Erie County, Pennsylvania

History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884

by Samuel P. Bates, 

Submitted by Gaylene Kerr Banister


Chapter XVIII - Perry's Victory and the War of 1812-14


After submitting to a galling train of annoyances and indignities for a period of twenty-nine years, war was declared for the second time by the United States against Great Britain on the 18th of June, 1812.

At that time the Canadian territory bordering the lakes and the St. Lawrence was far in advance of the opposite side of the United States in population, commerce and agriculture. The British were also much better prepared for war, having kept up a series of military posts from Niagara to Sault Ste. Marie, which were well supplied with men, arms and provisions, and being provided with a "Provincial Navy," which gave them the mastery of the lakes. They were on the best of terms with the Indians on both sides of the water, whose co-operation they artfully managed to retain during the progress of the war, and whose reputation for cruelty kept the American frontier in a constant state of terror whenever their warlike bands were known or supposed to be in the vicinity. On the American side, the population was sparse, the settlements were small and widely scattered, and the military posts were few, weak, and either insufficiently defended or left without protection of any kind. There was no navy or regular army. The military of the several States were poorly organized and without suitable equipments, and, to make a bad condition worse, the Indians were everywhere hostile, treacherous, and ready at the expected signal to combine for the purpose of driving the when men out of the country.

Erie's Defenseless Condition
Erie, then a mere handful of rude buildings, from its position near the center of the lake and the excellence of its harbor, was regarded as one of the most important of the Western military posts. On the east, there was no village of any size nearer than Buffalo, and the country between scarcely contained ten families to the square mile. Westward the greater portion of the region remained an unbroken forest, the only settlements along the lakes worthy of a name being those which surrounded the military posts at Cleveland, Sandusky, Toledo and Detroit. The latter was then the chief town of the "far West," the center of barter, commerce and political influence, and was naturally looked upon as the principal strategic point of the frontier. So utterly defenseless was Erie at the outbreak of the war, that it could and probably would have been easily captured by the British had they known its actual situation. The only semblance to a fortification was an old, almost ruined block-house on the eastern part of the peninsula, built in 1795, which was without a soldier, a gun, or a pound of ammunition. The most formidable instrument of war in the town was a small iron boat howitzer, owned by Gen. Kelso, which was used in firing salutes on the Fourth of July, and other patriotic and momentous occasions.

First Stages of the War
Although war had been dreaded for several years, when hostilities did actually commence, they were so little expected on the frontier that Capt. Daniel Dobbins, Rufus Seth Reed and W. W. Reed sailed in a trading vessel for Mackinaw soon after the opening of navigation, confident that they could make the venture in safety. The first knowledge they and the people of Mackinaw had that peace was at an end, was the landing of a body of British and Indians upon the island, who demanded the surrender of the post and of the vessels in the harbor. The Erie party thus found themselves, much against their will, prisoners of war. Their vessel, the Salina, with the others captured by the enemy, was made a cartel to convey the prisoners and non-combatants to Cleveland, but on reaching Detroit was taken possession of by Gen. Hull, and fell again into the hands of the British, upon the disgraceful surrender of that officer. Through the influence of a British military man with whom Capt. Dobbins was acquainted, they were allowed to depart, and reached Cleveland in open boats by crossing from island to island. At Cleveland, they fell in with a small sloop bound down the lakes, which Capt. Dobbins navigated to Erie.

Previous to the war, a small military company had been organized at Erie, under the command of Capt. Thomas Frostier. The members immediately tendered their services to the President and were accepted for the time being. In anticipation of the conflict, Gov. Snyder, who was a warm friend of the administration, had organized the militia of the State into two grand divisions -- one for the east and one for the west. The western division was under the command of Maj. Gen. Adamson Tannehill, of Pittsburgh; the brigade of which the Erie County militia formed a part, was commanded by Brig. Gen. John Kelso, and the Erie County regiment was under the command of Dr. John C.; Wallace. Among the officers of the regiment were Capts. Andrew Cochran, Zelotus Lee, James Barr, William Dickson, Robert Davison, Warren Foote, John Morris, -- Smith and -- Donaldson. Capt. Barr and his men volunteered for the campaign, were ordered to Sandusky, spent the winter of 1812-13 there, and returned in the spring. Robert Moorhead was a Sergeant in the company and accompanied them through the campaign. The estimation in which these and the other Pennsylvania troops, in what was then the "far West," were held by the commanders, is shown by an extract from a letter sent by Gen. Harrison to Gov. Snyder: "I can assure you," he writes, "there is no corps on which I rely with more confidence, not only for the fidelity of undaunted valor in the field, but for those virtues which are more rarely found amongst the militia -- patience and fortitude under great hardships and deprivations -- and cheerful obedience to all commands of their officers." Capt. Cochran's Springfield company kept guard along the lake for some months, and was frequently called out at later stages of the war. The company commanded by Capt. Foote, was assigned, in the beginning, to "keep sentry at the head of the peninsula, three by rotation to stand a tour of twenty-four hours." In giving special mention to these parties and others that may be named hereafter, no discrimination is intended against others who rendered as much or greater service. The writer can only relate such matters as he knows to be authentic, and the records are very meager and uncertain.

Assembling the Militia
Before the close of June, Gen. Kelso ordered out his brigade for the defense of Erie. This was quickly followed by a general call for the Sixteenth Division, this State having by this time been apportioned into more numerous military districts. The brigade rendezvous was on the farm of John Lytle, upon the flats near Waterford. Great excitement was caused by a rumor after Hull's surrender that the enemy were coming down the lake to take all the important places, as also by the news that a large British and Indian force was being organized on the opposite side of Lake Erie, whose special object was a descent upon Presque Isle. The whole Northwest was aroused, and very soon upward of two thousand men were collected from Erie, Crawford, Mercer and the adjoining counties.

On the 23d of July, notice was sent to William Clark, of Meadville, Brigade Inspector, that 505 muskets had that day been forwarded from Harrisburg, with a supply of flints, lead and powder. August 13, a detachment of 2,500 of the Northwestern militia -- increased in September by 2,000 more -- were ordered to march to Buffalo, which was menaced by the enemy. Their places of rendezvous were fixed at Meadville and Pittsburgh, and they were required to be at the scene of hostilities by the 25th of September. The division elected Gen. Tannehill Commander-in-chief, who remained in charge during the campaign. They continued at Buffalo the winter through, and it is related to the credit of Erie County, that while many others deserted not one man of Col. Wallace's command shirked his duty. When 4,000 New York militia refused to cross into Canada to attack the foe, the gallant Pennsylvanians under Tannehill promptly obeyed the order, although not obliged to by the terms of their enlistment. Among those who were called out for the emergency, were Capt. Thomas Foster's company of the "detached volunteer corps." The following in relation to intermediate events is from official sources:

"August 25 -- Expresses sere sent over the country saying a number of the enemy's vessels had been seen, and that a descent would be made on Erie.

"September 4 -- The Governor directed that the State field pieces be sent to Erie.

"September 15 -- The Secretary of War was notified by the Governor that Gen. John Kelso had transmitted him a communication, signed by gentlemen of the first respectability at Erie, requesting that some efficient measures for the protection of the frontier may be speedily taken.

"September 16 -- Gen. Kelso was notified that one brass field-piece, and four four-pounders were on the way to Erie.

"September 18 -- Wilson Smith, of Waterford, was appointed Quartermaster General of the State.

"October 21 -- Gen. Snyder ordered Gen. Kelso to employ volunteers, if practicable, for the defense of Erie, not exceeding a Major's command."

The summer's campaign along the lake was a series of disasters to the Americans. The surrender of Detroit by Hull, the defeat of Van Rensselaer at Niagara in October, and the capture of the Adams, the only armed vessel that had been left to us, gave the British full control upon the lake, and it became apparent to those who looked at the situation intelligently that without a fleet to co-operate with our Western and New York armies, the cause of our country in this direction was hopeless.

A Fleet Arranged For
When Capt. Dobbins reached Erie from his unfortunate trip to Mackinaw, he found Gen. David Mead, of Meadville, in immediate command of the post. After spending a few days with his family, he was sent by that officer to Washington City as a bearer of dispatches, and was the first person who gave the Government reliable information of the loss of Mackinaw and Detroit. At a meeting of the Cabinet called immediately after his arrival, the Captain was asked to give his view of the requirements on Lake Erie. He earnestly advocated the establishment of a naval station and the building of a fleet powerful enough to cope with the British upon the lake. These suggestions were adopted. A Sailing Master's commission in the navy was tendered to him and accepted, and he was ordered to proceed to Erie, begin the construction of gunboats, and report to Commodore Chauncey, at Sackett's Harbor, for further instructions. He returned home, and late in October commenced work on two gunboats.1

Soon after Dobbins' arrival at Erie, he received a communication from Lieut. J. D. Elliott, through whom his correspondence with Commodore Chauncey had to pass, dated at Black Rock, deprecating the adoption of Erie as the place for building the fleet, alleging that there was not a sufficient depth of water on the bar to get the vessels out of the harbor into the lake, and claiming that should there be water the town was "at all times open to the attacks of the enemy." To this Dobbins replied that there was "a sufficiency of water on the bar to let the vessels in the lake, but not a sufficiency to let heavy armed vessels of the enemy into the bay to destroy them," a conclusion in which he was signally sustained by later occurrences. Nothing further being heard from Elliott, Dobbins went to Black Rock, intending to employ skillful ship carpenters, but only succeeded in finding one, with whom he came back to Erie, determined to do the best he could with house carpenters and laborers. The winter was severe and retarded his operations to a provoking extent.

Commodore Chauncey visited Erie officially about the 1st of January, 1813, accompanied by a United States naval constructor, and, after approving what Dobbins had done, ordered him to prepare for the building of two sloops of war in addition to the gunboats. The keels of these vessels were ready to lay and much of the timber on hand about the 10th of March, when a gang of twenty-five carpenters, in charge of Noah Brown, a master ship builder from New York, reached Erie. In a letter to the Navy Department, under date of March 14, Dobbins stated that "the gunboats are ready for calking, and everything looks encouraging in that respect," but the absence of a sufficient guard led him to fear that his labor might be destroyed by "the secret incendiary." To obviate this danger as nearly as he could, a temporary guard was improvised, consisting of Capt. Forster's voluntary military company, who had got back from Buffalo, and the workmen at the station. This small force was, for some weeks, the sole protection for the fleet and the town.

Perry Reaches Erie
The Government had in the meantime assigned the command on Lake Erie to Lieut. Oliver Hazard Perry, who arrived at Erie on the 27th of March, accompanied by his brother, a lad of thirteen, making the trip from Buffalo in a sledge on the ice.2 Perry had served as a midshipman in the war with Tripoli, and had recently been in charge of a flotilla at Newport, R. I. He was but twenty-seven years of age, and was full to the brim with energy, enthusiasm and patriotism. His first step was to provide for the defense of the position. To that end he sent immediately for Gen. Mead. Their consultation resulted in a thousand militia being ordered to rendezvous at Erie on or before the 20th of April. Among the number that responded was an artillery company from Luzerne County, who were authorized to take charge of the four brass field-pieces belonging to the state, which had been stored at Waterford. Reese Hill, of Greene County, was constituted Colonel by the Governor, and given command of the regiment. The old American block-house of 1795, which had nearly gone to ruins, was hurriedly restored, as was also the one on the point of the peninsula.

With the facilities of the present day, it is scarcely possible to conceive of the embarrassment that attended Dobbins and Perry in their work. Of practical ship-builders there were very few in the country, and their places had to be taken by house carpenters and blacksmiths gathered from every part of the lower lake region. The timber for the vessels had to be cut in the forests near by and used while yet green. Iron was scarce, and had to be picked up wherever it could be found -- in stores, warehouses, shops, farm buildings and elsewhere. A considerable stock was brought from Pittsburgh by flat-boats up French Creek, and some from Buffalo by small boats creeping along the south shore of the lake. Perry wrote to Washington that more mechanics were needed, and Dobbins was dispatched to Black Rock for seamen, arms and ordnance. The transportation of the latter was extremely slow, owing to the miserable roads. Some of the cannon were brought up in sail boats, moving at night only, to avoid the enemy's cruisers.

Fortunately for the American, the Allegheny River and French Creek continued as a good boating state until August, an occurrence so unusual that it would seem to imply that Providence was on their side. Had these streams become low at the ordinary time, the fleet could not have been rigged in season to meet the enemy under advantageous circumstances.

Sailing Master W. V. Taylor having arrived on the 30th of March with twenty seamen, he was left in command in the absence of Dobbins, while Perry proceeded to Pittsburgh to arrange for supplies, and hurry forward a gang of carpenters who had been promised him from Philadelphia. While there, he purchased canvas, cables, anchors, and other neccessaries, [procured four small field-pieces and some muskets, and employed an ordnance officer to oversee the casting of shot and cannonades. returning to Erie about the middle of April, by the aid of the land forces he threw up redoubts on Garrison Hill, and on the bank of the lakes, where the land light-house stands, built a block house on the bluff overlooking the place where the sloops of war were building, and constructed another redoubt above the yard where the gunboats lay upon their stocks. The Lawrence and Niagara, sloops of war, and the pilot boat Ariel, schooner-rigged, were built on the beach at the mouth of Cascade run, now occupied by the Erie & Pittsburgh docks, and the Porcupine and Tigress, gunboats, on a beach that jutted out from the mouth of Lee's Run, afterward the terminus of the canal. On the light-house redoubt, two twelve-pounders were placed that had been forwarded by Dobbins from Black Rock, and the four field-pieces which Perry had brought on from Pittsburgh were mounted upon the one on Garrison Hill. The main body of the troops was encamped at the mouth of Cascade Run. Carpenters, blacksmiths, sail makers, riggers, and other workmen soon came on from New York and Philadelphia, infusing new energy into the operations, and from this time forward matters were more encouraging. It would appear that the call for the militia to report was not obeyed with alacrity, for we learn from official sources that on the 18th of May complaint was made to the Governor by Gen. Mead that some of the men had refused obedience to his orders.

The First Step To Victory
Perry departed in a four-oared boat, on the evening of the 23d of May, to participate in the contemplated attack on the Canadian Fort George, at the foot of the Niagara River, in which he was to lead the seamen and marines. He took Dobbins with him as far as Fort Schlosser, at the head of the Niagara Rapids, on the American side, where a detachment of officers and men arrived on the 28th, fresh from the capture of the first-named fortification on the previous day. Perry, who had borne a gallant part in the fight, proceeded thence to Black Rock, while Dobbins escorted the detachment to the same place. Their defeat at Fort George compelled the British to abandon the Niagara frontier, and afforded an opportunity to get the vessels up to Erie that had been purchased and prepared for war by the Government, and which had been blockaded in Gonjaquades Creek by the batteries of the enemy on the opposite shore. These consisted of the brig Caledonia, the sloop Trippe, and the schooners Ohio, Amelia and Somers, five in all. They were drawn up the rapids by ox teams, assisted by some two hundred men, including the detachment of Dobbins and a detail for the purpose from Gen. Dearborn's army, an operation that required six days of hard work. The soldiers, by Perry's request, were allowed to remain on board to assist in navigation and defense on the way to erie. The British fleet, consisting of five vessels much superior to the American squadron, were cruising the lake, and the utmost vigilance was necessary to elude them. By good fortune, Perry reached Erie on the morning of June 17, having sailed from Buffalo on the 13th, and being detained on the way by head-winds, without having been seen by the British. How narrow an escape the Americans made will be understood when it is stated that while they lay in the offing at Dunkirk, a man came on board who notified Perry that the British had been at anchor off Twenty mile Creek the night before, and that from a neck of land which jutted into the lake he had both fleets in sight at the same time. The British rendezvous at the lower end of the lake was usually in Mohawk Bay, on the Canada side, where they could readily watch the movements of the Americans. They felt sure of nabbing Perry's squadron on its upward voyage, and when they learned that they had been given the slip, were extremely surprised and mortified.3

Safely Concentrated

The entire fleet with which Perry was expected to humble British pride on the lake was now concentrated in the harbor of Erie. It consisted of the Lawrence and Niagara, both sloops of war, built after the same model, being 100 feet straight rabbit, 100 feet between perpendiculars, 30 feet beam, 9 feet hold, flush deck, and pierced for 20 guns, with two stern ports; the schooners Ariel and Scorpion, each of 63 tons; the Porcupine and Tigress of about 50 tons; the British brig Caledonia, which had been taken by Lieut. Elliott from under the guns of Fort Erie, of 85 tons; the sloop Trippe, of 63 tons, and the schooners Amelia, Somers and Ohio, of 72, 65 and 62 tons respectively. Considering the national importance of the victory gained, the size of these vessels, compared with the war vessels of this day, seems absurdly small. The Lawrence and Niagara, however, were immense vessels for the time. They had been given a shallow depth of hold by Mr. Brown, the master builder, so as to secure a light draught of water and avoid showing a high side to the enemy's marksmen.

"The frames of all the vessels built at Erie were of white and black oak and chestnut, the outside planking was of oak and the decks were of pine."

Though stoutly put together, there was no attempt at ornament, Mr. Brown having prophetically remarked: "Plain work is all that is required; they will only be wanted for one battle. If we win, that is all that will be wanted of them; if we lose, they are good enough to be captured.: The Lawrence was named after the heroic Capt. James Lawrence, who was killed in the encounter between the Chesapeake and Shannon, and whose last words, "Don't give up the ship," were inscribed by Perry on his fighting flag. One of the schooners brought up from Black Rock, the Amelia, was condemned as worthless and sunk in the harbor. The Porcupine and Tigress, which had been launched about the 15th of June, were now equipped, and, with the other boats, sailed to the vicinity of Cascade Run to defend the sloops of war, which still remained on the stocks, in case of an attack. The Lawrence was launched on or about the 25th of June, and the Niagara on the 4th of July.

The essential business now was to man the vessels. Up to the 25th of June something like a 150 men and officers had arrived for service on the fleet of whom many were on the sick list.4 To make the situation more perplexing, the 200 soldiers of Dearborn's command who had come from Black Rock and whom Perry desired to retain as marines, were ordered to return, and actually did leave in small boats, with the exception of Capt. Brevoort, who had seen service upon the lake in command of the United States brig Adams. While thus embarrassed, the Navy Department was constantly urging Perry to expedite matters in order that he might act with Gen. Harrison, who led the Western army in a combined move by land and water against the enemy. After many urgent appeals for men, the welcome tidings came, about the middle of July, that a draft had been forwarded. Mr. Dobbins, who possessed the whole confidence of Perry, was again dispatched to Buffalo to bring them on. They reached Erie in boats collected in Buffalo creek, on or about the 25th of July. About this date, Perry received word from Gen. Harrison that the British would launch their new ship, the Detroit, in a few days. This added to his anxiety, as the Detroit would be more than equal to any single vessel of his fleet, and he redoubled his energies in the hope of getting out and meeting the enemy before they could have her powerful aid.

The Government made a grave mistake in not giving Perry an independent command, instead of obliging his to act under the instructions of Commodore Chauncey, who was hundreds of miles away, and in not investing him with full power, and granting him ample means to prosecute his purposes to the utmost of his skill and energy. Had this been done, the fleet would have been ready to sail two months before it did, the risk of fighting a superior vessel like the Detroit would have been avoided, Perry and Harrison could have co-operated at an earlier date, the British would have been compelled to abandon the frontier, and the war in the West would have ended long before it did, at a great saving of life and money. It is not generally known that at one period Perry's pathetic calls for re-enforcements drew from Commodore Chauncey a sarcastic letter, which led the former to ask to be "detached from the command on Lake Erie," for the reason that it was unpleasant to serve under a superior who had so little regard for his feelings. This brought back an appeal to his patriotism from the department, and the matter was eventually arranged so that kindly relations were restored between Chauncey and Perry.

Menaces of the Enemy
It must not be supposed that the construction and equipment of Perry's fleet was allowed to progress in Erie Harbor without an endeavor to check them by the enemy. The latter anchored in the roadstead several times, and would have entered the bay but for the shallow water on the bar, thus confirming Capt. Dobbins' argument to Lieut. Elliott. Sometimes the Queen Charlotte, the British flagship, would appear alone, and at others the whole squadron. On the 15th of May, the wildest alarm was created by a false report that 600 or 700 British and Indians had landed on the peninsula under cover of a thick fog, and got off again without being seen by the American forces. July 19, six of the enemy's vessels were in sight outside the harbor, where they lay becalmed for two days. Perry went with three gunboats to attack them, and a few shots were exchanged at a mile's distance. A breeze springing up, the enemy sailed away, evidently desiring to avoid a fight. All this time the meager land force at Erie was kept busy parading the bank of the lake, to give the impression to the enemy of a much larger army than was really the case. Perry does not seem to have had an apprehension at any time of danger from the British while his fleet lay in the harbor. He knew that the enemy's vessels could not cross the bar with their heavy armament, and he informed the department that even if a force should land and capture the village, he could easily defend the fleet from its anchorage in the bay.

The troubles experienced by Perry were shared, to some extent, by the officers of the land forces. The State Archives contain a letter sent by Gov. Snyder to Col. John Phillips, paymaster of Col. Hill's regiment, in which he regrets that no provision had been made for paying the Pennsylvania militia then in service at Erie, and that it could not be remedied by any constituted State authority. On the 2d of August, the Governor's Secretary wrote that some men in Mead's division had at first refused to obey orders, but subsequently marched to the defense of Erie. The difficulty about the pay of the troops seems to have been at least partially arranged, for, on the 16th of August, we find that Wilson Smith was appointed paymaster of the militia called into service by Gen. Mead for the defense of Erie, before the arrival of Col. Hill's command, and that a warrant for $2,500 had been forwarded to him. This gentleman had previously been Quartermaster General of the State. On the 27th of August, Brigade Inspector Clark reported that upward of sixteen hundred men had rendezvoused at Erie in pursuance of the more recent orders of Gen. Mead. So little has been preserved in regard to the land operations of the day, that any account of them must necessarily be brief and disconnected.

Getting Over the Bar
Meanwhile Perry had received one hundred landsmen from the militia, and enlisted some forty marines, making a total force of about three hundred. On Sunday, the 1st of August, the vessels were moved to the mouth of the bay, then free from piers, and preparations were made for getting them over the bar and for defending them in case of an attack while the operation was in progress. Gen. Mead and staff visited Perry in the afternoon of the same day, and the latter took occasion to thank the commander of the land forces for the valuable assistance he had rendered him. The guns, ballast and other heavy material were removed from the Lawrence to the sand beach, being so adjusted as to be readily replaced, and the ship was lifted over the bar by the aid of "camels" invented by Mr. Brown. One "camel" was floated on each side of the Lawrence and sunk to the level of the port holes. Timbers were thrust through, on which the vessel rested, the plugs were re-inserted in the bottoms of the "camels," and the water was pumped out of them, raising the Lawrence as it was discharged. This proceeding was considerably delayed by an unfavorable wind, and it was not until the morning of the 4th, after two nights and days of wearisome labor, that the Lawrence was floated to her anchorage in the roadstead. The Niagara was lifted over by the same process a few days after, the smaller vessels crossing without serious trouble.

Before the work of moving the Niagara over the bar was completed, the enemy appeared early one morning, and hove to about eight miles out for the purpose of reconnoitering. Fearing they might attack him while in this position, Perry made hasty arrangements for defense, purposing, if necessary, to run the Lawrence ashore under the guns of the redoubts on the light-house grounds and Garrison Hill.For some reason, after looking over the situation for an hour or so, the British bore up and stood across the lake. The efforts to get the Niagara across the bar were redoubled, and the Ariel and Scorpion were sent to follow the course of the enemy, her commander reporting on his return that they had gone to Long Point. From there, after landing a carrier to notify the commander of the British land forces of what had been discovered, they bore up the lake for Detroit River. The Niagara was got afloat in the open lake the day after the enemy left. It is a part of the tradition of the time that when the British squadron was at Port Dover, a complimentary dinner was given to her officers, at which Commodore Barclay, in response to a toast, said: "I expect to find the Yankee brigs hard and fast aground on the bar at Erie, in which predicament it will be but a short job to destroy them" The enemy were at this time endeavoring to concentrate an army at Port Dover, to act in conjunction with the fleet in a move upon Erie, but failed because the troops could not be got up in season.

The First Cruise
Smarting under the frequent complaints of delay from official quarters, Perry resolved to make a cruise rather than wait for re-enforcements, in the hope that he might encounter the foe before the Detroit could be made ready for service. He set sail at 4 o'clock on the morning of the 6th of August, with all the vessels of the fleet except the Ohio and Trippe, which were left behind for want of crews. A cruise was made to Long Point and the mainland near by, and nothing being seen of the British, the fleet returned to Erie on the 6th. On the 9th, to the joy of all, the little band of volunteers was joined by Lieut. Elliott5 with some officers and ninety men, most of whom were experienced sailors. The squadron, though still lacking a proper equipment, was now thought to be ready for active service, and, on the morning of the 12th of August sailed up the lake in search of the enemy. A dinner was given to Perry, just before his departure, by the citizens of Erie, at which he expressed a desire to return a victor or in his shroud. The fleet consisted of nine vessels, officered and armed as follows: Flagship Lawrence, Master, Commander Perry, eighteen 32-pounder carronades and two long 12-pounders; Niagara, Master, Commander Elliott, the same armament; Caledonia, Purser Magrath, three long 12-pounders; Ariel, Lieut. John Packett,6 four long 12-pounders; Trippe, Lieut. Smith, one long 32-pounder; Tigress, Lieut. Conklin, one long 32-pounder; Somers, Sailing Master Almy, one long 24 and one long 12-pounder; Scorpion,7 Sailing Master Champlin, same armament; Ohio, Sailing Master Dobbins, one long 24-pounder; and Porcupine, Midshipman Senat, one long 32-pounder. In explanation of the change of Perry's and Elliott's titles, it should be stated that commissions had been received shortly before their departure granting both of them promotions. Most of the officers were young men -- the average ages of the commissioned ones being less than twenty-three, and of the warrant officers less than twenty years. With very few exceptions, they had no acquaintance with the navigation of the lakes.

Challenging to Fight
On the 17th, the squadron anchored of Sandusky, where Perry notified Gen. Harrison of their presence, and was invited on board the Lawrence the next day by that officer, attended by his staff and accompanied by some twenty Indian chiefs, who were taken on board that they might report the wonders they had seen and be deterred from joining the enemy. The astonishment and alarm of the red men when the salute was fired in honor of Gen. Harrison is said to have ben indescribably comical.

Eight days later the fleet sailed to the head of the lake and discovered the British at anchor in the mouth of Detroit River; but failing to draw them out, returned to Put-in-Bay. On the 31st a re-enforcement of fifty volunteers was received, making a total muster roll of 470. Most of the new men were Kentuckians who had experience as watermen on the western and southern rivers, and they proved to be a valuable acquisition. About this juncture, however, there was much biliousness and dysentery in the squadron, principally among those from the seaboard, caused by the change from salt to fresh water. Among the number who were taken down was Perry himself, who was unable to perform active service for a week. As soon as he could take the deck again, he sailed for the second time to the mouth of the river, where it was learned that the new British ship was ready for duty. Failing to draw the enemy from his anchorage, Perry returned to Sandusky and renewed his communication with Gen. Harrison. Here the command of the Trippe was transferred to Lieut. Holdup8 and that of the Caledonia to Lieut. Turner, while Mr. Dobbins was ordered to Erie with the Ohio "for the purpose of taking on board provisions and other articles." The latter hastened back to find that the pork and beef left on board the fleet had become putrid on account of the carelessness of the contractors, and was immediately ordered to Erie again for a fresh stock. The battle took place while the Ohio was at anchor in the harbor of Erie, much to the regret of Mr. Dobbins and his gallant crew, who had to submit to some unjust criticism for what was not fault of their own. They distinctly heard the firing on the 10th of September.

Preparing For Battle
On the 6th of September, the entire American fleet, with the exception of the Ohio, was anchored in Put-in-Bay. Believing that the crisis was near at hand, Perry, on the evening of the 7th, summoned his officers on board the Lawrence, announced his plan of battle, produced his fighting flag -- containing the words, "Don't give up the ship" -- arranged a code of signals, and issued his final instructions. On the 10th, at the rising of the sun, the lookout shouted the thrilling words, "Sail, ho!" and the men of the squadron, who were almost instantly astir, soon saw the British vessels, six in number, rise above the horizon. Still feeble from sickness as he was, Perry gave the signal immediately to get under way, adding that he was "determined to fight the enemy that day." Approaching the British vessels near enough to arrange his line, he brought forth his battle flag, and, mounting a gun-slide, said to his men as he pointed to the inscription: "Those were the last words of the gallant Lawrence, after whom this vessel was named." Then, pausing a moment, he exclaimed, "Shall I hoist it?" The response was a unanimous "Aye, aye, sir," and as the folds were spread to the breeze six hearty cheers were given by the crew, which was taken up on board the other vessels until one continuous cheer was heard along the line.9 Grog and lunch were then served, the decks were sprinkled with sand, and preparations were made for taking care of the dead and wounded. Perry visited every part of the Lawrence, inspecting the guns and cheering the men by pleasant words. The lake was quite smooth and it was an hour and a half from the time the line of battle was formed until the first shot was fired. This period of terrible suspense was spent in friendly interchange among the officers and men, in farewell handshakes and the promise of kindly acts in case of death. At a quarter before 12 o'clock, when the Detroit and Lawrence were still more than a mile apart, the sound of a bugle was heard on the British flagship, followed by cheers along their line, the band struck up "Rule Britannia," and, in a moment after the music ceased, a shot was thrown at the Lawrence which fell short. In a few minutes a second shot was fired from the Detroit, which struck the Lawrence seeing which Perry's vessel became the target for all the long guns of the enemy. The first gun on the American side, by order of Perry, was fired from the Scorpion and the second from the Ariel.10

Brief Account of the Victory
The purpose of this sketch being to deal with the subject mainly in its local bearings, no attempt will be made to give a minute account of the action, which has been graphically described by several of the most eminent writers of the country, and in an especially eloquent manner by J. Fennimore Cooper, the novelist. It is enough to say that, through some cause, the real nature of which has been hotly discussed, the Niagara did not engage the enemy at close quarters, and the battle, for a time, was maintained "by the Lawrence, Caledonia, Scorpion and Ariel, against the whole British squadron, assisted only by the long twelves of the Niagara, and the distant, rambling shots from the headmost gunboats." The Lawrence for two hours sustained the fire of the two heaviest British vessels, as well as some stray shots from the others, "until every gun was dismounted, two-thirds of her crew killed or wounded, and the ship so badly cut up aloft as to be unmanageable." In this critical situation, Perry took his fighting flag under his arm and passed in a row boat, accompanied by his brother and four men, to the Niagara, which was making an effort to gain the head of the enemy's line. The British felt sure that the day was their's and sent up a cheer. On boarding the Niagara, Perry, who had stood erect in the boat the whole way, was met cordially by Elliott, who offered and was ordered to bring the gunboats into close action, while the former assumed command of the vessel. The gunboats being well up, and the Caledonia in good position, the signal to break through the British line was shown from the Niagara at 2:45 in the afternoon. The fire of the Niagara was reserved until she got abreast of the Detroit, when she poured her starboard at pistol shot into that vessel and the Queen Charlotte, while with the port broadside she sent a storm of ball into the Lady Prevost and Chippewa. The Caledonia and the gunboats followed close behind, dealing death on both sides, and, the Detroit having fouled with the Queen Charlotte, neither vessel was able to reply. After passing through the British line, the Niagara rounded to under their lee, and sent one broadside after another into the entangled vessels, causing such fearful damage that in fifteen minutes from the time she bore up a white handkerchief was waved from the Queen Charlotte as a symbol of submission, shortly succeeded by one from the Detroit. The firing ceased almost instantly, after a struggle of almost three hours' duration. Two of the smaller British vessels undertook to escape, but were brought back by the Scorpion and Trippe. When the smoke of battle cleared away, the two squadrons were found to be intermingled, with the exception of the shattered Lawrence, which was drifting with the wind some distance to the eastward. As the shout of victory went up, her flag, which had been struck after Perry left, was again hoisted to the masthead by the remaining few of her crew who were able to witness the triumph of their comrades. Perry sat down as soon as the firing had ceased and wrote on the back of an old letter this modest and memorable epistle to Gen. Harrison:

United States Steamship Niagara, September 10, 4 P.M.      

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       

To the Secretary of the navy he messaged: "It has pleased the Almighty to give the United States a signal victory on this lake," detailing the number of captured vessels. These brief dispatches were forwarded by schooner to Gen. Harrison, then at the mouth of Portage River, distant some twelve miles.

Taking all the circumstances into consideration, the victory of Perry was one of the proudest in naval annals. The Americans had the most vessels, but the British had the superiority in guns, their number being sixty-three to our fifty-four. The men engaged were about equal in number, but the British marines were veterans while our were chiefly raw volunteers. The difference in favor of the British was still more striking when we compare the experience of the officers, their commander having served with Nelson at Trafalgar, and most of his subordinates having been trained to warlike duties, while Perry had never seen an engagement and his associates, except two or three, knew very little of real service. When to the above it is added that quite one-fifth of the Americans were on the sick list -- the roll of the Lawrence showing thirty-one and of the Niagara twenty-eight unfit for action on the morning of the battle -- while the British were generally in good health, the triumph of the Americans is still more surprising.

After The Battle
About 4 P. M., Perry returned to the Lawrence in order that the remnant of her crew might witness the formal surrender. He was met at the gangway by those who were able to be about, but there were no cheers, no outbursts of delight -- "not a word could find utterance." The young commander now threw off the round jacket he had worn during the fight and resumed his undress uniform in order to meet the officers of the captured vessels, who came on board and presented their swords, but were allowed to retain their side arms. When Lieut. O'Keefe handed him the sword of Capt. Barclay, the British commander, who was too severely wounded to appear in person, Perry inquired kindly about him and the rest of the enemy's wounded, tendering in a manly spirit every assistance within his reach. During the evening, he visited Capt. Barclay on board the Detroit, and re-iterated his sympathy. Referring to his own escape, he said to Purser Hamilton, "The prayers of my wife have prevailed in saving me."

The captured squadron consisted of the Detroit, Queen Charlotte, Lady Prevost, Chippewa, Hunter and Little Belt, the first two being badly cut up in their hulls, the third having her rudder shot away, and the others being but slightly damaged. The killed were forty-one and the wounded ninety-four, being more than one in four of the men engaged. Among the killed were Capt. Finnis and Lieut. Gordon, of the Queen Charlotte, and among the severely wounded, besides Capt. Barclay, were First Lieut. Garland and Purser Hoffmeister on the Detroit. A number of Indians were on board the Detroit as sharp-shooters, and upon inquiry being made for them by an American officer, a search was started and they were found in hiding below. Being brought on deck, they were asked how they liked the sport, and one replied: "No more come with one armed Captain (Barclay) in big canoe -- shoot big gun too much. American much big fight."

The casualties on the American side were as follows: Lawrence, killed, 21; wounded, 61; Niagara, killed, 2; wounded, 25; Caledonia, wounded, 3; Somers, wounded, 2; Ariel, killed, 1, wounded, 3; Trippe, wounded, 2; Scorpion, killed, 1, wounded, 1 -- a total of 27 killed and 96 wounded. On board the Porcupine and Tigress not a soul was injured. The most prominent Americans killed were: Lieut. Brooks, commanding the marines of the Lawrence; and of the wounded, First Lieut. Yarnall, Second Lieut. Forest, Sailing Master Taylor and Purser Hamilton on the Lawrence, and First Lieut. Edward and Acting Master Webster of the Niagara. After the battle, Perry inquired with some anxiety about his little brother Alexander. He was found sound asleep in his berth, exhausted with the fatigues and excitement of the day.

At nightfall, the dead marines and seamen of Perry's squadron were lashed up in their hammocks, with a thirty-two pound shot attached in each case to anchor them, and consigned to the bottom of the lake, all the surviving officers and men who were able to be on deck acting as witnesses to the burial, which was conducted by the chaplain according to the impressive form of the Episcopal Church. On the larger British vessels, the killed in action had been thrown overboard as soon as life was extinct, but those on the smaller ones were deposited in the water in the same manner as the Americans. The Lawrence being a complete wreck, Perry adopted the Ariel as his flagship, and on the morning of the 11th the two squadrons sailed for Put-in-Bay, where they arrived about noon, and anchored. On the morning of the 12th, the dead officers of both crews were interred on shore, the funeral procession marching in twos, alternately British and American, to the music of the bands of both squadrons. The Ohio, Dobbins' vessel, reached Put-in-Bay on the 13th, with a welcome supply of provisions, and soon after a boat each from Cleveland and Sandusky came with fresh meat and vegetables, which added much to the comfort of the wounded. Those of the prisoners who were able to travel were turned over to Gen. Harrison, who forwarded them to Chillicothe, Ohio, while the badly wounded were put on board the Lawrence, which had been sufficiently repaired for the purpose, and brought to Erie, reaching here on the 23d, thirteen days after the battle. The citizens of Erie vied with each other in showing them every attention, no discrimination being made between friend and foe. The court house was used as a hospital, Dr. Usher Parsons, Surgeon of the Lawrence, and Dr. John C. Wallace being the physicians in charge. A few who could not be suitably cared for were sent to Waterford, then almost as large a place as Erie. Only three of the wounded died after the action.

Victories On Land
The Americans being now in absolute control of the lake, Perry and Harrison commenced instant preparations to retrieve the disasters to our cause on the frontier. Harrison's army, which had received large accessions of volunteers, was mainly transported on the serviceable vessels of the two fleets to the Canadian shore near the head of the lake. The British abandoned Malden, retreating up the Detroit River, followed by our army and squadron. At Sandwich, finding he could be of no direct service on the water, Perry volunteered as an Aide to Harrison. The battle of the Thames, the defeat of Proctor and the death of Tecumseh followed, wiping out all armed resistance in that quarter and leaving the western part of Canada in the quiet possession of the Americans. The Indian allies of the British were humbled, and unbroken peace prevailed in all the country west of Pennsylvania. Some of the vessels of the squadron were used to transport such portions of the army as had not been disbanded, to the Niagara frontier, while others remained in charge of Gen. Cass, Governor of Michigan, to be used in carrying supplies for the western posts.

Perry's Return To Erie

At Detroit, Perry received a letter from the Secretary of the Navy promoting him to the rank of Post Captain, dating from the 10th of September, granting him leave of absence to visit his family, and assigning him to command at Newport until a suitable ship should be provided for him. Taking Harrison and his staff, who had been ordered to Fort George, on board the Ariel, he sailed for Erie, where the Niagara was ordered to meet him. At Put-in-Bay, he stopped to meet Barclay, whom he found much improved, and to whom he communicated the good news that he had secured a parole for him to go home to England. The British commander and his attending Surgeon were invited to join the party, and willingly accepted. The Ariel, with her distinguished passengers, arrived at Erie on the morning of the 22d of October, where Perry was destined to be disappointed in his expressed hope that he might be able to land without any demonstration. As the vessel appeared off the point of the peninsula, two field pieces greeted her with a national salute. A large delegation of citizens met Perry at the foot of French street, escorted him and his party to Duncan's Hotel at the corner of Third and French streets, and almost smothered him with congratulations. In the evening, the town was illuminated and a torch-light procession paraded the streets. Ever thoughtful and magnanimous, Perry had requested that no noise or display should be made near the hotel to annoy the wounded Commodore, a desire that was courteously complied with.11 The Niagara arrived at Erie the afternoon of the same day as the Ariel. The forenoon of the 23d Perry employed in a visit to the Lawrence, which lay at anchor in Misery Bay, and in the afternoon he sailed for Buffalo, accompanied by Harrison and Barclay. Reaching that place on the 24th, he turned over the command on the Upper Lakes to Elliott, and journeyed eastward by land "amid a blaze of rejoicing" to his Rhode Island home.

The battle of Lake Erie raised Perry from obscurity to world-wide renown. Congress passed a vote of thanks to him and his officers and men, and bestowed gold medals upon both Perry and Elliott. President Madison, in his message some time after, referred to the victory as one "never surpassed in luster." The thanks of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania were voted to Perry and Elliott, gold medals were ordered for both, and silver medals for those citizens of the State who served on board the squadron. In addition to these honors, the General Government granted silver medals and swords to the other living officers, a medal and sword to the nearest male relative of each of the dead commissioned officers, and three months' pay to all the petty officers, seamen, marines and infantry who fought on board the fleet. The British vessels were prized at $255,000, of which $12,750 went to Commodore Chauncey, $7,140 apiece to both Perry and Elliott, $2,295 to each Commander of a gunboat, Lieutenant, Sailing Master, and Captain of Marines, $811 to each midshipman, $447 to each petty officer, and $209 to each marine and sailor. Congress made a special grant of $5,000 to Perry to make up for a defect in the law which excluded him from a portion of the prize money for his special command, making a total of $12,000, which was quite a fortune for those days.

Perry never returned to the scenes of his youthful trials and triumphs. After a suitable period of rest, "he was placed in command of the Java, a first-class frigate, and sailed to the Mediterranean. Returning, he was sent with a small squadron to the West Indies. While there, he was attached by yellow fever, and died on the anniversary of his birthday (August 23), at the early age of thirty-four. His remains were buried at Port Spain, Trinidad, where they rested until 1826, when they were moved in a sloop-of-war to Newport, R. I., and re-interred with great ceremony. The State of Rhode Island erected a granite monument to his memory."

The Winter of 1813-14
The season being well advanced, Elliott ordered the vessels into winter quarters -- the Ariel and Chippewa going to Buffalo, where they were driven ashore and went to pieces; the Trippe and Little Belt to Black Rock, where they were burned by the British when they crossed over to Buffalo, and the balance of the squadron to Erie. Those in our harbor were moored in Misery Bay, where preparations were made for their defense, a rumor being current that the British, in revenge for their defeats, were planning an expedition to cross the ice and destroy the shipping and village. Among the fortifications provided at this time were two block-houses -- one on Garrison Hill, and the other on the tongue of land between Misery Bay and the bay proper. The first of these was burned in 1832, and the second in October, 1853, the fires in both cases being charged to incendiaries.

To return to the land forces: We find in the State Archives, under date of September 20, 1813, mention made by the Governor's Secretary of the men who had been called out by Col. Wallace, stating that the call was not authorized by law, and the expenses incurred could only be paid by special act of the Legislature. This has reference, probably, to the militia who came for the protection of the fleet just before it sailed up the lake. On the 30th of December, word reached Erie that an army of British and Indians had landed at Black Rock, forced our army to retreat, burned the villages of Black Rock and Buffalo, captured and destroyed the Government vessels, and, flushed with triumph, were advancing up the lake for the purpose of capturing Erie. The most terrifying rumors were put in circulation, and the excitement ran so high that many citizens removed their families and effects to the interior. The troops at Erie only numbered 2,000 men, while the hostile force was reported at 3,000. The first brigade of Gen. Mead's command was ordered into service, and came together hurriedly, increasing the defensive force to about 4,000. Happily, the alarm proved to be false, but one delusive report came after another so fast that a considerable body of troops was kept at Erie during most of the winter. Many of these men were substitutes, and all were poorly furnished with arms and equipment. The principal camp was just north of the First Presbyterian Church, where the ground was covered with low log barracks, most of which burned down soon after they were abandoned. The records show that the Erie County militia were ordered out on the 3d of January, 1814, and discharged on the ensuing 7th of February. On the 10th of January, the Governor notified the Secretary of War that a portion of Mead's command had been ordered out, and suggested that as they had rendered almost unremitting service during the past eighteen months, it would be nothing more than just to relieve them by "militia drawn from sections that had hitherto been excused by reason of their remoteness from the seat of war." A letter was received by the Governor on the 18th of January from Gen. Mead, reciting that when Perry was ready to sail he was deficient in men; that he requested him to induce some of his troops to volunteer for service on the vessels, which one hundred did, and that he promised they should receive pay as militiamen upon their return. To fulfill his pledge, the General borrowed $500, which he asked to have refunded. On the 18th of January, 1,000 militia fromCumberland and adjoining counties were ordered to rendezvous at Erie by the 9th of March, N. B. Boileau being appointed their Colonel commandant. February 1, Gen. Mead was directed to retain his detachment in service until the arrival of the above troops. A letter from the Governor's Secretary, of the date of February 17, refers to Gen. Mead's complaints that the troops of his command had not been paid on the 3d of March. Gov. Snyder wrote to Gen. Mead in reference to a requisition upon him by Maj. Martin, of the regular army, for 2,000 men to defend Erie and the fleet, arguing that it was unnecessary, and refusing to give him assent.

A Fatal Duel
The winter was one of intense excitement in consequence of the frequent false alarms and the presence of so large a number of idle men. The prize money distributed among the fleet led to much dissipation. The main topic of discussion, when matters were sufficiently quiet to allow of controversy, related to the respective merits of Perry and Elliott, many freely charging the latter with poltroonery during the battle of September 10, while others, and especially the officers and crew of the Niagara, defended him as a brave man, who had been the victim of adverse circumstances.

A duel growing out of one of these disputes took place near the corner of Third and Sassafras streets, between Midshipman Senat, who commanded the Porcupine during the fight, and Acting Master McDonald, resulting in the death of the former. Of this encounter, Capt. N. W. Russell wrote as follows to the Erie Dispatch:

"William Hoskinson, then a good sized boy, witnessed it. It occurred on or near the situation of a dwelling belonging to Gideon J. Ball, in which he formerly lived, corner of Third and Sassafras streets. Encircled by trees, without human habitation in the immediate vicinity, it was a fitting spot for such a meeting and such a scene. The principals were navy officers, named Senat and McDonald, who had quarreled while engaged in card-playing, and who agreed to settle the difficulty in the manner indicated. Pistols were the chosen weapons, and Lieutenant Montgomery and Dr. John C. Wallace the seconds, the former representing Senat, and the latter McDonald. Quietly conducted, only a small number of invited friends assembled on the occasion, William Hoskinson having accidentally seen the gathering and gone to the place under the influence of a spirit of juvenile curiosity. Senat fell mortally wounded by the first fire. McDonald at once fled, thereby escaping arrest and punishment. It was said of him that he had fought several duels, with a result each time similar to that realized in this case. Senat's engagement to an Erie lady added to the interest and painfulness of the tragedy."

The following correspondence passed between Elliott and Perry in consequence of the damaging reports against the former officer:

United States Brig Niagara, Put in Bay, September 17, 1813.

Sir -- I am informed a report has been circulated by some malicious person, prejudicial to my vessel when engaged with the enemy's fleet. I will thank you if you will with candor state to me the conduct of myself, officers and crew.

Respectfully your obedient servant,

Capt. Perry

Jesse D. Elliott.

United States Schooner Ariel, Put in Bay, September 18, 1813.

My Dear Sir -- I received your not last evening after I had turned in, or I should have answered it immediately. I am indignant that any report should be circulated as prejudicial to your character as respects the action of the 10th. It affords me great pleasure to assure you that the conduct of yourself, officers and crew was such as to meet my warmest approbation; and I consider the circumstances of your volunteering and bringing the small vessels into close action, as contributing largely to the victory. I shall ever believe it a premeditated plan to destroy our commanding vessel. I have no doubt had not the Queen Charlotte have run from the Niagara, from the superior order I observed her in, you would have taken her in twenty minutes.

With sentiments of esteem, I am, dear sir, your friend and obedient servant,

Capt. Elliott.

O. H. Perry.

The Campaign of 1814
As soon as the ice was out of the lake, Elliott sent Dobbins on a cruise between Erie and Long Point, to obtain information of the enemy's movements and intercept any supplies that might be going by water.12

In April, the Lake Erie squadron was made a separate command, Elliott, at his own request, being ordered to Lake Ontario, and being succeeded by Capt. Arthur Sinclair. An expedition against Mackinaw was planned. The Lawrence and Niagara were rendered seaworthy, the Detroit and Queen Charlotte were brought from Put-in-Bay to Erie, and the squadron sailed for the upper lakes on the 25th of June, taking on 600 troops at Detroit and 500 at Fort Gratiot. Reaching Mackinaw, and finding it well defended by the British, a force was landed on the east side of the island. Their attack was repulsed, one general officer on the American side being killed, and the expedition returned to Erie with the exception of the Scorpion and Tigress. These vessels were surprised and captured at the lower end of Lake Huron, by a body of British and Indians, who boarded them in boats at night. Sinclair left the Lawrence, which was in bad condition, at Erie, and with the balance of the squadron conveyed a portion of the troops to Buffalo. Remaining there a few days, he suddenly came back to Erie, leaving the Somers and Ohio, from which Dobbins had been detached, at the lower end of the lake. Shortly afterward, these vessels, while lying at anchor at Fort Erie, were boarded at night, and captured by a British party, making six that were destroyed by the enemy after the battle.

Here close the features of the war that are of special interest to the people of Erie County. The militia seem to have been dismissed in the spring, though there must have been an attempt to keep them ready for service, as we learn that two or three hundred men attended a battalion drill, May 18, at Martin Strong's. The fears for the safety of Erie do not appear to have subsided, for reference is made to the subject in a letter from the Governor, of August 3, to Com. Kennedy, who succeeded Sinclair in command of the squadron. There is nothing to show that the fleet rendered any service of consequence afterward. A treaty of peace was concluded at Ghent on the 24th of December, 1814, ratified by the Senate on the 17th of February succeeding, and joyfully welcomed by the people of both nations.

Incidents of the War
There were few able-bodied male residents of the county who were not obliged to serve in the militia at some time during the war. The alarms were sent over the country by runners, who went from house to house stirring up the inhabitants. It happened more than once that whole townships were nearly depopulated by their male citizens. One Sunday the news that Erie was in danger of attack reached Mercer while Rev. Mr. Tait was preaching in the court house. The sermon was stopped, the thrilling tidings announced from the pulpit, the congregation dismissed, and preparations begun for marching to the lake. Many jokes were perpetrated at the expense of the timid. On a certain night while the fleet was building, some wags removed the swivel belonging to Gen. Kelso to the foot of French street, loaded it with powder, affixed a trail to the touch-hole, and set it off when they had got away to a safe distance. The explosion aroused every person in the town, the word was quickly passed that the dreaded foe had come at lase, the women, children and valuables were sent into the back country, and for awhile there was the wildest state of agitation. On another occasion, three bombs were fired off as a joke near the same place, with almost similar results. At a later period, a party returned from the peninsula, reporting that they had seen three British spies. A detachment of militia was sent to reconnoiter and found three red oxen browsing away in utter innocence of the trouble they had provoked.

Disposal of the Vessels
The naval station13 at Erie was kept up until 1825, passing successively under the command of Capt. Daniel S. Dexter, Lieut. George Pierce, Capt. David Deacon and Capt. George Budd. In 1815, orders were issued to dispose of the vessels to the best advantage. The Lawrence, Detroit and Queen Charlotte were sunk for preservation in Misery Bay; the Caledonia and Lady Prevost were sold and converted into merchant vessels; the Porcupine was transferred to the revenue service, and the Niagara was kept afloat as a receiving ship for some years, when she was beached on the northeast side of Misery Bay. At the auction of Government property, upon the breaking up of the naval station in 1825, the Lawrence, Detroit, Niagara and Queen Charlotte were purchased by a Mr. Brown, of Rochester, who re-sold them in 1836 to Capt. George Miles and others. They raised some of the vessels, intending to fit them up for the merchant service. The Detroit and Queen Charlotte were found in tolerable condition, but the Lawrence, being so badly riddled that she was not worth repairing, was again allowed to sink in the waters of the bay. After some years of duty, the Detroit was dismantled and sent adrift to go over Niagara Falls as a spectacle, certainly an inglorious end for such a famous ship. Capt. Miles transferred his interest in the Lawrence and Niagara to Leander Dobbins in 1857, who in turn disposed of the Lawrence in 1875 to John Dunlap and Thomas J. Viers. In the spring of 1876, the latter had her raised, cut in two and transported on cars to Philadelphia for exhibition at the Centennial, anticipating a small fortune by the enterprise. The people, however, would not believe that a vessel no larger than a modern canal boat was the famous Lawrence. The show proved a disastrous financial failure, and the old hulk was finally purchased by a firm who expected to realize something by converting her into relics. The Niagara was never removed from the place where she was beached, and some of her timbers are still to be seen. Associations for the erection of a monument to Perry were formed both in 1835 and in 1850, but were allowed to die out. A petition was sent to Congress in 1850 asking an appropriation of $20,000, provided the State would give as much more.

American Army Officers
The following is a partial list of army officers from this and other counties of the Northwest, who participated in the war, most of whom made Erie their headquarters:

Quartermaster General, Wilson Smith, 1812-14. Commissary General, Callendar Irvine. Major Generals, Sixteenth Division -- David Mead, 1812-14; John Phillips, 1814. Brigadier Generals, First Brigade, Sixteenth Division -- John Kelso, 1812-14; Henry Hurst, 1814. Second Brigade -- Thomas Graham, 1812. Brigade Inspector, First Brigade, Sixteenth Division -- William Clark; Second Brigade, Samuel Powers. Paymaster, John Phillips, 1812-13. Major and Lieutenant Colonel, Dr. John C. Wallace. Commissaries, Rufus S. Reed, Stephen Wolverton. Sergeant Major, Henry Colt.

The members of Capt. Thomas Forster's company of "Erie Light Infantry," who spent the winter of 1812 at Buffalo, were as follows: First Lieutenant, Thomas Rees; Ensign, Thomas Stewart; First Sergeant, Thomas Wilkins; Second Sergeant, John Hay; Drummer, Ira Glazier; Fifer, Rufus Clough; Privates -- Archibald McSparren, George Kelley, John Sloan, William Murray, Jonas Duncan, John Clough, John Woodside, William Duncan, John Eakens, George S. Russell, John E. Lapeley, Peter Grawosz, Jacob Carmack, William Henderson, Robert Irwin, Ebenezer Dwinnell, Samuel Hays, Thomas Laird, John W. Bell, Robert McDonald, Thomas Hughes, Robert Brown, John Morris, George Buehler, William Lattimore, James E. Herron, Simeon Dunn, Adam Arbuckle, Stephen Wolverton, Francis Scott, Thomas Vance.

Rufus S. Reed and Stephen Wolverton had large contracts during the war, the latter for boarding the ship-builders, the former to supply the upper lake forts with flour, beef, pork and whisky. Among those who came to Erie as ship-builders and became permanent residents of the town were John Justice, John Richards and Jeremiah Osborne.

The close of the war found the people of Erie County, with rare exceptions, very poor. Of money there was scarcely any, and the constant alarms, compelling them to neglect their crops, left them with nothing to sell. To add to their misfortunes, the crops of 1815-16 were nearly a failure, making their condition actually deplorable.

Three of the men who fought with Perry were living in the county in 1861, viz.: Benjamin Fleming14 and Daniel Metzenburgh, of Erie, and J. Murray, of Girard. The last survivor of the battle was John Rice, whose death occurred in Shelby County, Ohio, on the 8th of February, 1880, in the ninetieth year of his age.

The Story of James Bird
It has been stated that among the militia who came on for the defense of Erie was a company from Luzerne County. They were known as the "Kingston Volunteers." One of their number was James Bird, a young man from Centre County. While the fleet was building, Bird was the Sergeant in charge of a guard who were placed over the storehouse. The party, led by Bird, became disorderly, appropriated goods to their own use, refused admission to the proper officers, and were only brought into submission after a six-pounder had been loaded and placed into position so as to blow them to pieces. Difficulty being found in procuring marines, the offense of these men was condoned, on condition that they should volunteer to serve on board the fleet. This they did, and Bird fought gallantly on the Lawrence, receiving a severe wound. In the spring of 1814, another warehouse having been fitted up at the mouth of Mill Creek, Bird was one of the guard assigned for the protection. He and John Rankin, another marine, took advantage of the opportunity to desert. They were recognized shortly after at a country tavern in Mercer County by Charles M. Reed, then a boy, traveling on horseback to school in Washington County. A few miles further on, young Reed met the party who were in pursuit of the deserters, whom he notified of their whereabouts. They were taken back to Erie, tried by court martial, and condemned to death.

A sailor named John Davis, who had deserted several times, was tried and sentenced with them. Much discussion ensued on the part of the citizens and militia, who sympathized to a large extent with Bird and his comrades. Strong efforts were made to have the sentence of Bird commuted to imprisonment, on account of his bravery on the 10th of September, but President Madison declined to interfere, on the ground that he "must suffer as an example to others." Their execution took place in October, 1814, on board the Niagara, lying at anchor in Misery Bay, Bird and Rankin being shot, and Davis hung at the yard arm. The bodies were interred on the sand beach, east of the mouth of Mill Creek. The most absurd stories were circulated in connection with the affair, and a string of rhyme, written by some local "poet," elevating Bird into a hero, and surrounding him with a halo of romance, was sung and quoted by the populace for many years after the event.

Official Report of the British Commander
The following is the report of the battle on Lake Erie, forwarded by Capt. Barclay to the British Naval Department:

His Majesty's Late Ship Detroit,
Put-in-Bay, Lake Erie, September 12.

Sir -- The last letter I had the honor of writing to you, dated the 6th inst., informed you that unless certain intimation was received of more seamen being on their way to Amherstburg, I should be obliged to sail with the squadron deplorably manned as it was, to fight the enemy (who blockaded the port) to enable us to get supplies of provisions and stores of every description; so perfectly destitute of provisions was the port that there was not a day's flour in store, and the crews of the squadron under my command were on half allowance of many things, and when that was done there was no more. Such were the motives which induced Maj. Gen. Proctor (whom by your instructions I was directed to consult, and whose wishes I was enjoined to execute, so far as related to the good of the country) to concur in the necessity of a battle being risked, under the many disadvantages which I labored; and it now remains for me, the most melancholy task, to relate to you the unfortunate issue of that battle, as well as the many untoward circumstances that led to that event.

No intelligence of seamen having arrived, I sailed on the 9th inst., fully expecting to meet the enemy next morning, as they had been seen among the islands; nor was I mistaken; soon after daylight they were seen in motion in Put-in-Bay, the wind then at southwest and light, giving us the weather gauge; I bore up with them in hopes of bringing them to action among the islands, but that intention was soon frustrated by the wind suddenly shifting to the southeast, which brought the enemy directly to windward. The line was formed according to a given plan, so that each ship might be supported against the superior force of the two brigs opposed to them. About 10 the enemy had cleared the islands and immediately bore up, under easy sail in a line abreast, each brig being also supported by the small vessels. At a quarter before 12 I commenced the action by a few long guns; about a quarter past the American Commodore, also supported by two schooners, one carrying four long twelve-pounders, the other a long thirty-two and twenty-four pounder, came to close action with the Detroit; the other brig of the enemy apparently destined to engage the Queen Charlotte, supported in like manner by two schooners, kept so far to windward as to render the Queen Charlotte's twenty-pound carronades useless, while she was with the Lady Prevost, exposed to the heavy and destructive fire of the Caledonia and four other schooners, armed with long and heavy guns, like those I have already described. Too soon, alas, was I deprived of the services of the noble and intrepid Capt. Finnis, who soon after the commencement of the action fell, and with him fell my greatest support; soon after Lieut. Stokes of the Queen Charlotte was struck senseless by a splinter, which deprived the country of his services at this critical period.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The action continued with great fury until half past two, when I perceived my opponent drop astern, and a boat passing from him to the Niagara (which vessel was at this time perfectly fresh); the American Commodore seeing that as yet the day was against him (his vessel having struck as soon as he left her), and also the very defenseless state of the Detroit, which ship was now a perfect wreck, principally from the raking fire of the gunboats, and also that the Queen Charlotte was in such a situation that I could receive very little assistance from her, and the Lady Prevost being at this time too far to leeward from her rudder being injured, made a noble and, alas! too successful an effort to regain it, for he bore up, and supported by his small vessels, passed within piston shot, and took a raking position on our bow; nor could I prevent it, as the unfortunate situation of the Queen Charlotte prevented us from wearing; in attempting it we fell on board her; my gallant First Lieutenant, Garland, was now mortally wounded, and myself so severely that I was obliged to quit the deck. Manned as the squadron was, with not more than fifty British seamen, the rest, a mixed crew of Canadians and soldiers, and who were totally unacquainted with such service, rendered the loss of officers more severely felt, and never in any action was the loss more severe; every officer commanding vessels and their seconds was either killed or wounded so severely as to be unable to keep the deck. (Here follows a eulogistic account of the services of various officers, and of the men in general. No mention of the surrender is made in the report, but a letter from Lieut. Inglis, who took command of the Detroit after Barclay was wounded, which accompanies the document, states that he "was under the painful necessity of answering the enemy to say we had struck, the Queen Charlotte having previously done so." The weather-gauge gave the enemy a prodigious advantage, as it enabled them not only to choose their position, but their distance also, which they did in such a manner as to prevent the carronader of the Queen Charlotte and Lady Prevost from having much effect; while their long guns did great execution, particularly against the Queen Charlotte. Capt. Perry has behaved in a most humane and attentive manner, not only to myself and officers, but to all the wounded. I trust that although unsuccessful, you will approve of the motives that induced me to sail under so many disadvantages, and it may be hereafter proved that under such circumstances the honor of His Majesty's flag has not been tarnished. I inclose the list of killed and wounded.

I have the honor to be, etc.,
R. H. Barclay, Commander and late senior officer.


1Capt. Dobbins was born in Mifflin County, Penn., July 5, 1776. He came to Erie with a party of surveyors in 1796. After Perry's victory, he rendered efficient service in the expeditions against Mackinaw. He resigned from the Navy in 1826. In 1829, he was appointed by President Jackson to the command of the United States revenue cutter Rush, on Lake Erie. He left active service in 1849, and died in Erie February 29, 1856. His marriage took place at Cannonsburg, Penn., in 1808. Mrs. Dobbins was the mother of ten children. She died in her one hundredth year, on the 24th of January, 1879.

2Perry's headquarters were established at Duncan's Hotel, at the corner of Third and French streets, Erie.

3The British hove in sight as the last of Perry's fleet crossed the bar of Erie Harbor. Their cruising squadron consisted of five vessels.

4There were three hospitals -- in the court house, on the point of Misery Bay and near the site of Wayne's block-house.

5James D. Elliott was born in Maryland in 1785. He entered the United States Navy as a Midshipman in 1806, and was promoted to a Lieutenancy in 1810. On the 7th of October, 1812, he won great honor by leading an expedition which captured the British vessels Adams and Caledonia from under the gunds of Fort Erie. For this he was awarded a sword, and the tanks of Congress. July 13, 1813, he was appointed to be a master commandant over the heads of thirty other lieutenants. In 1814, he was transferred to Lake Ontario. He did good service in the Mediterranean in 1815. In 1818, he was promoted to be a Captain, and subsequently had command of squadrons of several stations. He was tried for misconduct in 1840, and sentenced to four years' suspension from the navy. President Jackson, in 1843, remitted the balance of his sentence. He died on the 18th of December, 1845.

6Lieut. Packett resided at Erie after the battle, and died there.

7Stephen Champlin returned to Erie, in 1845, as Commander of the United States steamer Michigan. He remained in that position about four and one-half years, when he was placed on the reserve list with full pay. He lived at Buffalo, afterward, and was the last survivor of the commanders in the battle.

8Lieut. Holdup was the father of the distinguished Com. Thomas H. Stevens. He served in the navy many years afterward, and was promoted to post Captain. He died suddenly, in 1836, while in command of the Washington Navy Yard. He was an orphan and became a protege of Gen. Stevens, of Charleston, S. C., who obtained a midshipman's warrant for him in 1809. In 1815, by an act of the Legislature of South Carolina, he assumed the name of his benefactor, and was ever after known as Thomas Holdup Stevens.

9In Henry T. Tuckerman's poem, "The Hero of Lake Erie," he refers to this flag as follows:
"Behold the chieftain's glad prophetic smile,
As a new banner he unrolls the while;
Hear the gay shout of his elated crew,
When the dear watchword hovers to their view,
And Lawrence, silent in the arms of death,
Bequeaths defiance with his latest breath."

10The battle took place about ten miles in a northwardly direction from Put-in-Bay. The action began on the part of the Americans at 5 minutes before 12 o'clock.

11The Norwich (Conn.) Courier of March 4, 1814, states that "a public dinner and ball were given to Capt. Barclay at Terrebonne, Canada, on the 20th of February. Among the voluntary toasts, this gallant but unfortunate officer gave the following: 'Commodore Perry, the galland and generous enemy.' "

12Below are extracts from the Norwich (Conn.) Courier, of June 8, 15 and 22, 1814:
[June 8.]
Canandaigua, May 24.
We are informed by a Mr. Broughton, who has just reached here from Erie, that the force which lately sailed from that place on a secret expedition, landed at Long Point, Canada, where they set fire to the houses in what is called Long Point settlement, by which about one hundred dwelling houses and all the other buildings for a distance of eight miles into the interior were destroyed, besides a number of grist mills on Patterson's Creek.
[June 15.]
Of the attack on Long Point no official account has been published. The Pittsburgh Mercury, a ministerial paper, states that our troops paid no respect to either public or private property, but burst and plundered all they came across, and then returned to Erie in safety. The Mercury speaks of these excesses in terms of the highest indignation, and we hope none of our frontier towns may be laid in ruins on account of them.
[June 22]
An article from Erie mentions that the British and Indians are numerous about Long Point, and that they had set fire to all the houses that were standing in the neighborhood when our troops left, as it appears they belonged to persons friendly to the United States.

13The navy yard is thus described by Capt. Russell, in the communication before referred to: "The location of the new gas works was occupied for the purpose. Surrounding it were pickets about fifteen feet high. In a neighboring ravine were two fish ponds, somewhat elevated, water pouring over one next to the bay, forming a beautiful landscape. Shaded by forest trees, it was quite an attractive summer resort. On the bank above, directly south of the present blast furnace, was a clearing of several acres cultivated for garden uses and kept in excellent condition by the navy yard sailors and marines.

"The great guns used by Perry and those captured by him from the British remained in the Erie Navy Yard until the fall of 1825, when they were transferred to the one at Brooklyn, N. Y. On the completion of the Erie Canal, they were placed at intervals of ten miles along that improvement. When the first fleet of boats left Buffalo, they were fired in rapid succession. By this means the people of New York City were notified of the departure of the boats in one hour and twenty minutes."

14Benjamin Fleming was born in Lewiston, Del., July 20, 1782. He came to Erie with a detachment for Perry's fleet, and lived in Erie until his death. He died in Erie, in May, 1870, and was buried in the cemetery with naval and military honors.


Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers & Co.: Chicago, 1884), Part II, Chapter XVIII, pp. 293-320.


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