Battle of Lake Erie
September 10, 1813 Lake Erie, Ohio
The Battle of Lake Erie, sometimes also referred to as the Battle of Put-in-Bay, was fought on Lake Erie, off the coast of Ohio during the war. It was between 9 ships of the U.S. Navy and 6 ships of Royal Navy.
By September 1813, the American fleet under Commodore Oliver H. Perry had gained the upper hand on Lake Erie. Perry was effectively blockading the British at Amherstburg on the Detroit River. For British Army Commander Gen. Henry Procter and his naval counterpart, Capt. Robert Barclay, the situation was getting desperate. Without control of the lake, food supplies at Amherstburg were running dangerously low. There was no more money to pay the army its wages and the navy’s sailors had been reduced to half-rations. Despite being outnumbered, the squadron had no choice but to risk everything in all-out battle against the Americans.
On September 9, Barclay sailed out of Amherstburg with the intention of unblocking the Lake Erie supply line. He met Perry’s squadron at Put-in-Bay the next day. The ensuing dramatic naval battle would come to figure prominently in the mythology of the war. After almost 4 hours of intense cannon fire and much human suffering, the British surrendered.
On Perry’s flagship, the USS Lawrence, only 20 out of 103 men escaped the battle without being killed or wounded. Barclay was badly wounded in his good shoulder and thigh. The battle ended in unequivocal victory for the Americans. It was the first time in history that an entire British fleet was defeated and captured by the enemy. Immediately after the battle, Perry sat down to scribble the dispatch that became the most-quoted phrase of the war: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
The American naval victory paved the way for Gen. William H. Harrison’s successful invasion of Upper Canada. Having lost access to Lake Erie, Procter was forced to abandon Amherstburg and withdraw up the Thames Valley. Harrison caught up with the British-First Nations force at Moraviantown, where he destroyed Procter and Tecumseh’s army.
Each side suffered about 100 casualties. The vessels were anchored and hasty repairs were underway near West Sister Island when Perry composed his now famous message to Gen. William H. Harrison, commander of the Army of the Northwest. Scrawled in pencil on the back of an old envelope, Perry wrote: " Dear General: We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop. Yours with great respect and esteem, O.H. Perry"
Warships involved in the battle:
- AMERICA - Lawrence (flagship), Caledonia, Ariel , Somers , Scorpion , Niagara , Porcupine , Tigress , and the Trippe
BRITIAN - Detroit (flagship), General Hunter, Chippewa, Queen Charlotte, Lady Prevost, and the Little Belt