie. Another British officer had already
endangered his career by refusing the appointment as success appeared
unlikely. Barclay missed a rendezvous with Queen Charlotte at Point
Abino and was forced to make the tedious journey to Amherstburg
overland, arriving on 10 June. He brought with him only a handful of
officers and seamen. When he took command of his squadron, the crews
of his vessels numbered only seven British seamen, 108 officers and
men of the Provincial Marine (whose quality Barclay disparaged), 54
men of the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles and 106 soldiers, effectively
landsmen, from the 41st Foot . Nevertheless, he immediately set out
in Queen Charlotte and Lady Prevost. He first reconnoitred Perry's
base at Presque Isle and determined that it was defended by 2,000
During July and August, Barclay received two small vessels, the
schooner Chippeway and the sloop Little Belt , which had been
reconstructed at Chatham on the Thames River and attempted to
complete the ship-rigged corvette HMS Detroit at Amherstburg. Because
the Americans controlled
Barclay repeatedly requested men and supplies from Commodore James Lucas Yeo , commanding on Lake Ontario, but received very little. The commander of the British troops on the Detroit frontier, Major-General Henry Procter , was similarly starved of soldiers and munitions by his superiors. He declined to make an attack on Presque Isle unless he was reinforced, and instead he incurred heavy losses in an unsuccessful attack on Fort Stephenson , which he mounted at the urgings of some of his Indian warriors.
BLOCKADES OF PRESQUE ISLE AND AMHERSTBURG
By mid-July, the American squadron was almost complete, although not yet fully manned (Perry claimed to have only 120 men fit for duty). The British squadron maintained a blockade of Presque Isle for ten days from 20 July to 29 July. The harbour had a sandbar across its mouth, with only 5 feet (1.5 m) of water over it, which prevented Barclay sailing in to attack the American ships (although Barclay briefly skirmished with the defending batteries on 21 July), but also prevented the Americans leaving in fighting order. Barclay had to lift the blockade on 29 July because of shortage of supplies and bad weather. It has also been suggested that Barclay left to attend a banquet in his honour, or that he wished the Americans to cross the bar and hoped to find them in disarray when he returned. Perry immediately began to move his vessels across the sandbar. This was an exhausting task. The guns had to be removed from all the boats, and the largest of them had to be raised between "camels" (barges or lighters which were then emptied of ballast). When Barclay returned four days later, he found that Perry had nearly completed the task. Perry's two largest brigs were not ready for action, but the gunboats and smaller brigs formed a line so confidently that Barclay withdrew to await the completion of Detroit.
Chauncey had dispatched 130 extra sailors under Lieutenant Jesse
Elliot to Presque Isle. Although Perry described some of them as
"wretched", at least 50 of them were experienced sailors drafted from
His vessels first proceeded to Sandusky, where they received further
contingents of volunteers from Major General
William Henry Harrison
In the days preceding the battle, Perry told his friend, Purser
Samuel Hambleton , that he wanted a signal flag, or battle flag, to
signal to his fleet when to engage the enemy. Hambleton suggested
using the dying words of Perry's friend Captain
Movements of the squadrons of Perry and Barclay on the morning of 10 September
On the morning of 10 September, the Americans saw Barclay's vessels heading for them, and got under way from their anchorage at Put-in-Bay. The wind was light. Barclay initially held the weather gauge , but the wind shifted and allowed Perry to close and attack. Both squadrons were in line of battle , with their heaviest vessels near the centre of the line. Perry hoped to get his two largest brigs, his flagship Lawrence and Niagara , into carronade range quickly, but in the light wind his vessels were making very little speed and Lawrence was battered by the assortment of long guns mounted in Detroit for at least 20 minutes before being able to reply effectively. When Lawrence was finally within carronade range at 12:45, her fire was not as effective as Perry hoped, her gunners apparently having overloaded the carronades with shot.
Astern of Lawrence, Niagara, under Elliot, was slow to come into action and remained far out of effective carronade range. It is possible that Elliott was under orders to engage his opposite number, Queen Charlotte, and that Niagara was obstructed by Caledonia, but Elliot's actions would become a matter of dispute between him and Perry for many years. Aboard Queen Charlotte, the British ship opposed to Niagara, the commander (Robert Finnis) and First Lieutenant were both killed. The next most senior officer, Lieutenant Irvine of the Provincial Marine, found that both Niagara and the American gunboats were far out of range, and passed the brig General Hunter to engage Lawrence at close range.
Although the American gunboats at the rear of the American line of battle steadily pounded the British ships in the centre of the action with raking shots from their long guns from a distance, Lawrence was reduced by the two British ships to a wreck. Four-fifths of Lawrence's crew were killed or wounded. Both of the fleet's surgeons were sick with lake fever , so the wounded were taken care of by the assistant, Usher Parsons . When the last gun on Lawrence became unusable, Perry decided to transfer his flag. He was rowed a half mile (1 km) through heavy gunfire to Niagara while Lawrence was surrendered. (It was later alleged that he left Lawrence after the surrender, but Perry had actually taken down only his personal pennant, in blue bearing the motto, "Don't give up the ship".)
When Lawrence surrendered, firing died away briefly. Detroit collided with Queen Charlotte, both ships being almost unmanageable with damaged rigging and almost every officer killed or severely wounded. Barclay was severely wounded and his first lieutenant was killed, leaving Lieutenant Inglis in command. Most of the smaller British vessels were also disabled and drifting to leeward. The British nevertheless expected Niagara to lead the American schooners away in retreat. Instead, once aboard Niagara, Perry dispatched Elliot to bring the schooners into closer action, while he steered Niagara at Barclay's damaged ships, helped by the strengthening wind.
Niagara broke through the British line ahead of Detroit and Queen Charlotte and luffed up to fire raking broadsides from ahead of them, while Caledonia and the American gunboats fired from astern. Although the crews of Detroit and Queen Charlotte managed to untangle the two ships they could no longer offer any effective resistance. Both ships surrendered at about 3:00 pm. The smaller British vessels tried to flee but were overtaken and also surrendered.
Although Perry won the battle on Niagara, he received the British surrender on the deck of the recaptured Lawrence to allow the British to see the terrible price his men had paid.
The British lost 41 killed and 94 wounded. The surviving crews, including the wounded, numbered 306. Captain Barclay, who had previously lost his left arm in 1809, lost a leg and part of his thigh in the action while his remaining arm was rendered "permanently motionless". The Americans lost 27 killed and 96 wounded, of whom 2 later died.
Of the vessels involved, the three most battered (the American brig Lawrence and the British ships Detroit and Queen Charlotte) were converted into hospital ships. A gale swept the lake on 13 September and dismasted Detroit and Queen Charlotte, further shattering the already battered ships. Once the wounded had been ferried to Erie, Lawrence was restored to service for 1814, but the two British ships were effectively reduced to hulks.
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Perry's vessels and prizes were anchored and hasty repairs were underway near West Sister Island when Perry composed his now famous message to Harrison. Scrawled in pencil on the back of an old envelope, Perry wrote:
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
Perry next sent the following message to the Secretary of the Navy, William Jones:
Sir:- It has pleased the Almighty to give to the arms of the United States a signal victory over their enemies on this lake. The British squadron, consisting of two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop, have this moment surrendered to the force under my command after a sharp conflict.
I have the honor to be, Sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, O. H. Perry
Once his usable vessels and prizes were patched up, Perry ferried
2,500 American soldiers to Amherstburg, which was captured without
opposition on 27 September. Meanwhile, 1,000 mounted troops led by
Richard Mentor Johnson moved by land to Detroit, which also was
recaptured without fighting on or about the same day. The British army
under Procter had made preparations to abandon its positions even
before Procter knew the result of the battle. In spite of exhortations
The victory on
However, an expedition in 1814 to recover
After the war, there was a bitter quarrel between Perry and Elliot over their respective parts in the action, mostly fought at second hand in the press. On the British side, Barclay was exonerated of any blame by a court-martial but was too badly injured to see service again for several years.
RECONSTRUCTIONS AND MEMORIALS
In 1820 Lawrence and Niagara were intentionally sunk near Misery Bay
in Lake Erie, as they had "went to rot." In 1875, Lawrence was raised
and moved to Philadelphia , where she was displayed at the 1876
Centennial Exposition . Later that year, the ship burned when the
pavilion that housed it caught fire. Although Niagara was raised and
restored in 1913, she subsequently fell into disrepair. She was
eventually disassembled, and portions of her were used in a
reconstructed Niagara, which is now on view in Erie,
The 352-foot (107 m) high Perry Monument within Perry\'s Victory and
International Peace Memorial now stands at
Another 101-foot (31 m) high Perry Monument is located at the eastern end of Presque Isle in Erie Pennsylvania. It stands next to Presque Isle Bay, where Niagara and Lawrence were built, stationed along with the rest of the American Squadron, and then scuttled after the war.
REASONS FOR THE AMERICAN VICTORY
Most historians attribute the American victory to what Theodore Roosevelt described as, "Superior heavy metal". Perry's leadership, particularly in the latter stages of the action, is also mentioned as a factor. The British historian C.S. Forester commented, "...it was as fortunate for the Americans that the Lawrence still possessed a boat that would float, as it was that Perry was not hit."
On the British side, William Bell served as constructor and built Detroit, which was the best-built ship on the lake. However, Detroit was built slowly, in part due to Bell's perfectionism, and indeed it was the only purpose-built British warship constructed on Lake Erie during the war. The guns intended for Detroit were seized by the Americans at the time of their raid on Fort York the year before. This building imbalance, given the fact that six American ships were built in the same time frame, was another important cause of the American victory (although it might be argued that, even if Barclay had possessed more hulls, he would have been unable to obtain armament and crews for them).
The court-martial of Captain Barclay and his surviving officers determined that the Captain, his officers and men had "conducted themselves in the most gallant manner" and found that the defeat was the result of American superiority, an insufficient number of able seamen and the early fall of superior officers in the action.
ORDER OF BATTLE
Listed in order of sailing:
NAVY NAME RIG TONNAGE CREW ARMAMENT COMMANDER NOTES
Detroit Ship 490 tons 150 1 × 18-pounder (on swivel) 2 × 24-pounder long guns 6 × 12-pounder long guns 8 × 9-pounder long guns 1 × 24-pounder carronade 1 × 18-pounder carronade Commander Robert Heriot Barclay captured
Queen Charlotte Ship 400 tons 126 1 × 12-pounder long gun 2 × 9-pounder long guns 12 × 24-pounder carronades Commander Robert Finnis captured
Little Belt Sloop 90 tons 18 1 × 12-pounder long gun 2 × 6-pounder long guns Lieutenant John F. Breman captured
Total 6 warships
1,460 tons 450 330 lb shot from long guns 474 lb shot from carronades
Ariel Schooner 112 tons 36 4 × 12-pounder long guns Lieutenant John H. Packet One gun exploded (overcharged)
Caledonia Brig 180 tons 53 2 × 24-pounder long guns 1 × 32-pounder carronade Lieutenant Daniel Turner captured from British 9 October 1812
Somers Schooner 94 tons 30 1 × 24-pounder long gun 1 × 32-pounder carronade Lieutenant A. H. M. Conklin
Porcupine Schooner 83 tons 25 1 × 32-pounder long gun Acting Master George Serrat
Tigress Schooner 82 tons 35 1 × 32-pounder long gun Sailing Master Thomas C. Abny
Trippe Sloop 60 tons 35 1 × 24-pounder long gun Lieutenant Thomas Holdup Stevens
Total 9 warships
1,657 tons 540 288 lb shot from long guns 1,248 lb shot from carronades
* ^ Perry's younger brother James Alexander Perry is the seated figure waving the hat. Hannibal Collins , a freed slave, is one of the oarsman. * ^ The British order of battle was actually two ships, one brig, two schooners and one sloop. "Perry's message was inaccurate." * ^ Vessel tonnages, rig and armament taken from Roosevelt (2004), pp.144-145. Vessels' commanders from the same source, p.146
* ^ Copes 1994, p. 63.
* ^ A B C Roosevelt 2004, pp. 260–261.
* ^ Elliott to Hamiliton, Oct. 9th, 1812 in Dudley (ed.), William
S. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. 1. pp. 327–331. CS1
maint: Extra text: authors list (link )
* ^ A B Roosevelt 2004, p. 141.
* ^ A B Elting 1995, p. 90.
* ^ Malcomson 1998, p. 74.
* ^ Forester 2005, p. 136.
* ^ Forester 2005, p. 143.
* ^ Forester 2005, p. 137.
* ^ Hitsman 1999, p. 166.
* ^ Ernest A. Cruikshank, The Contest for Command of
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