Even though Ohio was admitted as a state to the United States on March 1, 1803, it and the territory of Michigan nearly ended up as part of Canada had it not been for the courageous efforts of Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry and his small fleet of American ships on Lake Erie.
In the early stages of the War of 1812 with Great Britain, things were not going well with the American forces in north and north central parts of the continent. The British appeared to be on the verge of not only winning the war but claiming sections of America for their own and making them part of Canada.
During the summer of 1813, the British used Lake Erie as part of the supply line, shipping supplies to and from Fort Malden, Ontario, located at northwestern end of lake in the bay leading to Detroit, and Port Dover, Ontario, located on the north eastern shore about 70 miles west of Buffalo, New York.
Perry had been tasked with breaking up the British supply line on Lake Eerie and had managed to be a major disruption to them.
On this day, September 10, 1813, Perry was at Put-in-Bay Island, Ohio, an island in the southwest end of Lake Erie. His fleet consisted of 3 brigs, 5 schooners and 1 sloop, when he spied a small fleet of British ships that had sailed from Fort Malden.
Perry quickly set his fleet to sail but knew that he needed the wind behind him because his guns had only half the range of those of the British fleet, which consisted of 2 ships, 2 brigs, 1 schooner and 1 sloop. For two hours, Perry tried to maneuver his fleet to the get wind behind them to give them the speed and maneuverability they needed, but the wind was not cooperative.
Just as Perry was about to give up hope of being able to use the wind to help him attack the British fleet, the wind shifted in his favor and he continued his plans to get in close enough to inflict damage to the British ships.
Perry’s flag ship, the Lawrence, suffered heavy damage along with many of the crew. Perry took a few uninjured crew members and rowed to the Niagara, making it his new flagship. Perry named the Lawrence after his friend Captain James Lawrence, who had inspired him with the saying, ‘Don’t give up the ship.’ Perry even had a flag with those words written upon it, hoisted on the Lawrence.
The British ships also suffered some heavy damage, including most of their experienced senior officers. The inexperienced junior officers now in charge of the British ships tried to turn their ships around to use their undamaged cannons to finish off Perry’s fleet. In the maneuvering, two of the British ships collided and became entangled with each other. That allowed the Perry and the Niagara to fire upon the helpless British ships, inflicting very heavy damage.
The British officers has no choice but surrender to Perry and his American fleet. Upon capturing the British vessels, Perry wrote a message on the outside of an envelope and sent it to American General William Henry Harrison. The message, now famous, only said:
“We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”
Upon receiving Perry’s message, Harrison and his army, used Perry’s fleet to transport them to Detroit which had been controlled by the British. Upon the arrival of Harrison and his forces and having their supply line on Lake Erie cut off, the British abandoned Detroit and fled into Canada. Harrison pursued them and defeated them at the Battle of the Thames in early October.
The victories of Perry and Harrison played vital roles in ending the war with Great Britain. The victories also played a vital role in the US maintaining Ohio and Michigan as spelled out in the peace treaty with Great Britain.
Sources for the above includes: The Battle of Lake Erie; War of 1812: Battle of Lake Erie; Battle of Lake Erie; War of 1812: Battle of Lake Erie — Oliver Perry Prevails; The Battle of Lake Erie; Battle of Lake Erie; Battle of Lake Erie; The Battle of Lake Erie