John Paul Jones
Oliver Hazard Perry
Robert Edward Lee
William Tecumseh Sherman
Ulysses Simpson Grant
Read More Articles About: Famous Warriors
Oliver Hazard Perry
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND THEY ARE OURS"
When the gallant Decatur was informed of the untimely death of his friend and fellow officer, Commodore Perry, he solemnly remarked : "The American Navy has lost its brightest ornament." It was not the fate of this brave naval hero to fall gloriously in battle, defending the flag of his country, but the laurel was still fresh upon the young victor's brow, when, on his thirty-fourth birthday, he quietly passed away, the victim of disease. He met death as he had often braved it, calmly, courageously, and undismayed. "Few persons," he said, according to Dr. M. Morgan, who attended him in his last hours, "have greater inducements to make them wish to live than I, but I am perfectly ready to go if it pleases the Almighty to take me; 'the debt of nature must be paid.' " Since the death of Washington, twenty years before, no event in the mortality records of the nation caused such universal sorrow as the passing of this noble and intrepid soul. His career was one of genuine merit and brilliancy, the result of his own exertions and achievements. His was a dauntless spirit, which difficulties could not discourage nor dangers appall. His intense patriotism and zeal in his profession, coupled with cool daring and devotion to duty, gained for his name immortal renown. Brave, skillful, resolute, magnanimous, his example, so illustrious, will always remain an inspiration to future heroes of the American navy and impel to deeds of glory and valor.
Oliver Hazard Perry, the son of Christopher Raymond Perry and Sarah Alexander Perry, was born August 23, 1785, at South Kingston, situated opposite the town of Newport on Narragansett Bay in Washington County and State of Rhode Island. -His paternal ancestor in the fifth generation was Edmund Perry, who was born in Devonshire, England, about 163o. He was a man of education and refinement and one of those, who, as a result of religious persecution in his native land, emigrated to Massachusetts and settled in Plymbuth about thirty years after the founding of that colony. But religious intolerance existed in the new colony to almost as great an extent as in the old world, and this fact induced the seeker for peace to remove to Rhode Island and settle in the beautiful promontory overlooking Narragansett Bay. Here, among the Indians, he found a spot where he might worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. Mackenzie, in his life of Commodore Perry, calls attention to the fact that a civilized descendant of these very Indians served under Perry on Lake Erie, and fell fighting for his country aboard the Lawrence. Freeman Perry, great-grandson of Edmund Perry and grandfather of the future naval hero, was born in 1732, and his third son, Christopher, the father of Oliver Hazard, was born December 4, 1761. Although a mere lad when the Revolution broke out, he served through nearly the whole war, and then entered before the mast in a privateer commanded by Captain Reed, and from thenceforward continued to devote himself to the sea in various capacities and arose at the age of twenty-three to the command of a merchantman. It was at this time that he married Sarah Alexander, a young woman of high character and liberal education. Oliver Hazard was their first child and his chief characteristics of earliest years were, an uncommon beauty and a sweetness of disposition which was the subject of remark. His first tuition was given by his mother, and he was able to read at a very tender age. The greater part of his boyhood education, however, was gained at the school of a venerable Scotchman, named Kelly, at Tower Hill, distant about four miles from the Perry homestead. Christopher Perry, mean-while, pursued his calling as commander of merchant vessels and made several cruises to South America. His family having increased to four children, and desiring to give them the advantages of a better education than could be obtained near home, he removed to Newport. Here Oliver was placed under the instruction of a Mr. Frazer, an excellent teacher in the ordinary branches and in mathematics and their application to navigation and nautical astronomy as well. To these sciences, Oliver readily applied himself, and it was the boast of Mr. Frazer that his scholar, Perry, was the best navigator in Rhode Island. Near the close of the year 1797, Captain Perry abandoned the sea-faring profession and established himself at the small village of Westerly. About this time the relations of this Government with France began to be somewhat strained. France expected our aid in the war against England, and the French representative in the United States went so far as to grant commissions for the fitting out of privateers in America against England. American merchant vessels not infrequently became the prey of French cruisers. These conditions induced the United States to make provision for increases of the navy in 1798, and Captain Perry was one of the first to apply for a command of one of the new craft. This being satisfactorily arranged, he went to Warren to superintend the construction of his ship. He was accompanied by his wife, and during this time Oliver was left to take charge of the house-hold and look after his brothers and sisters. When Cap-tain Perry received a commission as post-captain in the navy, Oliver implored him to be allowed to enter the navy also, and the ambitious lad was made midshipman aboard his father's ship, the General Greene. He reported for duty in April, 1799, and this was the beginning of his glorious naval career. His first cruise was to Cuba, the Greene being employed in convoying American merchant vessels in that vicinity. Yellow fever among the crew compelled the Greene to return to Newport in July, but she resumed her station early in the autumn. Civil war was at this time raging in St. Domingo. Rigaud, a mulatto chieftain, aimed at establishing an independent government in opposition to General Toussaint, who operated under the name of the French Republic. Rigaud, with a number of armed barges, was carrying on predatory warfare along the coast, and in many instances his acts amounted to piracy. American commerce had suffered from his depredations, and the American Consul-General at St. Domingo requested that the Greene take the side of Toussaint against Rigaud. Having the Government's approval to the plan, Capt. Perry started out after the craft of Rigaud and on February 9, 1800, discovered some of Rigaud's cruisers under the protection of three forts on the coast. The Greene at once stood in, and in thirty minutes silenced the forts and was preparing to take possession of the vessels when a French frigate appeared and the Greene gave chase, for while aiding Toussaint in St. Domingo, America was at war with France on the seas. Shortly after this incident the General Greene proceeded to Jaquemel, which was the strong-hold of Rigaud and which was being besieged from the land by Toussaint. The fire of the Greene upon the fortifications compelled the garrison of 5,000 to surrender the town to Toussaint. In May following, while the Greene was giving convoy to an American vessel bound for Havana, a British battleship signaled the merchant vessel to heave to, and fired a shot. Capt. Perry signaled the brig to proceed, and when the British war-ship sent a boat to board the merchant, he threw a shot in front of it, and although the Britisher protested, the boarding of the brig was not permitted. This stand was taken in spite of the fact that the British ship was one of seventy-four guns and tremendously superior to the Greene. These incidents are of interest only as showing the school in which the future naval hero was receiving his earliest training in his chosen profession. He was in the meantime studious and had attained a degree of knowledge far beyond his years. Toward the close of the year i800, Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers were making trouble with the American commerce in the Mediterranean, the Bashaw of Tripoli having gone so far as to demand a money present from the United States, threatening to begin hostilities against the commerce of the nation unless it was forthcoming. An American squadron was sent against the Tripolitans in 1801, and another the following year. This second squadron was composed of the Chesapeake, Constellation, New York, Adams, and John Adams, frigates, and the schooner Enterprise. Perry again embarked as midshipman after a year of idleness. He was assigned to the Adams, Capt. Hugh G. Campbell, a brave and valuable officer, who came to regard young Perry with a sincere regard, and the friendship which sprang up between them continued until death. It became the tedious task of the Adams to watch two Tripolitan vessels in the harbor at Gibraltar. During this service, Perry's seventeenth birthday was made memorable by his promotion to an acting lieutenancy. In May the squadron assembled at Malta and soon after sailed for Tripoli. On approaching the city, a number of small merchant vessels were discovered trying to make the harbor under convoy of several gun-boats. Chase was given but the vessels succeeded in making a smaller harbor adjoining the city, where they were hastily unloaded and drawn upon the beach. A stone building on shore was quickly fortified and filled with troops from the town, while the gunboats escaped along shore and got under protection of the batteries. The following day an expedition from the American squadron started for shore under Lieutenant David Porter with the perilous mission of destroying the vessels on the beach. The tars pulled in against a heavy musketry fire from Moors and Arabs, fired the shipping, and returned to their ships in the midst of the enemy's fire. In this brief expedition twelve Americans were either killed or wounded. After a year of blockading and cruising along the coasts of Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli, the Adams returned to the United States, arriving at New-port in November, 1803. Young Perry now devoted himself to the study of mathematics and astronomy, He at this time displayed during his leisure hours a taste for society and was exceedingly fond of music, being himself a performer on the flute. His only extravagance was that of hiring horses, as he was fond of riding and never let an opportunity escape to gratify it. Aside from this he is said to have been an excellent hand at billiards and a skillful fencer. These were his tastes and occupations as he was approaching manhood. During this time Commodore Preble was in command of the Mediterranean squadron and carried on a succession of brilliant operations against the enemies of American commerce. The news of Preble's exploits awakened the spirit of enthusiasm in the young officers who were at home inactive, and Perry was among the first to make strenuous efforts to be ordered to join the squadron. His opportunity came when Congress ordered several additional vessels to the Mediterranean, among them the Constellation, which was given to Captain Campbell, and aboard which Perry naturally secured his berth as lieutenant. The Constellation arrived at Tripoli in September, 1804, but Commodore Preble had been superseded by Commodore Barron, and Perry and other young officers who had come with high hopes of having opportunities to distinguish themselves were highly disappointed at the peaceful course pursued by the Commodore. Perry was for a time given command of the schooner Nautilus, and some time later, when Commodore Rodgers had relieved Commodore Barron, Perry was ordered to the Commodore's flagship, having by his appearance, manners, and conversation, attracted the attention of his superior, who was favorably impressed with the young lieutenant. That his opinion of Perry was not shaken during the succeeding months is shown by the fact that when toward the end of the summer of 1806, after having satisfactorily settled affairs with the Barbary powers, Commodore Rodgers prepared to return home, and for that purpose transferred his flag to the Essex, he took Perry with him to that ship, which reached the United States in October. Once more on shore, Perry resumed his studies, and in January, 1807, first met Elizabeth Champlin Mason, then a beautiful girl of sixteen, to whom Perry's heart went out and who later became his wife. This was the period of gunboat and embargo policy, and Perry had been detailed to superintend the construction of seventeen gunboats at Newport. He completed his work by June, and it is further to his credit that the Navy Department selected him to command this large detachment of gunboats. With his flotilla he proceeded to New York to protect the harbor and adjacent waters from the encroachments of French and English belligerents. The wars being carried on at this time by other nations had thrown the bulk of the maritime carrying trade into the hands of the American merchant marine, and this awakened the jealousy of both France and England, each nation being, moreover, desirous of depriving the other of the advantages which each was deriving from the American trade, our merchant vessels became the prey of both, and the timid policy pursued by America at this time in regard to the navy left the merchant marine practically without protection, and in addition helped to ruin it by declaring the embargo in 1807, as already stated. To maintain the embargo, more gunboats were now ordered built, and Perry, having so satisfactorily carried out his first orders in that line, was again detailed to this service, which occupied him from February, 1808, to April, 1809. He was then appointed to succeed Lieutenant Jacob Jones on board the schooner Revenge of fourteen guns, attached to the squadron of Commodore Rodgers. After cruising during the summer and winter with this squadron, Perry was in April, 1810, ordered to Washington for the purpose of placing the Revenge under extensive repairs. The work was quickly completed, and on May 20 he started for Charleston. The log-book shows an incident during this trip which is briefly and concisely stated by Perry in the following words : "At ten thirty, John-son Dickson, marine, fell overboard. Rounded to, out boat, brought him safe on board." In July of this year, Perry was ordered to proceed to Amelia Island in Spanish waters to seize a ship named Angel and flying the British flag. The order was executed on a warrant which showed that the ship was really an American named Diana, owned by Americans and having been unlawfully detained by her master, who was an English man. The disputed ship was lying under the batteries of the British gunbrig Plumper and schooner Jupiter, but notwithstanding this, Perry boldly sailed in, took possession of the Diana, and carried her out from under the British guns. Soon after this the Revenge fell in with a British sloop-of-war, and the Englishman demanded that the commander of the Revenge come aboard the sloop and explain the nature of his vessel. Instead of complying, Perry distinctly refused, and, being no match for the British sloop from a point of guns, he quietly but quickly ordered his crew of ninety men armed with pistols, cutlasses and battleaxes, determining, if fired upon, to sweep down upon the Britisher and board her when the vessels came in contact. Fortunately the commander of the sloop was a prudent man, and the clash was averted. But it was this kind of acts that enlisted the admiration and loyalty of the men who served under him and filled them with confidence, not only in his ability, but in themselves. The log-book gives evidence of the efforts put forth by Perry to make his vessel formidable in every way. His crew was drilled to the very highest efficiency in gun practice and firing, floating targets being used, the men in this way encountering the swell of the ocean and practically the same difficulties as though they were engaged in a real encounter. In December of 1810 Perry was ordered to survey the coast between Newport and New London and prepare a chart of its anchorages and headlands. While engaged in this work, the Revenge was wrecked on the night of January 11, through the fault of a pilot. A court of inquiry was ordered and Perry was completely exonerated from any blame in the matter. The Secretary of the Navy, writing to Commodore Rodgers in regard to the affair, says : "With respect to Lieutenant Perry, I can only say, that my confidence in him has not been in any degree diminished by his conduct on the occasion."
Some months after this, Perry obtained a furlough and in May was married to Miss Mason, and spent his honeymoon visiting various parts of New England. During this time the relations between the United States and Great Britain, instead of improving, had gradually become more and more strained. Not only did England continue to despoil our commerce, but her cruisers impressed American seamen under the pretext that they were Englishmen, and forcibly compelled them to serve on British ships. Finally popular indignation rose to such a pitch that in June, 1812, war was declared against England. In anticipation of this event, Perry hurried to Washington and presented himself for active service. He was promised the first vacancy in conformity with his rank, and in the meantime was made master commandant and placed in charge of a flotilla of twelve gun-boats for the protection of the harbor of Newport and adjacent waters. Perry was given permission to make his own selections for commanders of the gunboats, and he did not make one bad appointment. His total force numbered about two hundred officers and men. This service, which failed to bring him into contact with the enemy, was not to his liking, and in November he renewed his solicitations to be given duty of a more effective character. Finding no opportunity for a place on the ocean, Perry looked in another direction, as is shown by the following extract from a letter written by him at this time to the Secretary of the Navy and presented by his friend, W. S. Rodgers. It reads : "I have instructed my friend, Mr. W. S. Rodgers, to wait on you with a tender of my services to the Lakes. ' There are fifty or sixty men under my command that are remark-ably active and strong, capable of performing any service. In the hope that I should have the honor of commanding them whenever they should meet the enemy, I have taken unwearied pains in preparing them for such an event. I beg, therefore, sir, that we may be employed in some way in which we can be serviceable to our country."
At the same time he offered his services to Commodore I. Chauncey, who had command of the lakes. Perry's persistance at this time for an opportunity "to meet the enemy" is remarkable. Having learned that the Government is about to increase the navy by several line-of-battle ships, frigates, and sloops, he writes anxiously to Captain Morris and hints, "I despair of getting to sea very shortly, unless I should be fortunate to get the Hornet." Then again he devoted himself to the task of obtaining accurate information as to the ship-building capabilities of his own State. He submitted the result in tabular form, showing the quantity of suitable ship-timber, mines of iron ore, numbers of smelting forges, trip-hammers, ship carpenters, joiners, rope and sail makers, and other artisans engaged in the construction of a ship. Incidentally he mentions the fact that a number of mechanics are out of employment, and would work for low wages. In January, 1813, Lieutenant Allen was given command of the brig Argus. Perry stood at the head of the line for the first vacant command, and considered that he had been unjustly treated. He wrote to the Secretary of the Navy protesting, and also to Congressman J. B. Howell, soliciting his aid to have the matter righted, explaining that he possesses an "ardent desire to meet the enemies of my country." February 1, 1813, he received a letter from Commodore Chauncey, who states that he has made application to the Secretary of the Navy to have Perry ordered to the lakes for service. In the letter the Commodore pays Perry the following compliment : "You are the very person that I want for a particular service, in which you may gain reputation for yourself and honor for your country.' A ,few days later he received word from his friend Rodgers that the Commodore's request had been granted, and that he was to be ordered to Lake Erie with a detachment of the best men at Newport. His mission was to be to build two heavy brigs on the lake to meet the force which England was already mobilizing there. February 17th Perry was elated to receive orders to proceed to Sackett's Harbor with all the best men in his command. That same day he sent fifty men on their way to the rendezvous, two days later another fifty, and on February 21st a third installment of fifty men. His object in thus dividing them was to increase their chances of securing lodging and conveyance along the route. The following day Perry himself, having turned over his flotilla to his next in command, started for Sackett's Harbor. He arrived at his destination March 3, and although he was anxious to begin with his work on the squadron on Lake Erie, he was detained by the Commodore until March 16, owing to the fact that an attack was expected on Sackett's Harbor, with the purpose of destroying the shipping. Fin-ally he received the necessary orders, and proceeded to Lake Erie, arriving at Buffalo March 24, and continuing his journey toward Erie in a sleigh on the ice. He arrived at the village of Erie March 27. Here he found that the keels of two twenty-gun brigs had been laid, and three gunboats were in course of construction, but to his astonishment he discovered that none of the guns with which the ships were to be equipped had arrived, and also that there was not a musket or a cartridge in the village with which to defend the property against attack. The work was progressing slowly, as fifty carpenters who had been sent from Philadelphia four weeks before had not yet arrived. Perry's own men had been left at Sackett's Harbor, and so he at once sent a messenger to Buffalo after forty seamen and muskets and cartridges. An idea of the arduous nature of the task which corn fronted him may be gathered from the fact that nearly everything needed had to be brought a distance of 500 miles through a thinly settled country, with extremely poor transportation accommodations. For the iron work on these ships, i,000 pounds of iron was brought from Buffalo, and the balance was picked up in the shape of scraps of all sorts in the neighboring smithies. After many delays and the most strenuous exertions, the three gunboats were finally launched and equipped, and the brigs were well along toward completion. At this time an incident toc! place in Perry's career which amply demonstrated that his desire to see action was no empty boast. When at Sackett's Harbor he had been informed by Commodore Chauncey that an attack was soon to be made upon Fort George, and the young captain had then extorted a promise from the Commodore that he would send for him and allow him to take part in the attack unless other duty prevented. On the evening of May 23, Perry received the welcome tidings that Chauncey had proceeded to Niagara, and that the attack would be made in a day or two. It was after sunset when he received this information, yet he determined to, set out at once. In a four-oared open boat, the night dark and squally, and buffeted by headwinds, Perry, with his little crew, reached Buffalo the following night, and then proceeded again by boat, part of the time within musket-shot of the enemy's lines. At Strawberry Point he was warned that forty men occupied Grand Island for the purpose of intercepting boats, and he was compelled to proceed with more caution. Arrived at Sclosser, a terrific downpour of rain began. He was unable to secure a horse, and proceeded on foot for two and a half miles, when the storm became so violent that he took shelter in a farmhouse. In the meantime his men had captured a horse on the town commons and rigged up a bridle from a rope, and borrowed a saddle that was without stirrup, girth, or crupper. The sailors pursued him with this sorry animal, came up with him, and proudly presented the steed. He then pushed forward through the rain and arrived at camp the evening of May 25. The following morning Perry was given command of 500 marines and seamen and general charge of the debarkation of the troops that were to storm Fort George. That he performed his share in the conflict, which resulted in the capture of the fort, is shown by the official report of Commodore Chauncey, who, in relating the services of Perry, says: "He was present at every point where he could be useful, under showers of musketry, but fortunately escaped unhurt." After the fall of the fort, the British evacuated the whole frontier along the Niagara, and this made it possible to move five small vessels which had been detained at Black Rock, into Lake Erie. It was an arduous task, oxen and men being employed to - drag the vessels against the strong current of the Niagara, but it was finally accomplished under the direction of Perry. June 14 he sailed with this little squadron from Buffalo for Erie. At that moment the British had a force on Lake Erie fully six times as formidable as that which Perry was conducting, and the greatest vigilance and tact was necessary to get past the enemy. As Perry was entering the harbor of Erie in safety on the evening of June 18, the British flotilla hove in sight, showing how narrow was his escape. Following this, sickness fell upon his men, and out of the 110 which he had at this time, but thirty were fit for service. It was with the greatest difficulty that he was able to get more men sent on to him. His own excellent men sent from Newport had been for the most part detained with Commodore Chauncey, who appreciated their ability and wished to retain them on his ships. The fate of General Harrison and his army, which was at this time engaged in trying to regain possession of the territory of Michigan, depended practically upon the success of the American squadron upon Lake Erie, and while several orders were sent to Perry urging haste, no men were sent to him, and he had recruited a force of soldiers, boys, and negroes, and finally, on July 30, with meager reinforcements, he mustered 300 officers and men, many of them debilitated and sick. This was the force he had to man two twenty-gun brigs and eight smaller vessels of a total of fifteen guns. Commodore Barclay, in command of the British squadron, a man of experience, who had fought under Nelson at Trafalgar, had in the meantime been reinforced with a new and formidable ship, the Detroit, With the material at hand, poor as it was, Perry worked indefatigably, exercising the men at the guns and making them as near perfect as possible in every branch of the work that was to be required of them. He had named the brig which he himself was to command, the Lawrence, in memory of that noble soul whose last words, "Don't give up the ship," had sent a thrill through every heroic heart. The other brig was named the Niagara. Before daylight on the morning of August 6 Perry started out with his squadron in search of the enemy. After cruising about for twenty-four hours he returned to the anchorage at Erie. Hambleton in his journal at this time says of Perry : "His officers are few and inexperienced, and we are short of seamen. His repeated and urgent re-quests for men having been treated with the most mortifying neglect, he declines making another." On August 10 Lieutenant Elliott, with several officers and eighty-nine seamen, arrived. This addition to his forces electrified Perry, and he was more eager than ever to seek the enemy and bring about an engagement. On August 12 the squadron got under way, sailing in double column. The right was led by the Lawrence, Captain Perry, followed by the Porcupine, Caledonia, Ohio, and Ariel. The left was led by the Niagara, Lieutenant Elliott, followed by the Trippe, Tigress, Somers, and Scorpion. On August 19, the squadron arrived off San-dusky, and after a conference with General Harrison, who was not yet ready to advance with his army, Perry sailed on a reconnoitering expedition, and discovered the British squadron at anchor within Bar Point. Large numbers of the men being attacked with bilious fever, he anchored his ships in Put-in-Bay. On the last day of the month Perry received from General Harrison nearly one hundred men to act as marines with the squadron and this brought the total of his force up to 490 souls. A few days later he learned from some citizens who arrived at Sandusky from Malden, that the British squadron was about to sail. Perry also at this time learned pretty accurately the strength of the enemy. The fleet consisted of the new Detroit, 19 guns; Queen Charlotte, 17 guns ; Lady Prevost, schooner, 13 guns ; Hunter, brig, 10 guns; Little Belt, sloop, 3 guns; Chippeway, schooner, one long gun. This made a total of 63 guns, 35 of which were long. The total strength of the crews was 502 men and officers, of which 150 of the seamen were from the Royal navy. Of the American squadron, mounting 54 guns, only the Lawrence and the Niagara could be considered as men- of-war, and owing to the large number of long guns of the enemy, the American ships would be at a great disadvantage in any but a close encounter. Perry was now confident that an engagement would be brought on, and summoned his officers on board the Lawrence. He explained to them his views in whatever contingency might arise. He gave it as his intention to bring the enemy to close quarters, and his final emphatic injunction was given in the words of Nelson : "If you lay your enemy close alongside, you cannot be out of your place." Perry now produced a battleflag, the hoisting of which on the Lawrence was to be the signal to commence action. It was a large blue flag and bore in white letters, the words "Don't give up the ship." At sunrise on the morning of September 10 the British squadron was discovered standing toward Put-in-Bay. Perry at once ordered the squadron to get under way, and in a few minutes the ships began beating out of the harbor. Several of the group of the Bass Islands interposed between the two squadrons, and Perry made an effort to get around to windward of the islands in order to get a leading breeze to run down upon the enemy. The wind, however, was unsteady, and several hours were spent in repeated tacking. As 10 o'clock approached Perry became impatient and ordered the squadron to run to the leeward of the islands. Sailing-Master Taylor remarked that they would then have to attack from the leeward. "I don't care," replied Perry, "to windward or to leeward, they shall fight to-day." At that very moment, however, the wind suddenly shifted and they were enabled to carry out the original intention. It was a perfect autumn day and the British squadron as it hove to, with its red ensigns fluttering gently in the breeze, and formed in line of battle, presented a formidable appearance. The sick list of the American squadron contained 116 names, and many of the guns were short-handed. The rival fleets were still some miles distant when Perry, mounting a gun-slide, produced his battle-flag, and, calling up the crew, told its meaning and asked them whether he should hoist it. His answer was a resounding cheer, and the signal was sent to the mast-head. The crews of the other ships cheered and many of the sick crawled out of their bunks and took their stations to do their share in defending their flag and country. Perry went from gun to gun and had a word of cheer for each crew, and everywhere the men responded in a manner which showed how much confidence they had in their young commander. Suddenly from the British squadron came the ringing notes of a bugle, followed by cheers from the various crews. It was now close to noon and the opposing squadrons had approached to within a mile and a half of each other. The Detroit opened the engagement with a single shot at the Lawrence, but it failed to take effect. Five minutes later the long guns of the British began to thunder. The few long guns on the American ships replied. The Lawrence and some of the other vessels steadily bore down upon the English ships and although the Lawrence, which was receiving the concentrated fire of the enemy, was suffering to a considerable extent, the resolute advance was continued until within 350 yards of the enemy, when a rapid and destructive fire was opened on the Detroit. The Scorpion and Ariel susitained the Lawrence in the unequal task she had under-taken. The commander of the Caledonia had followed the Lawrence closely and gallantly closed with the Hunter of the British squadron. But the Niagara remained at a distance, keeping up a long and ineffectual fire. Half an hour after the battle commenced, the Queen Charlotte, which the Niagara had been ordered to attack, came up astern of the Detroit and opened a terrific fire upon the Lawrence. Overwhelming as was the force thus directed against her, she continued to maintain the contest for two hours. By this time her condition was terrible. The sails were torn asunder, the rigging shattered and one by one the guns were dismounted until but one remained that could be fired. The men fell on every hand. Of 10o men who entered the engagement, 22 had been killed outright and 61 wounded. Perry undauntedly continued to work his single remaining gun, sending now and again as man after man dropped, for another and another hand from among those who were removing the wounded. Some of the wounded, hearing how few able men remained to fight, crawled on deck and offered their services. Finally Perry himself, with the aid of Hambleton, his purser, and Breese, the chaplain, were serving the solitary gun, but at length it, too, was disabled. Throughout this terrible ordeal, from first to last, according to the accounts of those who were present, Perry appeared collected, undismayed, and even cheerful. Having nothing further with which to make resistance, Perry looked over the remnant of his crew and found but eighteen persons not disabled by wounds, aside from his little brother, then twelve years of age, who served in the capacity of powder carrier. Repeatedly during the engagement, Perry's attention had been called to the strange conduct of the Niagara, which lay far to wind-ward and had made no effort to come to the relief of the Lawrence. But one chance remained and Perry was not slow to take advantage of it. Turning the command of the Lawrence over to his first lieutenant, the brave Yarnell, Perry ordered a boat to convey him to the Niagara. "If a victory is to be gained, I'll gain it," was his confident remark as he went down the gangway. While Perry stood erect in the boat on his way to the Niagara, then half a mile distant, the British made every effort to sink the craft carrying the intrepid commander. The few survivors on the Lawrence watched his progress with pain, and when they saw him safely reach the Niagara, the devoted little band gave a cheer. The Lawrence was still the center of the enemy's fire, apparently with the determination of sinking her. To save the wounded, Yarnell hauled down the colors and a tremendous cheer went up from the British ships. But their victory was destined to be short-lived. Having taken control of the Niagara and sent her commander, Elliott, astern to order up the gunboats, Perry once more bore down upon the British. In maneuvering to receive the Niagara, the Queen Charlotte and the Detroit got foul and their rigging became entangled. At this moment the Niagara passed slowly under the bows of the Detroit and poured a destructive shower of grape and canister into both vessels, at the same time raking the Lady Provost with the larboard guns. The marines on the Niagara picked off the men on the decks. Taking spirit at this renewed action by the Niagara, the other vessels of Perry's squadron closed in and fought with such precision and effect that the British soon gave up all resistance. The Queen Charlotte struck first, and the Detroit at once followed the example. The Hunter and Lady Provost struck their colors a minute later. Within half an hour after Perry took command of the Niagara, the victory had been completely won. Commodore Barclay and many of the British officers had been wounded, and the decks of their ships presented scenes of indescribable carnage. The killed of the British squadron had been thrown overboard as they fell, but according to Commodore Barclay the number was forty-one. His wounded numbered ninety-four. The aggregate losses of the Americans amounted to twenty-seven killed and ninety-six wounded, of which, as stated, twenty-two were killed on the Lawrence and sixty-one wounded. Perry had won a dazzling victory, captured six splendid prizes, and taken 308 prisoners. He now sent the famous message to General Harrison, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop." And then, at 4 o'clock, one hour after the great achievement had been Accomplished, the young commander of twenty-seven years sat down and with mingled piety and modesty penned a brief note to the Secretary of the Navy, saying that it had "pleased the Almighty to give to the arms of the United States a signal victory," and that the British squadron had surrendered after "a sharp conflict." The wounded of the British, as well as the Americans, were given the very best of care, the prisoners were humanely treated, and Perry secured for Commodore Barclay a parole which enabled that officer to return to England. Perry's victory was of the greatest importance in that it led to the evacuation of Detroit, and the relinquishment of the whole territory of Michigan by the British, and facilitated the overthrow of that power in Upper Canada and on all the lakes. Perry's magnanimity was shown in the official report of the engagement, in which he not only neglected to reveal the. peculiar conduct of Elliott, but accords him credit for having kept the Niagara out of the fight. Elliott later on attempted to secure for himself the glory of the victory, and circulated disparaging reports about Captain Perry, for which he was later court-martialed.
After the battle Perry returned to Put-in-Bay, and, having landed his wounded, reorganized his squadrons and transported the army of General Harrison across to Canada. They found the town of Malden evacuated, and met with no resistance worthy of the name anywhere along the coast. The British army under General Proctor, and the Indians under the famous Chief Tecumseh, were retreating, and when Harrison determined to pursue, Perry left his ships in command of Elliott and became an aid to General Harrison. In this capacity he took part in the battle of the Thames against the British and Indians, which resulted in the utter defeat of the enemy. On October 7th Perry returned to the United States, being soon after followed to Detroit by the army under Harrison. All resistance had disappeared in that section of Canada, and both the army and the navy now waited to learn from the Government what further work there was to be done. It was at Detroit that Perry was first made aware of the glory which had attached to his name as a result of his victory. He was lauded in the newspapers, and the people fairly worshiped him. From the Secretary of the Navy he received a most flattering congratulation. His name was on every lip, and demonstrations of joy at his success were everywhere given. Soon after he was notified that he had been promoted to post-captain, and was granted leave of absence to visit his relatives.
Perry's journey across the country toward his home was a continual series of ovations. Public receptions were tendered him, illuminations were held in his honor, schools took holidays, and everywhere he was praised and honored from the small villages to the large cities through which he passed. Mayors and high officials came to meet him and urge upon him their hospitality, dinners were given, he was toasted, cheered and wept over, and accepted it all with. grace and modesty. The universal feeling was one of blended respect, admiration, and gratified national pride. November 18, 1813, Perry reached Newport. The town was decked in the national colors, the shipping in the harbor was in gala attire, the church bells rang, and salutes were fired from Fort Wolcott, and from the flotilla.. Having buried himself for a brief space in the bosom of his family, which consisted of his wife and two boys, he asked leave early in January to visit the Capital in order to look after the adjudication of his prizes. The request was granted in the most flattering terms. Congress had already passed a vote of thanks, and followed it up by presenting him with a jeweled sword, a gold medal and $5,000 in money. Congress also in substantial manner rewarded every officer and sailor who had fought under him on that memorable day in September on Lake Erie. Perry reached the National Capital late in January. He was invited to a seat on the floor of the Senate, an honor seldom bestowed, and was publicly entertained by the leading citizens of the nation. During the balance of the year Perry was employed in preparing a flying squadron to prey upon the commerce and coasts of England, but peace was signed between the two nations at Ghent in December, 1814, and it was determined to send Perry to the Mediterranean to punish or come to terms, as the case might warrant, with the Dey of Algiers, whose ships had ruthlessly preyed on American commerce during the war. Perry at this time had command of the first-class frigate Java, which had but recently been launched in Baltimore. In addition, however, he was engaged in the construction of three other ships, which were also to be under his command. Congress declared war against Algiers immediately after the ratification of peace with England, and as Perry's ships were far from complete, Decatur was sent to the Mediterranean and, after capturing some of the enemy's ship-ping, concluded a treaty which made further force in that vicinity unnecessary. Toward the end of the year 1815, however, the Dey of Algiers had become dissatisfied with the treaty he had concluded with Decatur, and, American commerce again becoming endangered, Perry was ordered to proceed to the Mediterranean in the Java. Departing from Newport, January 21, 1816, he joined the squadron of Commodore Shaw at Port Mahon, March 7th, after a boisterous voyage across the Atlantic. The whole squadron arrived at Algiers April 8th. There they found a British fleet lined up before the batteries and demanding a treaty similar to that made with the United States. Negotiations were carried on for months, and it was not until November, after the arrival of Commodore Chauncey, that a new treaty was agreed upon between the Dey and a commission, of which Captain Perry was a member. Two months prior to this time an incident took place which forms the only instance in his career which is open to censure. This was his trouble with John Heath, captain of the marines on board the Java. Perry had on several occasions been treated by Heath in what he considered an insolent manner, and at last, becoming provoked beyond endurance Perry struck Heath a blow. Each brought charges against the other, and the' court-martial which sat in December of that year, pronounced both guilty, and both were leniently punished, the sentence being private reprimand by the Commander-in-Chief. January 12, 1817, the Java left the squadron to carry the new treaty with Algiers to the United States, and reached Newport March 3d. The wounded feelings of Captain Heath had not been healed, and he challenged Perry to a duel. The report, becoming public, caused the greatest excitement. The meeting finally took place October 19, 1818, on the Jersey shore of the Hudson. Heath fired at Perry and missed him, and Perry declined to return the fire, whereupon Heath declared himself satisfied. Perry spent the winter of the year 1818 at Newport with his family, and was not again called upon for active service until April, 1819, when he was requested by" the Government to undertake a trip to Venezuela, then in a state of revolt against Spain, to seek reparation for the seizure of some property belonging to Americans. He unhesitatingly accepted the service, and with the sloop John Adams and the schooner Nonsuch left in June for South America. At the mouth of the Orinoco the John Adams was left, while Perry proceeded up the river in the Nonsuch and reached Angostura July 26th, and at once began negotiations with Vice-President Zea, Bolivar being absent with the army at the time. August 15th, having in the main accomplished the purpose of his mission, Perry started down the river. On the morning of the 18th, having reached the mouth of the river, Perry was taken ill, and the symptoms of yellow fever left no doubt as to the nature of the disease. He grew rapidly worse and died on August 23d, his birthday, near Port Spain. The following afternoon the body was solemnly carried ashore, attended by 12o seamen in boats, rowing with measured stroke, while minute guns were fired from the Adams. The Governor of Trinidad, and other officials, attended the funeral services, and with every mark of sympathy and grief the remains of the gallant young commander was lowered into the grave. The whole nation mourned his untimely demise, and President Monroe in his first succeeding annual message referred to Perry's death as a national calamity. Congress provided for his family, and later had the remains brought to Newport and there interred.
His great victory on Lake Erie will always remain one of the most illustrious incidents of the Nation's history, and despite efforts that were made during his life to rob him of the honors due him, posterity will forever cherish and respect the name of Oliver Hazard Perry.