OLIVER HAZARD PERRY
BEFORE THE WAR OF 1812
 A SAILOR himself, Christopher Perry destined his son,
Oliver, for the sea. The boy was born in South Kingston,
Rhode Island, was sent to school in Newport, and lived
the life of all boys until he was nearly fourteen.
At this time his father was given command of the
United States ship General Greene, bound for Cuba. What
better chance for Oliver to become a sailor? The General Greene put
out to sea in the spring of 1799, with Oliver
Hazard Perry acting as her midshipman.
It was on this West Indian cruise that the lad first
learned practical seamanship, satisfying even his father
by his readiness. Thanks to Christopher Perry's training
and his own aptness, Oliver, when he left his father's service,
was fitted for the seaman's life that lay before him.
Now came years when England and France were at
war with each other. England needed all the sailors she
could get. She even went so far as to stop American ships
on the high seas to search them for Englishmen sailing
under the American flag. "Once an Englishman, always
an Englishman," she said. " If we find native born Englishmen
on your vessels, we shall treat them as deserters
to be returned to the English navy."
Once aboard an American vessel, the British officers
commanded the crew to be drawn up for inspection.
 Then began the selecting of sailors, who, the intruders
insisted, should be serving England's king. It mattered
little that many of these sailors
said they were American born.
They were able-bodied men; England wanted them, and they were
made to board the English ships
and were carried off.
Not only did British men-of-war
stop our vessels on the open sea.
They were so bold as to he in wait
near the entrance of our harbors.
When over six thousand sailors had
been seized, and hundreds of vessels
had been overhauled, the end of
American endurance was reached. And in 1812 war was
declared on England.
THE VICTORY ON LAKE ERIE
AT the beginning of the War of 1812, Perry was stationed
at Newport. Since the days of his first cruise on the General
Greene, he had had a hand in putting down the pirates
of the Mediterranean. He was no longer a midshipman,
but was in command of a flotilla of American gunboats.
Seeing little prospect of actual fighting if he stayed at
Newport, Perry asked to be transferred. And, according
to his wish, he was sent to the Great Lakes, where
Commodore Chauncey put him in command of the forces on
By the capture of Detroit the English had gained
control of Lake Erie, where they had a fleet which was a
serious menace to the Americans. It was Perry's task
to rid the country of this danger.
 Perry was a man who believed in doing things; and
from the time of his arrival on the lakes, things began to
happen. When he reached Erie in March, 1813, he found
two brigs, two
gunboats, and a
being built from
the green timber of the forest
the shipbuilders to complete
their work, Perry rushed to Pittsburg to hurry up the equipment for his
little fleet. He hastened to get additional boats. He
hurried them to Erie before the English could intercept
them. And such was his alacrity that, by the end of July,
his fleet was ready, except for the crews. These arrived
slowly. Perry named his flagship the Lawrence in honor
of a gallant American captain who had recently died in
battle, calling to his men, "Don't give up the ship!"
August went by, and the first days of September.
Then on the 10th of September, I813, Perry met the
English fleet near Put-In Bay. In the American fleet were
nine boats, large and small. In the English there were
six. But the English six carried more guns than the
WHERE THE BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE WAS FOUGHT.
Running up a blue flag bearing the brave words of
Captain Lawrence, "Don't give up the ship," Perry ordered
his fleet to advance toward the approaching English. The
Lawrence with two little schooners forged ahead. The
rest of the fleet was delayed in starting, so the first of the
English attack fell upon the flagship. Her masts were
shot away, her guns were disabled, and she was completely
 crippled. The English had wrecked Perry's ship. Had
they conquered the commander? No! Flag in hand, he
slipped over the Lawrence's side, dropped into a small
boat, and amidst the whizzing balls of the enemy was
rowed to the Niagara.
PERRY LEAVING THE "LAWRENCE".
Taking command at once on this second ship, Perry
sailed straight into the enemy's line and raked the vessels
with a deadly fire. The English could not endure long
under such conditions, and one by one they struck their
With his victory won, Perry went back to the deck of
the Lawrence and there received the English surrender.
His message to General Harrison was written on the back
of an old letter. It read in part, "We have met the enemy,
and they are ours."
 This victory gave the United States the control of
Lake Erie, and the English abandoned Detroit.
Commodore Perry lived only six years to enjoy the
fame earned through his triumph. In 1819 he was sent to
protect American commerce from attack by the privateers
of Venezuela. He sailed up the Orinoco River and settled
with Venezuela the disputes that had arisen. But on his
return voyage, the brave young seaman was stricken with
yellow fever; and as his ship was entering the harbor of
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, he died.