This Day in History
Perry Boards the Niagra

The Battle of Lake Erie
September 10, 1813

The War of 1812 was predominately a naval war; its one major land battle - for New Orleans - came after peace had already been signed. On the high seas, Britannia did indeed “rule the waves,” but the war on inland waters was another matter; there the Americans ruled whatever waves existed. The hardest fought battles came on Lake Champlain, Ontario and Erie. It was Put-in Bay, at the western end of Lake Erie, that witnessed the decisive battle of the War. Much was at stake: the British controlled Lakes Ontario and Michigan, and had the support on land of the great chief Tecumseh and of the confederacy which he had welded together. If they controlled Erie as well, the whole of the trans-Appalachian country lay open before them. The crisis came in September 1813, when American Commodore Perry sailed out of Presque Isle with nine ships - two of them men-of-war - and Captain Barclay of the Royal Navy moved out from Detroit with six ships to meet him. The two fleets met on September 10th. Barclay’s guns quickly silenced the guns on Perry’s flagship, Lawrence; undaunted, Perry transferred to its sister ship, Niagra. Steering boldly into the heart of the British fleet, Perry’s guns shattered the British flagship, and then turned and destroyed all the others. It was the first time in history that an entire British squadron had been forced to surrender. Sitting on top of the Niagra’s cannon, Perry reported: “We have met the enemy and they are ours: two Ships, two Brigs, one Schooner and one Sloop.”

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.