Showdown on Lake Erie: An Eyewitness Recalls ‘the Second War of Independence’

Samuel R. Brown has been described as a “forgotten veteran” of the Battle of 1812, throughout which he served in Captain James A. McClelland’s firm of Volunteer Gentle Dragoons. He was an eyewitness to the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813, the place an American fleet led by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry routed a British squadron. Perry turned a nationwide hero in a single day, and a month later the USA ended the marketing campaign by defeating British and American Indian forces on the Battle of the Thames in Ontario, Canada.

After the warfare Brown settled in Auburn, New York, the place he revealed the Cayuga Patriot. Described by his apprentice printer as “an trustworthy, amiable, straightforward, slip-shod form of man,” Brown instantly branched out into writing books, three of which had been in regards to the battle he known as “the Second Battle of Independence.” He was amazingly prolific on this subject however died in 1817 at age 42. “On the tented subject he was a patriotic soldier,” his obituary stated. “Within the warmth of battle, he stood a hero, undismayed by the crash of arms, unappalled by the sight of blood, and proud and fearless within the entrance of hazard.”

The next narrative is drawn from Brown’s 1814 guide, Views on Lake Erie: Comprising a Minute and Attention-grabbing Account of the Naval Battle on Lake Erie.

In a dispatch to Main Normal William Henry Harrison after the battle, Perry, who was then 27 years previous, would famously write, “We’ve met the enemy, and he’s ours.” (Naval Historical past and Heritage Command, U.S. Navy)

Commodore Perry arrived at Erie in June, with 5 small vessels from Black Rock. The Queen Charlotte and Woman Prevost had been cruising off Lengthy Level to intercept him—he handed them within the night time unperceived. The Lawrence and Niagara had been then on the shares—each exertion was made to expedite their constructing and gear, and early in August they had been able to sail. But it surely was essential to cross the bar on the entrance of the harbor, over which there was however six toes water, and the brigs drew 9. The British fleet appeared off the harbor, for the aim of stopping ours from going to lake! The means employed by our officers to take the brigs over the bar had been ingenious and deserve point out. Two giant scows, 50 toes lengthy, 10 toes extensive and eight toes deep, had been ready—they had been first stuffed with water after which floated alongside facet one of many vessels in a parallel route; they had been then secured by the use of giant items of hewn timber positioned athwart ship, with each ends projecting from the port holes throughout the scows: the house between these timbers and the boat, being secured by different items correctly organized; the water was then bailed from the scows, thereby giving them an astonishing lifting energy. It was thus that the bar was handed, earlier than the enemy had taken the right steps to oppose it. One impediment was surmounted, however the fleet was not in a situation to hunt the enemy at Malden. There weren’t right now greater than half sailors sufficient to man the fleet. Nonetheless, plenty of Pennsylvania militia having volunteered their providers, the commodore made a brief cruize off Lengthy Level, extra maybe, for the aim of exercising his males than searching for an enemy.

In regards to the final of August Commodore Perry left Erie, to co-operate with Normal [William Henry] Harrison within the discount of Malden. He anchored off the mouth of Sandusky River and had an interview with Normal Harrison, who furnished him with about 70 volunteers, principally Kentuckians, to function marines on board the fleet. Captain [Daniel] Dobbin[s], within the Ohio, was ordered to return to Erie for provisions. The Amelia had been left there for need of males to man her. Unique of those he had 9 sail, mounting in all 54 weapons. The British fleet at Malden consisted of six sail and mounted 66 weapons.

Commodore Perry appeared earlier than Malden, provided battle, reconnoitered the enemy and retired to Put-in-Bay, 35 miles distant from his antagonist. Each events remained just a few days inactive; however their repose was that of the lion.

On the morning of the tenth of September, at dawn, the enemy had been found bearing down from Malden for the evident goal of attacking our squadron, then at anchor in Put-in-Bay. Not a second was to be misplaced. Our squadron instantly obtained beneath method and stood out to satisfy the British fleet, which right now had the climate gage. At 10 A.M. the wind shifted from S.W. to S.E. which introduced our squadron to windward. The wind was mild, the day stunning—not a cloud obscured the horizon. The road was shaped at 11, and Commodore Perry brought about a chic flag, which he had privately ready, to be hoisted on the mast head of the Lawrence; on this flag was painted in characters, legible to the entire fleet, the dying phrases of the immortal [Captain James] Lawrence:—“Don’t surrender the ship.” Its impact is to not be described—each coronary heart was electrified. The crews cheered—the exhilarating can was handed. Each fleets appeared looking forward to the battle, on the results of which a lot depended. At quarter-hour earlier than 12, the Detroit, the head-most ship of the enemy, opened upon the Lawrence, which for 10 minutes was obliged to maintain a properly directed and heavy fireplace from the enemy’s two giant ships, with out with the ability to return it with carronades, at 5 minutes earlier than 12 the Lawrence opened upon the enemy—the opposite vessels had been ordered to assist her, however the wind was right now too mild to allow them to return up. Each brace and bowline of the Lawrence being quickly shot away, she turned unmanageable, and on this state of affairs sustained the motion upwards of two hours, inside canister distance, till each gun was rendered ineffective, and however a small a part of her crew left unharmed upon deck.

At half previous 2 the wind elevated and enabled the Niagara to return into shut motion—the gun-boats took a nearer place. Commodore Perry left his ship accountable for Lieutenant [John Joliffe] Yarnel and went on board the Niagara. Simply as he reached that vessel, the flag of the Lawrence got here down; the disaster had arrived. Captain [John] Elliot at this second anticipated the desires of the commodore, by volunteering his providers to carry the schooners into shut motion.

At 45 minutes previous 2, the sign was made for shut motion. The Niagara being little or no injured, and her crew contemporary, the commodore decided to cross by the enemy’s line; he accordingly bore up and handed forward of the Detroit, Queen Charlotte, and Woman Prevost, pouring a horrible raking fireplace into them from the starboard weapons, and on the Chippeway and Little Belt, from the larboard facet, at half pistol shot distance. The small vessels right now having obtained inside grape and canister distance, saved up a properly directed and harmful fireplace. The motion now raged with the best fury—the Queen Charlotte, having misplaced her commander and a number of other of her principal officers, in a second of confusion obtained foul of the Detroit—on this state of affairs the enemy of their flip needed to maintain an amazing fireplace with out the facility of returning it with a lot impact; the carnage was horrible—the flags of the Detroit, Queen Charlotte and Woman Prevost had been struck in speedy succession. The brig Hunter and schooner Chippeway had been quickly compelled to observe the instance. The Little Belt tried to flee to Malden, however she was pursued by two of the gun-boats and surrendered about three miles distant from the scene of motion.

The author of this account, in firm with 5 others, arrived on the head of Put-in-Bay island on the night of the ninth, and had a view of the motion on the distance of solely 10 miles. The spectacle was really grand and terrible. The firing was incessant for the house of three hours, and continued at brief intervals 45 minutes longer. In lower than one hour after the battle started, many of the vessels of each fleets had been enveloped in a cloud of smoak, which rendered the difficulty of the motion unsure, until the following morning, once we visited the fleet within the harbor on the alternative facet of the island. The reader will simply decide of our solicitude to study the outcome. There isn’t a sentiment extra painful than suspense, when it’s excited by the unsure concern of an occasion like this.

If the wind had continued at S.W. it was the intention of Admiral [Robert Heriot] Barclay to have boarded our squadron; for this goal he had taken on board his fleet about 200 of the well-known forty first Regiment; they acted as marines and fought bravely, however practically two thirds of them had been both killed or wounded.

The carnage on board the prizes was prodigious—they will need to have misplaced 200 in killed moreover wounded. The edges of the Detroit and Queen Charlotte had been shattered from bow to stern; there was scarcely room to put one’s hand on their larboard sides with out touching the impression of a shot—an incredible many balls, canister and grape, had been discovered lodged of their bulwarks, which had been too thick to be penetrated by our cannonades, until inside pistol shot distance. Their masts had been a lot shattered that they fell overboard quickly after they obtained into the bay.

The lack of the Individuals was extreme, notably on board the Lawrence. When her flag was struck she had however 9 males match for responsibility remaining on deck. Her sides had been utterly riddled by the shot from the lengthy weapons of the British ships. Her deck, the morning after the battle, once I first went on board, exhibited a scene that defies description—for it was actually lined with blood, which nonetheless adhered to the plank in clots—brains, hair and fragments of bones had been nonetheless sticking to the rigging and sides. The surgeons had been nonetheless busy with the wounded—sufficient! horror appalled my senses.

Among the many wounded had been a number of courageous fellows, every of whom had misplaced a leg or an arm—they appeared cheerful and expressed a hope that that they had performed their responsibility. Rome and Sparta would have been pleased with these heroes.

It will be invidious to particularize cases of particular person benefit, the place each one so nobly carried out his half. Of the 9 seamen remaining unharmed on the time the Lawrence struck her flag, 5 had been instantly promoted for his or her unshaken firmness in such a making an attempt state of affairs. Essentially the most of those had been within the actions with the Guerrière and Java.

Each officer of the Lawrence, besides the commodore and his little brother, a promising youth, 13 years previous, had been both killed or wounded.

The efficacy of the gun-boats was absolutely proved on this motion, and the sterns of all of the prizes bear ample testimony of the actual fact. They took raking positions and galled the enemy severely. The Woman Prevost misplaced 12 males earlier than both of the brigs fired on her. Their fireplace was fast and exact. Allow us to hear the enemy. The overall order of Adjutant Normal [Edward] Baynes accommodates the next phrases: “His [Perry’s] quite a few gun-boats, [four] which had proved the best annoyance in the course of the motion, had been all unhurt.”

The undaunted bravery of Admiral Barclay entitled him to a greater destiny; to the lack of the day was superadded grievous and harmful wounds: he had earlier than misplaced an arm; it was now his exhausting fortune to lose the usage of the opposite, by a shot which carried away the blade of the correct shoulder; a canister shot made a violent contusion in his hip: his wounds had been for some days thought of mortal. Each attainable consideration was paid to his state of affairs.

When Commodore Perry sailed for Buffalo, he was to date recovered that he took passage on board our fleet. The fleet touched at Erie. The residents noticed the affecting spectacle of Harrison and Perry supporting the wounded British hero, nonetheless unable to stroll with out assist, from the seashore to their lodgings.

On board of the Detroit, 24 hours after her give up, had been discovered snugly stowed away within the maintain, two Indian Chiefs, who had the braveness to go on board at Malden, for the aim of appearing as sharp shooters to kill our officers. One had the braveness to ascend into the spherical high and discharged his piece, however the whizzing of shot, splinters, and bits of rigging, quickly made the place too heat for him—he descended sooner than he went up; in the meanwhile he reached the deck, the fragments of a seaman’s head struck his comrade’s face, and lined it with blood and brains. He vociferated the savage interjection “quoh!” and each sought security beneath.

The British officers had domesticated a bear at Malden. Bruin accompanied his comrades to battle, was on the deck of the Detroit in the course of the engagement, and escaped unharmed.

The killed of each fleets had been thrown over board as quick as they fell. A number of had been washed ashore upon the island and the primary in the course of the gales that succeeded the motion.

Commodore Perry handled the prisoners with humanity and indulgence; a number of Canadians, having wives at Malden, had been permitted to go to their households on parole.

The British had been superior within the size and quantity of their weapons, in addition to within the variety of males. The American fleet was manned with a motly set of beings, Europeans, Africans, Individuals from each a part of the USA. Full one fourth had been blacks. I noticed one Russian, who couldn’t converse a phrase of English. They had been courageous—and who could possibly be in any other case beneath the command of Perry? MHQ


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