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The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Erie, Lake, Battle of

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ERIE, Lake, Battle of, an important naval engagement in the war of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, fought near the W. extremity of the lake, Sept. 10, 1813. The naval supremacy on the lakes was a matter of much moment, and the American forces on Lake Erie were intrusted to Lieut. Oliver Hazard Perry, who equipped a squadron of nine sail at Erie on Presque Isle bay, and, although blockaded by the British fleet under Capt. Barclay, succeeded in getting his squadron out of port Aug. 12, 1813. On the 28th Perry was made master commandant, and on Sept. 10 lay in Put-in-bay, near Sandusky, when he discovered the British squadron in the offing, and went out to meet it. It consisted of six vessels, viz.: the ships Detroit and Queen Charlotte, the schooner Lady Prevost, the brig Hunter, and the smaller vessels Chippeway and Little Belt, in all mounting 63 guns, with 502 officers and men. Perry had nine vessels, viz.: the brigs Lawrence, Niagara, and Caledonia, and the Scorpion, Ariel, Somers, Porcupine, Tigress, and Trippe, with 54 guns and 490 officers and men. The Americans had some advantage in able seamen, Barclay's vessels being chiefly manned by Canadian watermen and soldiers. Only the Lawrence and Niagara, however, of the American squadron, were regular vessels of war, the others having been built for trading. Their guns were of heavier calibre than those of the English, but of shorter range. This enabled the British to open the battle with advantage. They concentrated their greater number of long-range guns on the Lawrence, Perry's flag ship, and by half past two o'clock, out of her 101 officers and men, only 18 were not disabled, and all her guns were rendered ineffective. In this desperate condition Perry left the Lawrence in command of Lieut. Yarnall, and shifted his flag to the Niagara, which lay half a mile to windward, crossing in his boat under a heavy fire. Lieut. Elliott of the Niagara, leaving his own ship, took command of the Somers, and brought up the smaller vessels of the fleet, which had as yet been little in the action. All together now bore down upon the enemy, and passing through his line, opened a raking cross fire, which in seven minutes compelled the surrender of the British flag ship Detroit, and of the Queen Charlotte, Lady Prevost, and Hunter. The Chippeway and Little Belt endeavored to escape, but were overtaken by the Scorpion and Trippe and surrendered to them about an hour later. When Perry saw that victory was secure he wrote with a pencil on the back of an old letter, resting it on his navy cap, the despatch to Gen. Harrison: “We have met the enemy and they are ours—two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.” The combat had lasted about three hours, with a loss on either side of about 130 in killed and wounded, Barclay himself among the latter. This victory completely established the American supremacy on the lake, and enabled the naval force to coöperate with Gen. Harrison by transporting troops and stores, so that Detroit was evacuated by the British, and Michigan released from British occupation and Indian warfare. Congress bestowed gold medals upon Perry and Elliott, and other rewards upon the officers and men generally. The remains of the officers killed were buried at Put-in Bay island, on the anniversary of the battle in 1858, when the corner stone of a monument was laid.