| American History Stories, Volume III|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Anecdotes from the time Washington became president through the War of 1812, the rise of Andrew Jackson, and the sectional differences leading to the Civil War. Numerous black and white illustrations complement the text. Ages 8-12 |
 There was in the navy another brave young
captain—Oliver Perry—who had been busy
building a fleet of nine vessels to attack the British
vessels which had taken possession of Lake Erie.
When these were finished, he named the one which he
himself was to command, the Lawrence, in honor
of our dead hero.
After the vessels were finished, it was a long time
before men could be found to man them. General
Harrison—you haven't forgotten General Harrison
and the Indian chief, I hope—sent one hundred
riflemen from Kentucky, who, dressed in their hunting
suits and deer-skin leggings, made a very funny looking
crew; and a little later, the New England States
collected from their coasts another hundred men. These
men were real sailors. They had been in service on the
Atlantic,—some of them for long, long years.
When these sailors, some of them gray-headed old
seadogs, as they called themselves, were gathered
together, it was found their sea-legs, of which they
were so proud, and in which the country was putting so
much confidence, were entirely unfitted for marching on
land. They rolled around like barrels, and had so
little idea of military orders and
 marching, that their commander declared he could do
nothing with them.
Much fun did these "jolly tars" have over their
attempts to behave like soldiers; and I fancy they were
not very sorry when it was decided to send them to Lake
Erie in stage-coaches.
So twelve great coaches were fitted out; and with a
band on top, flags and streamers flying, these merry
sailors started off across the country, singing and
shouting, the band playing Yankee Doodle, Hail
Columbia, and all the other national airs, as they
rattled through the villages.
And now that the vessels were manned, Captain Perry had
only to wait for the appearance of the English fleet.
Day after day he waited; at last, one bright morning,
the cry of "Sail, ho!" was heard from the mast-head.
The English were really approaching! Word spread from
vessel to vessel, and every officer and every sailor
was on the alert.
Perry watched their approach through his glass, and
found that there were only six ships, while he had
nine; but as they drew nearer, he found that each
vessel carried sixty-three guns, while his carried only
fifty-four. This convinced him that if his vessels
could get close upon the English, the advantage would
be upon the American side; but if he allowed an
engagement to take place at a distance, the sixty-three
guns could do the deadlier work.
 Explaining this to his men, it was agreed to advance
quickly, and save their fire till they were close upon
the English fleet. Then, bringing forth a simple
banner, on which were inscribed "Don't give up the
ship!" Perry said, "Boys, these were the dying words of
the brave Lawrence. Shall we hoist this banner upon
Of course the men understood his meaning at once; and
"Aye, aye, sir!" rang forth over the waters, followed
by cheer on cheer, until it reached the very shores, and
came resounding back, awaking in the hearts of the
English crew a dread of what was about to happen.
Then followed a terrible scene of death and bloodshed.
For three hours the battle raged. The decks ran blood;
the air was filled with fire and smoke; and amid the
deafening thunder of the guns, were heard the agonizing cries of the wounded.
The men fought as never men fought before,
refusing to leave their guns, in spite of wounds
upon wounds. At last,
the Lawrence lay a battered hulk, at the mercy of the
enemy. But Perry was not dismayed. Finding his own
ship now helpless, only eighteen of his hundred brave
men still standing, he ordered a boat to be lowered.
"To the Niagara! to the Niagara!" cried he; and
wrapping himself in the flag, he leaped into the boat,
and was rowed across to the Niagara.
Above him, below him, and on either side whizzed the
 English balls! Reaching the vessel, he hastily climbed
her sides and again the terrible battle was renewed.
Bang! bang! went the Niagara's guns; and in fifteen
minutes the battle was over. The English ships struck
their colors, and the white flag of surrender was
Two of the English ships turned to escape, but two of
the American vessels gave chase, and soon they were
brought back, prisoners.
The English officers, one by one, tendered their swords
to Perry; but he generously refused to take them, and
treated the prisoners throughout with such kindness
that the English captain himself said, "Perry's
kindness alone has earned him the name of hero."
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