Napoleonic War of 1812

Battle of Lake Erie 1813

A battle on Lake Erie between the ships of the British Royal Navy and United States Navy off the coast of Ohio during the War of 1812.

In morning of 10th September 1813, Battle of Lake Erie began. Six British Royal Navy ships of Commander Robert Heriot Barclays six ships of the British Royal Navy were spotted, just off the coast of Ohio. The United States Navy commanded by Master-Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry, set sail from their anchorage at Put-in-Bay with nine ships. Both sides became in line of battle, with the heaviest ship in the middle ready to attack.

At 11:45am HMS Detroit was the first ship to fire upon Perry’s flagship USS Lawrence, which came under fire in the light wind. At 12:45pm USS Lawrence came in range to return fire, but the crew had overloaded the cannons with shot.

commodore perry leaving the lawrence for the niagara at the battle of lake erie
Commodore Perry leaving the Lawrence for the Niagara at the Battle of Lake Erie, by Thomas Birch

USS Niagara opened fire upon HMS Queen Charlotte, killing both commander Robert Finnis and the First Lieutenant. Lieutenant Irvine immediately took command, but could not return fire as USS Niagara was out of range. He headed towards USS Lawrence, and fired at close range. Both British ships reduced USS Lawrence to a wreck, killing four-fifths of the crew.

Once the last gun became unusable, Perry decided to take down his blue personal pennant. The pennant had the motto, “Don’t give up the ship”. He transferred to USS Niagara half-mile away using a rowing boat through heavy gunfire.

The American gun boats armed with long range canons, fired ranking shots from a distance into the British ships located in the centre of the battle. Both HMS Detroit and HMS Queen Charlotte had suffered damaged rigging during the battle. Due to Barclay being severely wounded and his First-Lieutenant killed, Lieutenant Inglis took command, both ships collided. Most of the smaller British ships had also suffered damage, disabling them.

perry breaks the line
Perry breaks the line, by Peter Rindlisbacher

Once Perry was onboard of USS Niagara, he steered the ship towards the damaged British ships along with the American schooners. The USS Niagara fired a raking shot of broadsides at HMS Detroit and HMS Queen Charlotte, while breaking the line of British ships.

At 3pm both HMS Detroit and HMS Queen Charlotte surrendered. The remaining British ships surrendered not long afterwards, having tried to flee. Perry received the British surrender onboard of USS Lawrence after transferring back from USS Niagara.

The Battle of Lake Erie was one of the biggest naval engagements during the War of 1812.