“We have met the enemy and they are ours,” exclaimed Oliver Hazard Perry, who died AUGUST 23, 1819.
After British Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon’s combined French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805, the British had the undisputed most powerful navy in the world.
They intercepted American ships headed to French ports, seized goods and impressed thousands of American sailors into the British navy.
The British aided Indians who attacked Americans on the frontiers and around the Great Lakes.
This escalated into the War of 1812.
In 1813, British ships on Lake Erie were trying to resupply the starving troops at Fort Malden in Amherstburg, Ontario, but were blocked by U.S. Captain Oliver Hazard Perry’s ships at Put-in-Bay, Ohio.
On September 10, 1813, Perry, with many of his sailors being free blacks, confronted the British squadron of six vessels, commanded by the one-armed Commodore Robert Barclay, who had helped defeat Napoleon’s fleet.
Strong winds prevented Perry from getting into a safe position.
Long-range British cannons crippled his flagship, USS Lawrence, killing most of his crew.
Faithful to his battle flag, “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP,” the 28-year-old Perry and his men courageously rowed a half mile through heavy gunfire to the USS Niagara.
The wind suddenly changed directions and Perry sailed directly across the British line, firing broadside.
After 15 minutes, the smoke cleared to reveal that all of Barclay’s ships had been disabled.
This was the first time in history that an entire British naval squadron had surrendered.
As a result, the British abandoned Fort Malden.
U.S. General William Henry Harrison was then able to recapture Detroit and defeat the British, with their Indian ally Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, at the Battle of the Thames, October 5, 1813.
The Northwest Territory was now secure for America.
To the sailors on deck Captain Perry remarked:
“The prayers of my wife are answered.”
In his dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy, Captain Oliver Hazard Perry wrote:
“It has pleased the Almighty to give 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 of my command after a sharp conflict.”
President James Madison stated in his 5th Annual Message, December 7, 1813:
“It has pleased the Almighty to bless our arms…
On Lake Erie, the squadron under the command of Captain Perry having met the British squadron of superior force, a sanguinary conflict ended in the capture of the whole.”
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.