“We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.”
~Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry
On September 10, 1813, nine small ships – six of them, including Niagara, constructed at Erie – defeated a British squadron of six vessels in the Battle of Lake Erie. A pivotal event in the War of 1812, it led to regaining Detroit, lost at the war’s outset, and lifted the nation’s morale.
The U.S. Brig Niagara is a two-masted, square-rigged sailing vessel. In 1813, she had a crew of 155 men and boys who manned her sails, 18 carronades and two long guns. The crew was organized into two watch sections (port and starboard) for routine duties while underway. More experienced sailors were stationed aloft, while others under the direction of petty officers manned the rigging which controlled the sails from deck. In battle, men also manned the guns and carronades. Boys carried the black powder charges from the magazine to the guns. Marines and soldiers were assigned to the fighting tops on the masts where they could fire their muskets on the enemy ships. Officers directed setting sails, firing cannon, and maneuvering the brig in response to orders from the captain.
…On September 10th, 1813, the British under Commodore Robert Heriot Barclay and the Americans under Perry met in battle near Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Perry’s flagship, Lawrence, engaged the British ships Detroit and Queen Charlotte, while the Niagara, for unknown reasons, did not close the enemy.
After the Lawrence was completely disabled, with most of her crew wounded or killed, Perry transferred by boat to the undamaged Niagara, hoisted his battle flag – “DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP” – sailed her into close action, broke the British battle line, and forced Barclay to surrender. In the aftermath, Commodore Perry wrote his famous report to General William Henry Harrison, “We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.”
- Read a comprehensive account of the Battle of Lake Erie from the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial.
- Get a very in-depth account of the Battle of Lake Erie and the events leading up to it from American Heritage Magazine.
- Find out more about the parties in the battle at Wikipedia.
- Take an interactive tour of the Brig Niagra.
Trish wrote that the Flagship Niagara was in Detroit a year ago for Navy Week to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Detroit was chosen as a host city because of its direct link to the War of 1812. The city was an important military outpost in the war — but mainly for the British, who tricked the commander of Fort Detroit into surrendering the city without a shot and occupied it for more than a year. She also says to note the authentic 1812 U.S. flag!
More ships & boats on Michigan in Pictures.