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The Battle of Lake Erie

The Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813

On September 10, 1813, a small American fleet faced off against a British fleet near South Bass Island in Southern Lake Erie.

Painted by Cincinnati native William Henry Powell, Perry’s Victory depicts Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry during the Battle of Lake Erie. This painting currently hangs in the Statehouse Rotunda.The American fleet, led by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, had nine ships to the British fleet’s six. However, the guns on the British fleet were more accurate at long distances. After the British fleet destroyed Perry’s flagship, the Lawrence, Perry transferred his flag to the Niagara (which at that point had not engaged any opposing vessels)and thetide of battle shifted.

During the battle, every British commander was either killed or wounded, leaving the fleet under control of less experienced officers. Perry had the Niagara ram the lead British ship, while his sailors fired their rifles at the British crew. The British fleet surrendered to Perry by nightfall.

The American victory led to control of Lake Erie, meaning  Ohio, Pennsylvania and Western New York were free of the danger of a British Invasion. In the aftermath, British forces abandoned their positions on land, many of which were places from where they supplied their Indian allies. The Americans followed, and defeated the British and Indian forces on October 8 at the Battle of Thames. Shawnee Chief Tecumseh died during the Battle of Thames, leading to the dissolution of the Indian coalition he created.

Perry’s personal battle flag, emblazoned with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” flew from his flagship during the Battle of Lake Erie. The original flag is on display at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.The American victory affected not just the war, but the shape of the growing nation following the conflict.

For more information:

National Parks Service

Ohio History Central

Ohio Statehouse (Battle of Lake Erie by William Henry Powell)

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