Location: Put-In-Bay, Ohio
Webpage: National Park
General Description: The Battle of Lake Erie was fought on September 10, 1813 as the decisive naval battle for control of the Lake Erie. Prior to this battle, Great Britain controlled all access to Lake Erie including commercial shipping of furs and supplying the forts along Lake Erie. In response the Americans began building their own small squadron of war ships at a new Naval shipyard at Presque Island near present day Erie, Pennsylvania in 1813. Master Commandant Oliver Perry was given command of this effort to counter the British control of Lake Erie. Meanwhile Commander Robert Barclay was given command of the British squadron on the lake. Both commanders had a difficult time securing adequate experienced seamen to man the ships, a factor that played significantly in the coming battle. By mid-July, the American squadron was almost complete, but all Barclay could do was maintain a blockade of the island since a sand bar prevented sailing his ships into the harbor. When he withdrew the blockade due to shortage of supplies on July 29, Perry began “lifting” his ships over the sand bar and out into the lake. When Barclay returned four days later, the process was nearly completed and he withdrew to await the completion and supplying of the Detroit, his flagship. Perry established an anchorage at Put-In-Bay and for his battle flag to signal an attack he had a flag made with the slogan “Don’t Give Up The Ship”, which became an icon of American naval history. On the morning of September 10, Barclay moved his squadron to attack. Perry set out from Put-In-Bay, but initially the winds were against him and he nearly called off the attack. However, the winds suddenly changed and he had the wind advantage and moved into attack formation. The long cannons of the British had much greater range than the Americans, but the American cannons were much more effective at close range. Therefore, his best chance was to quickly close with the British. After suffering multiple hits from long range, Perry brought the brig Lawrence within range of the British brig Detroit. However, he had raced ahead of the smaller gun ships in his squadron who were still out of range and the other American brig, Niagara, had held back for unknown reasons that would be a debated into the future. So Perry faced the full furry of the British squadron alone. The Lawrence was reduced to a wreck and under heavy fire, Perry transferred his command to the Niagara. Due to poor seamanship, the British Queen Charlotte managed to run into the Detroit and since nearly all the British captains and first lieutenants, including Barclay, were dead or severely wounded they were now in serious trouble. Perry cut Niagara through the British line so he could fire from both sides of the ship and forced the Detroit to surrender along with most of the other British ships, one by one. Thus Perry won a decisive victory over the British in Lake Erie giving the Americans vital control of the Lake. The British soon withdrew from Fort Detroit and General William Henry Harrison chased them up the Thames River where he defeated both Major General Proctor and the Indian chief, Tecumseh, at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813 near present day Chatam, Ontario. To commemorate the demilitarization of the Great Lakes following the War of 1812 and the lasting peace between the United States and Canada, a 352 foot monument was constructed in Put-In-Bay from 1912-1915. This massive Doric column stands 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty and is located 5 miles from the longest undefended border in the world.
1) The Visitors Center occupies one corner of the town Put-In-Bay, Ontario at the foot of the imposing International Peace Memorial. Except for a very good movie about the Battle of Lake Erie, there is not much else to see outside of a few exhibits and diorama of the battle. Of course, there would not be much to see as this was a water battle fought out in Lake Erie, so there is no battlefield. For this reason, visitors should plan to visit Put-In-Bay itself, which caters to tourists, to justify the expensive ferry ride to the island.
2) The International Peace Memorial is truly an imposing structure rising over 300 feet in the air. Since it is nothing more than a huge Doric column, its “architecture” is relatively simple. There are stairs and an elevator to an observations platform at the top, however, this was closed while we were there so they could do needed maintenance and cleaning of the structure.