The Battle

Below are several articles outlining the history of the Battle of Lake Erie. Click to read.


In September of 1813, during the War of 1812, Oliver Hazard Perry of the U.S. Navy and his crew of 557 brave patriots prevailed over the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie near Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Two hundred years years later, we will come together to celebrate Perry’s victory, our nation’s sovereignty and the enduring peace between nations. As caretakers of our freedom, we are called to bear witness to history in our own special way. The torch has been passed to our generation, who enjoys the great bounties of Lake Erie that were secured forever by Perry and those who came before us.

The celebration has begun and we are now full sail ahead to the main event…the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Re-Creation to take place on Labor Day 2013. Tall ships will depart from nine ports and gather at the original battle site approximately 8 miles from Put-in-Bay, OH, where cannon will fire and history will reconfirm the lasting legacy of these heros.

Lossing’s Field Book of the War of 1812, Chapter XXV – The Battle of Lake Erie


Perry’s look-out, Gibralter Island Put-in-Bay

“September the tenth, full well I ween,
In eighteen hundred and thirteen,
The weather mild, the sky serene,
Commanded by bold Perry,
Our saucy fleet at anchor lay
In safety, moor’d at Put-in-Bay;
’Twixt sunrise and the break of day,
The British fleet
We chanced to meet;
Our admiral thought he would them greet
With a welcome on Lake Erie.” – OLD SONG.

“Sail ho!” were the stirring words that rang out loud and clear from the mast-head of the Lawrence on the warm and pleasant morning of the 10th of September, 1813. That herald’s proclamation was not unexpected to Perry. Five days before he had received direct and positive information from Malden that Proctor’s army were so short of provisions that Barclay was preparing to go out upon the lake, at all hazards, to open a communication with Long Point, the chief deposit of supplies for the enemy on the banks of the Detroit River. Perry had made preparations accordingly; and, day after day, from the rocky heights of Gibraltar Island, now known as “Perry’s Look-out,” he had pointed his glass anxiously in the direction of Malden.

On the evening of the 9th he called around him the officers of his squadron, and gave instructions to each in writing, for he was determined to attack the enemy at his anchorage the next day if he did not come out. His plan was to bring on a close action at once, so as not to lose the advantage of his short carronades. To each vessel its antagonist on the British side was assigned, the size and character of them having been communicated to him by Captain Brevoort, 3 whose family lived in Detroit. The Lawrence was assigned to the Detroit; the Niagara to the Queen Charlotte, and so on; and to each officer he said, in substance, Engage your antagonist in close action, keeping on the line at half-cable length from the vessel of our squadron ahead of you.

It was about ten o’clock when the conference ended. The moon was at its full, and it was a splendid autumn night. Just before they parted, Perry brought out a large square battle-flag, which, at his request, Mr. Hambleton, 4 the purser, had caused to be privately prepared at Erie.

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The War on the Water: A War of 1812 Heritage Tour. The Ohio and the Lake Erie Region.


The Ohio and the Lake Erie Region
1812 Heritage Trail

Region Significance & Historical Context

 1813 Ohio-Region Battles:

  •  Represented key American victories after a series of disheartening defeats
  •  Helped to turn the tide of the war in favor of the United States
  •  Each offensive used major water-based initiatives
  •  Maintaining or gaining control of the Lake Erie region waterways was crucial to victory

 Birth of the Modern U.S. Navy:

  •  Great Britain possessed the greatest navy in the world at the time of the war
  •  During the Battle of Lake Erie, the U.S. Navy battled for and gained supremacy on Lake Erie
  •  Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory on Lake Erie was key to an American invasion into Upper Canada.

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Battle of Lake Erie: Building the Fleet in the Wilderness


Stern view of USS Niagara just after she had been raised from Misery Bay, April 2, 1913. “Perry’s Victory Centennial Souvenir: The Niagara Keepsake,” p. 18.

by Radm. Denys W.Knoll, USN (Ret.)

Washington D.C.: Naval Historical Foundation Spring 1979

Beginning in 1615 missionaries and explorers, principally French, paid visits to the Presque Isle (now Erie, Pa.) region of Lake Erie but no permanent white settlement was made until 1794 because of hostile Indians. In 1753 the French permanently established a transportation system of land and water routes from the St. Lawrence River to the Mississippi River. It went via Lake Ontario with land portage at the Niagara escarpment, thence across Lake Erie to Presque Isle (Erie), where another 14-mile land portage to Fort LeBoeuf (Waterford) connected with French Creek which flowed into the Allegheny at Franklin, thence onward to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and ultimately to the French settlement at New Orleans.

France and England hoped in the late Eighteenth Century to extend their colonial boundaries westward, but French control in North America was doomed with the British victory at Quebec in 1795 during the French and Indian War (Seven Years War). With the Peace Treaty of 1783 (ending the Revolutionary War), the British lost control of the south shore of Lake Erie. Indians, normally very loyal to the British, continued to harass white settlers.

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The Battle of Lake Erie

By Richard F. Snow
February 1976  | American Heritage Volume 27,  Issue 2

In the late summer of 1812 a Great Lakes merchant captain named Daniel Dobbins arrived in Washington. He had had a dreadful time getting there, and his journey could not have been made more pleasant by the fact that he was bringing some very bad news with him.

On July 12, a month after President Madison announced a state of war between the United States and Great Britain, General William Hull had invaded Canada with twenty-two hundred men. Hull issued a number of sententious proclamations about the liberty and prosperity that would follow in the wake of his invasion, and then almost immediately quailed before minor British resistance and false reports of large numbers of the enemy nearby. By August 8 Hull was back in Detroit, where, a week later, he surrendered all his troops and his well-supplied garrison to a force half the size of his, composed mainly of militia and Indians. Whatever the reason for Hull’s extraordinary performance—it was variously ascribed to cowardice, senility, and treason—his capitulation left the American Northwest in the control of the British and Daniel Dobbins a prisoner.

This was particularly bad luck for Dobbins, for he was believed by his captors to have violated an earlier parole. He was told that he was to be executed but escaped from the British camp in a thunderstorm. A reward was offered for his scalp, and so, having anticipated this, he hid in a wrecked boat on the shore of the Detroit River. At length he made for the river’s mouth, where he found an abandoned Indian dugout. He paddled across Lake Erie to Sandusky and there got hold of a horse, which he rode to Cleveland. Then, again in a canoe, he pressed on to the harbor of Presque Isle—which was beginning to be known as the town of Erie—where the officer in command of a small blockhouse told him to carry his doleful news to Washington. So Dobbins travelled the long, dangerous forest road to Pittsburgh and then headed east.

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War of 1812: Battle of Lake Erie Oliver Perry Prevails

By Eric G. Swedin | Military History Published: June 12, 2006 at 8:14 pm

At 3 a.m. on October 9, 1812, Lieutenant Jesse Elliott led two boatsful of American soldiers and sailors up the Niagara River, their muffled oars propelling them quietly toward two British brigs, Caledonia and Detroit, lying at anchor under the protection of the guns of Fort Erie. Slipping aboard the two ships, the American sailors and soldiers achieved complete surprise. ‘In about ten minutes, Elliott reported, I had the prisoners all secured, the topsails sheeted home, and the vessels underway.

Caledonia made it safely back to the American naval base at Black Rock, but Detroit ran aground. All day, the British forts pounded the brig, and that night Elliott took what stores he could off the ship and set fire to it. Besides freeing 40 American sailors who were prisoners aboard the two brigs, Elliot captured 70 British and Canadian sailors. In one bold action, Elliott and his men sharply reduced the strength of the British squadron on Lake Erie and seized a fighting ship for an American squadron that had previously had none.

Word of this feat electrified a nation that had been fed on news of defeat and blunder ever since it muddled its way into the War of 1812 four months earlier. The war had begun with high hopes, especially among young war hawks who refused to give up the dream of conquering Canada. In the Western states, Brig. Gen. William Hull raised an army of regulars and militia and marched to Detroit. Detroit became a trap when British Maj. Gen. Isaac Brock and his Indian allies surrounded the Americans and forced Hull to surrender on August 16. With control of Lake Erie, the British had secured their flank, enabling them to concentrate on the more important battles on the regions around Lake Ontario.

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The Battle: September 10, 1813

At dawn on the morning of September 10, 1813, a lookout spotted six British vessels to the northwest of Put-in-Bay beyond Rattlesnake Island. Immediately Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry issued a flurry of orders and made preparations to sail forth to engage the British.

With Perry’s fleet on Lake Erie the British supply route from Fort Malden to Port Dover had been severed. The British had to either fight, or abandon Fort Malden. The British squadron consisted of six ships with sixty-three cannons, while the American flotilla comprised nine vessels and fifty-four guns. The British were armed with long guns that could throw a cannonball approximately one mile, accurately to about one-half mile. The American ships primarily armed with carronades had less than half the range of a long gun. The carronades could inflict much more damage at close range. Perry needed the wind to his back to close within carronade range.

When the squadron sailed from Put-in-Bay harbor at 7 a.m. the American vessels were steering west-northwest; the wind was blowing from the west-southwest. For more than two hours Perry repeatedly tacks his ships in an effort to put the wind to his back, but with no success. The frustrated Perry, conceded to mother nature at 10 a.m., issuing orders to turn his fleet in the opposite direction. But before the order could be executed the wind suddenly shifted and blew from the southeast, placing the wind directly behind the Americans.

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