United States Government Builds Six War Vessels At Erie -- Equips Four Merchant Sail At Buffalo -- Captain Perry Appointed Commodore -- British Fleet Appears At Cleveland -- Perry Sails From Erie -- Enemy Discovered Near Put-in-Bay -- Dr. Parsons' Account Of The Battle -- Thrilling Scenes Aboard The Flagship -- Diagrams Illustrating The Movements Of The Fleets -- Perry's Official Report -- British Official Account -- Crews Of The Two Squadrons -- Conduct Of Captain Elliott -- Tribute To Perry -- Battle Heard At Cleveland -- Effects Of The Battle -- Canadian Account Of The Battle -- Destruction On The Niagara -- Final Disposition Of The Vessels.
THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT was unwilling to concede to the British naval forces undisputed possession of the Upper Lakes, and, during the winter of 1812-13, active preparations were made to equip a squadron for service on Lake Erie. Six vessels, two brigs and four schooners, were constructed at Presque Isle (Erie), and three merchant schooners and a sloop were purchased at Buffalo, where also lay the brig Caledonia, which had been captured by Captain Elliott.
The construction of the gunboats was commenced by Capt. Daniel Dobbins, of Erie. He had been master and part owner of the merchant schooner Salina, which had been taken by the British at Mackinaw. Returning home at Erie, after many narrow escapes, he was immediately dispatched by General Meade to Washington, with the first official account of the surrender of Mackinaw and Detroit. Having navigated the lakes many years in trading-vessels, he was well acquainted with their shores and harbors, and the few inhabitants on both sides of the lakes.
After a few days' examination before the Cabinet at Washington, in regard to the commerce and shipping, and the most suitable plan for a naval depot, the government, in accordance with his recommendation, selected Erie for its proposed shipyards. Captain Dobbins was tendered a sailing-master's warrant, and ordered to proceed to that port, and commence the construction of gunboats, and to apply to Commodore Chauncey, on Lake Ontario, for further instructions.
On the 26th of September, he commenced the work with such house-carpenters and others as he could collect, being able to procure but one ship-carpenter for master-builder, Ebenezer Crosby, of Black Rock. The iron, cordage and other necessary materials had to be transported from Pittsburg, over bad roads. There were then no mills for sawing lumber, only the standing trees for material, a condition of things that would appall a modern ship builder.
The vessels were built on Cascade creek, about a mile above Erie, where the depth of water was greater than at the village The place is now known as Reed's Dock.
In December, Commodore Chauncey, accompanied by Henry Eckford, the naval architect, arrived at Erie, from Lake Ontario, and finished the draughts of the two twenty-gun brigs, and left instructions for getting out the timbers for them, and for more gunboats. Noah Brown, chief master-builder, arrived at Erie in February, 1813, from New York, with a gang of twenty-five carpenters. A month later the naval officer, who won undying fame on Lake Erie, arrived on the scene.
Capt. Oliver Hazard Perry, of Rhode Island, was an active and zealous young officer during the war of 1812. In November of that year, he offered his services for the lakes, and was sent for by Commodore Chauncey, whom he met at Albany on the 28th of that month, and not long afterward he was ordered to proceed to Presque Isle, now Erie, and to hasten the equipment there of the little squadron, then in course of construction. The bay at Erie was completely landlocked, its only entrance being too shallow for large vessels to enter, but quite deep enough for gunboats to get out into the lake. Captain Dobbins was appointed sailing master in the middle of September, 1812, and was instructed by the government to begin the construction of gunboats at Erie. On December 12, he informed the department that he had two of the gunboats -- 50 feet keel, 17 feet beam and 5 feet depth of hold -- on the stocks, and would have all ready by the time the ice was out of the lake.
Commodore Perry arrived at Erie, March 27, 1813, much work having in the meantime been done. Forest trees had been felled and hewn, the keels of two twenty-gun brigs and a clipper schooner had been laid at the mouth of Cascade creek; two gunboats were nearly planked at the mouth of Lee's run, and a third, afterward named the Scorpion, had been commenced. Early in May the three smaller of these vessels were launched, and on the 24th of the same month the two brigs were afloat. On the 23d Perry left Erie to join Commodore Chauncey in the successful attack on Fort George, as related in the preceding chapter.
In the meantime the little flotilla in the Scajaquada was being prepared for the coming engagement, under the eye of Master Builder Eckford. These vessels had been unable to get out because Fort Erie was in the possession of the British. They were laden with stores at the Black Rock navy yard, and on the morning of June 6, oxen, seamen and 200 soldiers with strong ropes commenced "tracking" them up over the rapids at the head of the Niagara river, a task of great difficulty, requiring six days for its performance. These vessels were the Caledonia; the schooner Somers, formerly the Catherine; the schooner Amelia, carrying one long 18-pound gun; the schooner Ohio, carrying one long 24, and the sloop Trippe, formerly the Contractor, carrying one long 18. This flotilla sailed from Buffalo on the 13th and reached Erie on the 18th, a portion of the time moving "at the rate of twenty-five miles in twenty-four hours," on account of head winds. They reached Erie just in time to avoid the little cruising squadron of the enemy under Captain Finnis of the Royal Navy, on the lookout for them. This cruising squadron consisted of the Queen Charlotte, 17 guns; the fine schooner, Lady Prevost, 13 guns; the brig Hunter, 10 guns; the schooner, Little Belt, three guns, and the Chippewa, one gun.
The six vessels built at Erie were the two twenty-gun brigs Lawrence and Niagara, and the schooners Scorpion, Tigris, Porcupine and Ariel. All the guns and a great part of the supplies had to be brought from New York and Philadelphia. The ship carpenters also came mostly from New York.
British Fleet Appears at Cleveland. -- The British fleet continued to cruise in Lake Erie. Its only appearance at Cleveland has thus been related by an early historian of that city: The British fleet, consisting of the Queen Charlotte and Lady Prevost with some smaller vessels, appeared off Cleveland, June 19, 1813, and approached the mouth of Cuyahoga river with the apparent intention of landing. Major Thomas S. Jessup, of the regular army, who had been in charge of supplies there, had left, but expresses were sent out to rally the militia, and as soon as possible every man in the vicinity was hastening with musket on his shoulder toward the endangered locality.
When the fleet had arrived within a mile and a half of the harbor, the historian of Cleveland relates, the wind sank to a perfect calm, and the vessels were compelled to lie there until the afternoon. Meanwhile, the little band of regulars made every preparation to defend their post, and a considerable body of militia was arrayed near by. There was a small piece of artillery in the village, but it was unmounted. Judge James Kingsbury, at that time a paymaster in the army, took the hind wheels of a heavy wagon, mounted the little cannon on them, after a fashion, and placed it in position to pour its volleys into the enemy's ranks if he should attempt to land. The vessels in the Cuyahoga; and the public stores, were all, as far as possible, moved to "Walworth Point," some two miles up the river.
At length the calm ceased, but a terrific thunder storm sprang up in the west and swept furiously down the lake; the little fleet was driven before it far to the eastward, relieving the Clevelanders of all fear of an attack, at least for that day.
When the storm abated, the fleet lay to, opposite Euclid creek, in the town of that name, where a boat's crew went ashore. They killed an ox, cut it up, hide and all, and took it on shipboard. With more courtesy than could have been expected, however, they left a golden guinea in a cleft stick at the place of slaughter, with a note apologizing, because in their haste they had to spoil the hide, and adding that, if it had not been for the thunder shower they would have eaten their beef in Cleveland. They sailed off down the lake, and their vessels never again appeared on the shore of Cuyahoga county, except as the captured spoils of the gallant Perry and his comrades.
Commodore Perry's fleet was ready by July 10, but, as he had only men enough to man one of the brigs, he was compelled to remain idle in the Erie harbor for five or six days. His flag ship was named the Lawrence on the 12th, in honor of the commander of the Chesapeake, then recently captured by the Shannon on the Atlantic ocean. The British squadron, that blockaded Perry's fleet, was in command of Capt. Robert Heriot Barclay, who was having built at Amherstburg a 2O-gun ship, afterward named the Detroit. On August 2, Captain Barclay disappeared, and Perry at one hurried everything forward. On the 4th the Lawrence was towed to that portion of the bar, where the water was deepest. Her guns were taken out and placed on land, and, thus lightened, she was got over the bar by means of "camels." The Niagara was taken over the bar in the same way, and the smaller vessels were got into deep water without difficulty.
Fleet Sails from Erie, -- Just as the Niagara was moving into deep water on the 5th, Captain Barclay's squadron re-appeared and the Ariel and Scorpion were sent out to engage and detain him. On the same evening Perry's fleet stood toward Long Point on its first cruise, and cruised between Erie and Canada two or three days searching for the enemy, who had gone to Maiden to await the completion of the Detroit. August 9, Capt. Jesse D. Elliott joined the squadron with about 100 men, manned the Niagara and took command of her. Commodore Perry then resolved to sail up the lake, all his vessels going up with him except the Ohio, the fleet soon afterward putting into Put-in-Bay. Perry from this time on until the memorable 10th of September, made reconnaissances in the western end of the lake, with the view of finding the enemy and bringing him to battle, but in vain; but at length on the 9th Commodore Barclay, becoming short of provisions, put out from Amherstburg, feeling that he must risk a battle, if necessary.
The Ottawa, a small schooner, taken from the United States early in the war, at Maumee, was employed at Maiden as a tender or lookout vessel, while the British were preparing for a conflict with Perry. She took a peep into Put-in-Bay to reconnoitre, and unexpectedly found herself near the squadron. Captain Champlain chased her, in the Scorpion, and would have caught her, but his schooner ran aground and allowed the Ottawa to escape.
On the morning of the 10th the stirring cry, "Sail ho!" rang out from the masthead of the Lawrence, this cry being soon followed by signals to the fleet: "Enemy in sight," and "Get under way!" At sunrise the British vessels were all seen upon the northwest horizon.
The Two Fleets. -- Commodore Barclay's squadron, according to Roosevelt, was composed of the following vessels, with their tonnage, crew and armament:
Commodore Perry's squadron, according to the same authority, in this battle was as follows:
Dr. Parsons' Account of the Battle. -- One of the best accounts of the battle, as seen from the flagship Lawrence, has been given by Dr. Parsons, surgeon's mate of the fleet and the only medical officer aboard. Dr. Parsons says: "At sunrise there was a cry from the masthead, 'Sail ho!' All hands sprang from their berths, and ere we could dress and reach the decks the cry was repeated again and again, until six sail were thus announced.' Signal was made to the fleet, ' Enemy in sight. Get under way,' and the hoarse voice and shrill pipe of the boatswain resounded through all the ships, 'All hands, up anchor.'
"The wind at this time was from the southwest, light and baffling, which prevented our weathering the island in our way, and it continued so until 10 o'clock, when it veered to the southeast, which enabled us to clear the island and stand out upon the lake. We now discovered the English squadron, five or six miles to the leeward, hove to in a line, and equi-dis-tant about half a cable's length. The vessels were freshly painted, and, with the morning sun shining upon their broadsides, and their red ensigns gently unfolding to the breeze, they made a very gallant appearance. Our squadron bore down to engage them, with the wind on our larboard quarter. They were arranged with the Chippewa, of one long eighteen-pounder on a pivot head; the Detroit, of nineteen guns, bearing the broad pennant of the Commodore, next; the Hunter, of ten guns, the third; the Queen Charlotte, of seventeen guns, fourth; the Lady Prevost, of thirteen guns, fifth; and the Little Belt, of three guns, sixth.
"Captain Perry immediately arranged his line of battle, with his own ship to fight the Detroit, broad pendant against broad pendant, Commodore against Commodore. Two gunboats, the Ariel and Scorpion, ranged ahead on our larboard bow, a little out of a straight line. The Caledonia, of three long twenty-four-pounders, came next, after the Lawrence, to encounter the Hunter; the Niagara next to fight the Queen Charlotte; and the Somers, Porcupine, Tigris and Trippe to encounter the Lady Prevost and Little Belt. Thus arranged, the fleet moved on to attack the enemy, distant at 10 o'clock about four or five miles. The Commodore next produced the burgee, or fighting flag, hitherto concealed in the ship.
"It was inscribed with large white letters on a blue ground, that could be read throughout the fleet, 'DON'T GIVE UP THE SHIP,' the last words of the expiring Lawrence, and now to be hoisted at the masthead of the flagship bearing his name. A spirited appeal was made to the crew assembled upon the quarter-deck, who returned three hearty cheers, that were repeated along the whole line of our vessels, and up went the flag to the top of the fore-royal.
"The Commodore brought me a package of papers, having a piece of lead attached to them, and gave orders, in the event of his falling, to throw the papers overboard; they were instructions from government and letters from Mrs. Perry. The grog ration being served out, drums and fife struck up the thrilling air, ' all hands, all hands, all hands to quarters,' calling all to their respective stations.
"The Commodore was on the quarterdeck with two young officers, Thomas Breeze and his own brother, Alexander Perry, whose duty it was to run with his orders to every part of the ship, for in the din and uproar of battle no officer can be heard ten feet off. The hatches were now closed, excepting a small aperture ten inches square, through which powder cartridges were to be passed up from the magazine by boys, nimble of foot, during the battle, and through which light was admitted into the surgeon's room, where the wounded were to be brought. The floor of this apartment was on a level with the surface of the water outside, and consequently the wounded were as much exposed to the enemy's cannon balls as if they were on deck. Six men were directed to bring the wounded below, and to assist the surgeon in moving them.
"Every preparation being made, and every man at his post, a profound silence reigned for more than one hour, the most trying part of the whole scene. It was like the stillness of the atmosphere that precedes the hurricane, while the fleet moved on steadily till a quarter before meridian, when the awful suspense was relieved by a cannon shot, aimed at us from the flagship Detroit, one mile distant. It was like an electric shock, and was soon followed by another. The two gunboats ahead of us now fired one or two long guns.
"At this time the Ariel, Scorpion, Lawrence, Caledonia and Niagara were all in their respective stations in the order they are named, distant from each other about half a cable's length. The other vessels, not sailing quite so well, were a little out of their stations astern. At ten minutes before twelve fire was opened from all the long guns of the enemy. At five minutes before meridian the Lawrence, beginning to suffer, returned the fire from her long bow gun, a twelve-pounder, when the two gunboats ahead were ordered by trumpet to commence the action, and the Caledonia and Niagara astern opened their fire with their long guns. The sternmost vessels soon after opened also, but at too great a distance to do much injury.
"Perry, finding himself not sufficiently near to do much execution with his carronades, made all sail again, and ordered the word to be passed by trumpet to the vessels astern. The order was responded to, and was transmitted along the line by Captain Elliott of the Niagara, whose vessel was stationed next but one astern of the Lawrence. But the Niagara did not make sail with the Lawrence and accompany her down into close action as ordered, but continued her long shot with two bow guns (having shifted the left one over to the starboard side).
"Perry pressed on, and, supposing himself near enough, fired his forward carronades, but finding they did not tell, he pressed on still nearer, suffering terribly, and, getting near enough for execution, he opened a rapid and most destructive fire upon the Detroit. The Scorpion and Ariel ahead were not deemed worthy of the enemy's aim, yet those small vessels, having heavy cannon, fought nobly and with great effect. The Caledonia astern followed the Lawrence into close action against her antagonist, the Hunter. But the Niagara, which, when the battle began, was within hail of the St. Lawrence, did not follow her down toward the enemy's line, so as to encounter her antagonist, the Queen Charlotte, but hung back for two hours. The Queen was expecting it, but, as her antagonist did not come up, she shot ahead to fire upon the Lawrence, and in so doing she passed the Hunter, that had been ahead between her and the Detroit. After a lapse of two hours Elliott filled his sails and came up; the Caledonia moved on toward the Hunter, which had now dropped astern and to the leeward of the Queen. Elliott, in order to approach the Queen, must pass the Caledonia, which he did to the windward or outside of her, and was approaching the Lawrence, which, however, was crippled and was dropping astern, a perfect wreck. Elliott then, instead of passing directly down to engage the Queen, luffed to the windward, to go round and outside of the Lawrence, and while abreast of her larboard beam and nearly half a mile distant, Perry left the Lawrence for the Niagara, in a boat, and boarded her when she had reached a little ahead of the Lawrence on her larboard bow.
"When Commodore Perry left the Lawrence there were but himself, his little brother and fourteen men alive and unhurt on board. He jumped into the boat with eight stout seamen at the oars, and put off at thirty minutes after two. He stood erect in the stern of the boat, and the British saw it as, with the zealous men at the oars, the little craft sprang away like a race horse. A shower of grape, cannister and bullets flew about him, but he heeded them not till, at the entreating tears of his crew, he finally sat down, and quickly the boat reached the Niagara.
"His last words to Lieutenant Yarnall were ' I leave it to your discretion to strike or not, but the American colors must not be pulled down over my head to-day.' Soon after Perry left the Lawrence she fell astern. Yarnall consulted with Forest and Taylor. There were no more guns that could be used, and, if there had been, there were no men to handle them. To hold out was to expose life recklessly. Officers and men watched the progress of their commander, and soon after he had gained the new battleship the colors of the Lawrence were struck."
The eminent American historian, George Bancroft, thus describes the reception of the Commodore on the Niagara: "Meantime, Perry climbed the gangway of the Niagara, and the superior officer, 'whom Elliott had thought to be dead, stood before him, radiant with the indomitable purpose of winning the day; with his fortitude unimpaired by the crowded horrors of his last two hours; black with the smoke of battle, but unscathed, with not so much as a wound of his skin; with not a hair of his head harmed. His quick eye glanced at the ship's rigging, at her hale crew that thronged the deck, and his buoyant nature promised him a harvest of glory as he beheld the Niagara 'very little injured,' even 'perfectly fresh,' its crew in the best condition, with scarcely more than three men hurt. Elliott's mind was stunned, and completely dumbfounded; he asked the foolish question: 'What is the result on board your brig?' though he had seen the brig was a disabled wreck, and had even thought that Perry had fallen. ' Cut all to pieces!' said Perry, whose mind had instantly condemned the course in which Elliott was steering, and was forming his plan for redeeming the day. ' I have been sacrificed!' he added; but he checked all reproach of Elliott, and blamed only the gunboats, which had been still further astern. It marks how ill Elliott was at his ease, how much he was struck with shame, how entirely he lost his self-possession, that he caught at the word which seemed to relieve him from censure, and at once offered to go and bring up the gunboats. ' Do so,' said Perry, for Elliott had anticipated his wish, and proposed what was best for both. At this Elliott, the second officer in the squadron, whose right it would be to take the chief command if Perry should be wounded, left his own brig, and went in the boat on the paltry errand fit only for a subordinate, to bear a superfluous message to the gunboats, which under their gallant officers, were advancing as fast as possible."
Perry ran up his pennant and hoisted the signal for close action. Loud cheers resounded from every vessel in the squadron. It was now forty-five minutes after two o'clock. Under press of sail, the gallant Commodore bore down upon the British line, now half a mile distant. Commodore Barclay, of the Detroit, when he saw the new spirit animating the Niagara, and another contest imminent, attempted to veer around to give the new enemy a broadside, but in doing so he had fallen upon the Lady Charlotte.
Breaking through the enemy's line between the Hunter and the Detroit at half pistol shot, Perry from all his guns, double shotted with round, grape or cannister, poured his broadsides into these devoted vessels, raking the Lady Prevost with his broadside port and the entangled Detroit and Queen Charlotte with his full starboard broadside. Commodore Barclay went down with a desperate wound. Many shrieks told of the destruction the guns had wrought. The decks of the Lady Prevost were swept, and Perry luffed athwart the bows of the Detroit and Lady Charlotte, now clear of each other. Meanwhile the Somers, in command of Elliott, with the Tigris and Porcupine, were pressing down upon the Lady Charlotte, which, finding herself exposed ahead and astern, was the first to strike. The Detroit, now unmanageable, also gave up, and the Lady Prevost and Hunter, both disabled, pulled down their colors. The Little Belt, at the head, and the Chippewa, at the rear of the line, made all sail and ran, but the Scorpion and Trippe pursued, and, after a close chase, took and brought them back. The victory was complete; not a sail of the enemy escaped.
Scenes Aboard the Flagship. -- In describing his own part in the battle and the incidents in relation to his active duties Dr. Parsons says: "The wounded began to come down before the Lawrence opened her battery, and for one I felt impatient at the delay. In proper time, however, as it proved, the dogs of war were let loose from their leash, and it seemed as though heaven and earth were at logger heads. For more than two long hours, little could be heard but the deafening thunders of our own broad-sides, the crash of balls dashing through our timbers, and the shrieks of the wounded. These were brought down faster than I could attend to them, farther than to stay the bleeding, or support the shattered limbs with splints, and pass them forward upon the berth deck. Two or three were killed near me, after being wounded. I well remember the complaints that the Niagara did not come up. ' Why does she hang back so, out of the battle?' Among those early brought down was Lieutenant Brooks, son of the late Governor Brooks, of Massachusetts, a most accomplished gentleman and officer, and renowned for personal beauty. A cannon ball had struck him in the hip; he knew his doom and inquired how long he should live; I told him a few hours. He inquired two or three times how the day was going, and expressed a hope that the Commodore would be spared. But new comers from deck brought more and more dismal reports until finally it was announced that we had struck. In the lamentations of despair among the wounded, I lost sight of poor Brooks for a few minutes, but when the electrifying cry was heard that the enemy's two ships had struck, I rushed on deck to see if it were true, and then to poor Brooks to cheer him, but he was no more -- he was too much exhausted by his wounds to survive the confusion that preceded this happy transition.
"When the battle had raged an hour and a half I heard a call for me at the small skylight; and slipping toward it, I saw it was the Commodore, whose countenance was as calm and placid as if on ordinary duty. ' Doctor,' said he, 'send me one of your men,' meaning one of the six that were to assist me, which was done instantly. In five minutes the call was repeated and obeyed, and at the seventh call I told him he had them all. He asked if any could pull a rope, when two or three of the wounded crawled upon the deck to lend a feeble hand in pulling at the last guns.
"When the battle was raging most severely, Midshipman Lamb came down with his arm badly fractured; I applied a splint and requested him to go forward and lie down; as he was leaving me, and while my hand was on him, a cannon ball struck him in the side, and dashed him against the other side of the room, which instantly terminated his sufferings. Charles Pohig, a Narragansett Indian, who was badly wounded, suffered in like manner.
"There were other incidents that were less painful to witness. The Commodore's dog had secreted himself in the bottom of the closet containing all our crockery. A cannon ball passed through the closet, and smashed crockery and door, covering the floor with fragments. The dog set up a barking protest against the right of such an invasion of his chosen retirement.
"Lieutenant Yarnal had his scalp badly torn, and came below with the blood streaming over his face; some lint was hastily applied and confined with a large bandanna, with directions to report himself for better dressing after the battle, and he insisted on returning to the deck. The cannon balls had knocked to pieces the hammocks, stowed away on deck, and let loose their contents, which were reed or flag tops, that floated in the air like feathers and gave the appearance of a snow storm. These lighted upon Yarnal's head, covered with blood, and, on coming below with another injury, his bloody face, covered with the cat-tails, made his head resemble that of a huge owl. Some of the wounded roared out with laughter, that the devil had; come for us.
"The hard fighting terminated about three o'clock. As the smoke cleared away the two fleets were found completely mingled., the small vessels astern having come up to the others. The shattered Lawrence, lying to the windward, was once more able to hoist her flag, which was cheered by a few feeble voices on board, making a melancholy sound compared with the boisterous cheers that preceded the battle.
"After four o'clock a boat was discovered approaching the Lawrence. Soon the Commodore was recognized in her, who was returning to resume the command of his tattered ship, determined that the remnant of her crew should have the satisfaction of witnessing the formal surrender of the British officers. It was a time of conflicting emotions when he stepped upon deck; the battle was won and was safe, but the deck was slippery with blood, and strewn with the bodies of twenty officers and men, some of whom had sat at table with us at our last meal, and the ship resounded everywhere with the groans of the wounded. Those of us who were spared, and able to walk, met him at the gangway to welcome him on board, but the salutation was a silent one on both sides; not a word could find utterance."
Diagrams of the Battle. -- The three diagrams, printed herewith, illustrate the successive stages of the battle. They are taken from Burges' "Battle of Lake Erie," with accompanying explanations.
1. The schooner Scorpion, Sailing Master Champlin.
a. Sloop Little Belt.
1 and 2 are the Scorpion of two guns, and Ariel of four guns, contending with the Little Belt of three guns, and the Hunter of ten guns. The Hunter, early in the action, had left her position in the line, between the Detroit and the Queen Charlotte, and pressed forward to the support of the Little Belt.
3. The position of the Lawrence at the moment when Perry left her, in her disabled state, for the Niagara. The former lay in an unmanageable wreck, and as the fleet moved slowly forward, during the action, under easy sail, she dropped to windward, and, at the close of the engagement, was in the position in which she is represented in Diagram 3.
4. The Caledonia of four guns, which had pressed forward to the aid of the Lawrence, in her unequal
contest with the Detroit and the Queen Charlotte.
5. The Niagara at the moment when Perry left the Lawrence to board her. The dotted line from 6 to 5, will show the course of her steerage from the time she left her place in the line till the command of her was assumed by Perry. The dotted line from her bow, through the line of the British fleet, will show her course after Elliott left her.
6. The Somers, of which Captain Elliott took the command toward the close of the action, after leaving the Niagara and rowing down the Trippe.
7, 8 and 9. The Porcupine, Tigris and Trippe.
The dotted line from 5 to 9 and from 9 to 6, represents the route of Captain Elliott in his boat, after he left the Niagara to go down the line and bring up the small vessels to the windward. He passed down the line to the Trippe, thence along the line of schooners to the Somers, of which he took the command and brought her into action at near the close of the battle.
The dotted line from 3 to 5, exhibits the direction of Captain Perry's boat in passing from the Lawrence to the Niagara. As the Lawrence fell to the rear immediately after he left her, his boat was exposed to the full broadside of the enemy.
The other dotted line will exhibit the course of the Niagara while under the command of Elliott, and afterward under that of Perry, as explained above.
a. The Little Belt.
1 and 2. The Scorpion and Ariel, in the position which they had maintained throughout the action.
3. The Lawrence, which had dropped to the windward, after Perry left her.
4. The Caledonia, which had pressed forward and taken the place of the Lawrence, after the latter had fallen out of the battle.
5. The Niagara, under the command of Perry, bearing down through the enemy's line, and in this position, with all her guns double shotted, she raked the Detroit, Queen Charlotte and Lady Prevost with her starboard guns, and brought down the flags of the two ships; and with her larboard guns silenced the Hunter. She then rounded to, and silenced the Lady Prevost, and thus terminated the conflict.
6. The Somers, under the command of Elliott, pressing up to close quarters, at near the termination of the action.
7 and 8. The Porcupine and Tigris, which were unable to get into action.
9. The Trippe, which had gallantly pushed forward with her single 32-pounder, to the support of the Caledonia, after the latter had taken the place of the Lawrence.
The dotted lines indicate the course of the Niagara, under the command of Perry. The wind remained in the same quarter as at the commencement of the action.
a. The Little Belt, which, after the Hunter had struck, attempted to escape, but was pursued and taken by the Scorpion, Lieutenant Champlin.
b. The Detroit, attempting to wear, to avoid the Niagara's raking broadside, and by that movement became entangled with the Queen Charlotte.
c. The Hunter, which surrendered after receiving the raking fire of the Niagara, as she passed her.
d. The Queen Charlotte afoul of the Detroit. In this situation both ships surrendered.
f. The Chippewa, which, after the surrender of the other vessels, crowded all sail and fled, but was pursued and captured.
Perry's Official Report. -- Immediately after the battle Perry wrote and dispatched the following message to General Harrison: "Dear General: -- We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop," adding in a postscript, "Send us some soldiers to help take care of the prisoners, who are more numerous than ourselves."
To the Secretary of the Navy at the same time Perry addressed the following report, "It has pleased the Almighty to give to the United States a signal victory over their enemy on this lake. The British squadron, consisting of two ships, two brigs, one sloop and one schooner, have this moment surrendered to the squadron under my command, after a sharp conflict."
Several days later he transmitted to Washington a detailed account of the engagement as follows:
UNITED STATES SCHOONER ARIEL,
In my last I informed you that we had captured the enemy's fleet on this lake. I have now the honor to give you the most important particulars of the action. On the morning of the 10th inst, at sunrise, they were discovered from Put-in-Bay, where I lay at anchor with the squadron under my command. We got under way, the wind light at S. W. and stood for them. At 10 A. M. the wind hauled to S. E. and brought us to windward: formed the line and brought up. At fifteen minutes before 12, the enemy commenced firing; at 5 minutes before 12, the action commenced on our part. Finding their fire very destructive, owing to their long guns, and its being mostly directed to the Lawrence, I made sail, and directed the other vessels to follow, for the purpose of closing with the enemy. Every brace and bow-line being shot away, she became unmanageable, notwithstanding the great exertions of the Sailing Master. In this situation she sustained the action upwards of two hours, within canister shot distance, until every gun was rendered useless, and a greater part of the crew either killed or wounded. Finding she could no longer annoy the enemy, I left her in charge of Lt. Yarnall, who, I was convinced, from the bravery already displayed by him, would do what would comport with the honor of the flag. At half past 2, the wind springing up, Captain Elliott was enabled to bring his vessel, the Niagara, gallantly into close action; I immediately went on board of her, when he anticipated my wish by volunteering to bring the schooners, which had been kept astern by the lightness of the wind, into close action. It was with unspeakable pain that I saw, soon after I got on board of the Niagara, the flag of the Lawrence come down, although I was perfectly sensible that she had been defended to the last, and that to have continued to make a show of resistance would have been a wanton sacrifice of the remainder of her brave crew. But the enemy was not able to take possession of her, and circumstances soon permitted her flag again to be hoisted. At 45 minutes past 2, the signal was made for "Close action". The Niagara being very little injured, I determined to pass through the enemy's line, bore up and passed ahead of their two ships and a brig, giving a raking fire to them from the starboard guns, and to a large schooner and sloop, from the larboard side, at half pistol shot distance. The smaller vessels at this time having got within grape and canister distance, under the direction of Captain Elliott, and keeping up a well-directed fire, the two ships, a brig, and a schooner, surrendered, a schooner and sloop making a vain attempt to escape.
Those officers and men, who were immediately under my observation, evinced the greatest gallantry, and I have no doubt that all others conducted themselves as became American officers and seamen. Lieutenant Yarnall, first of the Lawrence, although several times wounded, refused to quit the deck. Midshipman Forest (doing duty as lieutenant) and Sailing Master Taylor were of great assistance to me. I have great pain in stating to you the death of Lieutenant Brooks, of the marines, and Midshipman Lunt, both of the Lawrence, and Midshipman John Clarke, of the Scorpion; they were valuable officers. Mr. Hambleton, purser, who volunteered his services on deck, was severely wounded late in the action. Midshipman Claxton and Swartwout, of the Lawrence, were severely wounded. On board the Niagara, Lieutenants Smith and Edwards and Midshipman Webster (doing duty as sailing master) behaved in a very handsome manner. Captain Brevoort, of the army, who acted as a volunteer in the capacity of a marine officer on board that vessel, is an excellent and brave officer, and with his musketry did great execution. Lieutenant Turner, commanding the Caledonia, brought that vessel into action in the most able manner, and is an officer that in all situations may be relied on. The Ariel, Lieutenant Packett, and Scorpion, Sailing Master Champlin, were enabled to get early into the action, and were of great service. Captain Elliott speaks in the highest terms of Mr. Magrath, purser, who had been dispatched in a boat on service, previous to my getting on board the Niagara; and, being a seaman, since the action has rendered essential service in taking charge of one of the prizes. Of Captain Elliott, already so well known to the government, it would be almost superfluous to speak. In this action he evinced his characteristic bravery and judgment, and since the close of the action has given me the most able and essential assistance.
I have the honor to inclose you a return of the killed and wounded, together with a statement of the relative force of the squadrons. The captain and first lieutenant of the Queen Charlotte and first lieutenant of the Detroit were killed. Captain Barclay, senior officer, and the commander of the Lady Prevost, severely wounded. Their loss in killed and wounded I have not yet been able to ascertain; it must, however, have been very great.
Very respectfully, I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
THE HON. WILLIAM JONES,
Following is the letter of Captain Barclay, the official British account of the battle:
His MAJESTY'S LATE SHIP DETROIT,
The last letter I had the honor of writing to you, dated the 6th instant, informed you, that unless certain intimation was received of more seamen being on their way to Amherstburg, I should be obliged to sail with the squadron, deplorably manned as it was, to fight the enemy (who blockaded the port) to enable us to get supplies of provision and stores of every description; so perfectly destitute of provisions was the port, that there was not a day's flour in store, and the crews of the squadron under my command were on half allowance of many things, and when that was done, there was no more. Such were the motives which induced Major-General Proctor (whom by your instructions I was directed to consult, and whose wishes I was enjoined to execute, as far as related to the good of the country) to concur in the necessity of a battle being risked, under the many disadvantages which I labored, and it now remains for me, the most melancholy task, to relate to you the unfortunate issue of that battle, as well as the many untoward circumstances that led to that event. No intelligence of seamen having arrived, I sailed on the 9th instant, fully expecting to meet the enemy next morning, as they had been seen among the islands; nor was I mistaken. Soon after daylight they were seen in motion in Put-in-Bay, the wind then at southwest and light, giving us the weather gage. I bore up with them, in hopes of bringing them to action among the islands; but that intention was soon frustrated by the wind suddenly shifting to the southeast, which brought the enemy directly to windward. The line was formed, according to a given plan, so that each ship might be supported against the superior force of the two brigs opposed to them. About ten, the enemy had cleared the islands and immediately bore up, under easy sail, in a line abreast, each brig being also supported by the small vessels. At a quarter before 12, I commenced the action by a few long guns; about a quarter past, the American commodore, also supported by two schooners, one carrying four long 12-pounders, the other a long 32 and 24-pounder, came close to action with the Detroit; the other brig of the enemy, apparently destined to engage the Queen Charlotte, supported in like manner by two schooners, kept so far to windward as to render the Queen Charlotte's 20-pounder carronades useless, while she was, with the Lady Prevost, exposed to the heavy and destructive fire of the Caledonia and four other schooners, armed with heavy and long guns, like those I have already described. Too soon, alas! was I deprived of the services of the noble and intrepid Captain Finnis, who soon after the commencement of the action fell, and with him fell my greatest support; soon after, Lieutenant Stokes, of the Queen Charlotte, was struck senseless by a splinter, which deprived the country of his services at this critical period. As I perceived the Detroit had enough to contend with, without the prospect of a fresh brig, Provincial Lieutenant Irvine, who then had charge of the Queen Charlotte, behaved with great courage, but his experience was much too limited to supply the place of such an officer as Captain Finnis, hence she proved of far less assistance than I expected.
The action continued with great fury until half-past two, when I perceived my opponent drop astern, and a boat passing from him to the Niagara (which vessel was at this time perfectly fresh), the American commodore seeing, that as yet the day was against him (his vessel having struck soon after he left her), and also the very defenseless state of the Detroit, which ship was now a perfect wreck, principally from the the raking fire of the gunboats, and also that the Queen Charlotte was in such a situation that I could receive very little assistance from her, and the Lady Prevost being at this time too far to leeward, from her rudder being injured, made a noble, and, alas! too successful an effort to regain it, for he bore up, and supported by his small vessels passed within pistol shot, and took a raking position on our bow; nor could I prevent it, as the unfortunate situation of the Queen Charlotte prevented us from wearing; in attempting it we fell on board her; my gallant First Lieutenant Garland was now mortally wounded, and myself so severely that I was obliged to quit the deck. Manned as the squadron was, with not more than fifty British seamen, the rest a mixed crew of Canadians and soldiers, and who were totally unacquainted with such a service, rendered the loss of officers more sensibly felt, and never in any action was the loss more severe; every officer commanding vessels, and their seconds, were either killed or wounded so severely as to be unable to keep the deck. Lieutenant Buchan, in the Lady Prevost, behaved most nobly, and everything that a brave and experienced officer could do in a vessel armed with 12-pound carronades, against vessels carrying long guns. I regret to state that he was severely wounded. Lieutenant Bignal, of the Dover, commanding the Hunter, displayed the greatest intrepidity; but his guns being small (two four and six-pounders) he could be of much less service than he wished. Every officer in the Detroit behaved in the most exemplary manner. Lieutenant Inglis showed such calm intrepidity that I was fully convinced that, on leaving the deck, I left the ship in excellent hands; for an account of the battle after that, I refer you to his letter, which he wrote me for your information. Mr. Hoffmeinster, purser of the Detroit, nobly volunteered his services on deck, and behaved in a manner that reflects the highest honor on him. I regret to add that he is very severely wounded in the knee. Provincial Lieutenant Purvin, and military officers, Lieutenants Garden, of the Royal Newfoundland Rangers, and O'Keefe, of the 41st Regiment, behaved in a manner which excited my warmest admiration; the few British seamen I had behaved with their, usual intrepidity, and as long as I was on deck the troops behaved with a calmness and a courage worthy of a more fortunate issue to their exertions.
The weather gage gave the enemy a prodigious advantage, as it enabled them not only to choose their position, but their distance also, which they did in such a manner as to prevent the carronades of the Queen Charlotte and Lady Prevost from having much effect; while their long guns did great execution, particularly against the Queen Charlotte. Captain Perry has behaved in a most humane and attentive manner, not only to myself and officers, but to all the wounded. I trust that, although unsuccessful, you will approve of the motives that induced me to sail under so many disadvantages, and that it may be hereafter proved that under such circumstances the honor of His Majesty's flag has not been tarnished. I enclose the list of killed and wounded.
I have the honor to be, etc.,
The letter of Lieutenant Inglis, which completes the official narrative, is as follows:
His MAJESTY'S LATE SHIP DETROIT,
I have the honor to transmit to you an account of the termination of the late unfortunate battle with the enemy's squadron.
On coming to the quarter deck, after your being wounded, the enemy's second brig, at that time on our weather beam, shortly after took a position on our weather bow to rake us; to prevent which, in attempting to wear, to get our starboard broadside to bear upon her, a number of the guns on the larboard broadside being at this time disabled, we fell on board the Queen Charlotte, at this time running up to leeward of us. In this situation the two ships remained for some time. As soon as we got clear of her, I ordered the Queen Charlotte to shoot ahead of us, if possible; and then attempted to back our fore-topsail to get astern, but the ship lying completely unmanageable, every brace cut away, the mizen topmast and gaff down, all the other masts badly wounded, not a stay left forward, hull shattered very much, a number of the guns disabled, and the enemy's squadron raking both ships ahead and astern, none of our own in a situation to support us, I was under the painful necessity of answering the enemy, to say we had struck, the Queen Charlotte having previously done so. I have the honor, etc.
Crews of the Two Squadrons. -- According to an American statement the British commander had 150 men from the Royal Navy, 80 Canadian sailors and 240 soldiers, mostly regulars, and some Indians, making with their officers a little more than 500 men, of whom at least 450 were efficient. The American crews -- of whom about one-fourth were from Rhode Island, one-fourth, regular seamen, American or cosmopolitan, about one-fourth raw volunteers from Pennsylvania, Ohio and (chiefly) Kentucky, and about one-fourth blacks -- numbered on the muster roll 490; but of these 116 were sick with bilious or "lake" fever, nearly all of whom were too weak to come on deck, so that the efficient force of the squadron was a little less than 400.
The American squadron suffered greatly, but more than two-thirds of the loss was on the Lawrence. She had 22 men killed and 61 wounded; the Niagara had 2 killed and 25 wounded; the Caledonia had 3 wounded; the Somers 2, and the Trippe 3; the Ariel had 1 killed and 3 wounded; and the Scorpion had 2 killed. The total loss was 27 killed and 96 wounded, of whom 3 died.
The British loss, which fell most heavily on the Detroit and the Queen Charlotte, amounted to 41 killed and 94 wounded.
It was aboard the Lawrence, which had borne the brunt of the conflict, that Perry decided the surrender of the several British captains should be formally made, and as they came on board it was necessary for them to pick their way over and among the dead and wounded men who had so nobly contributed to the victory of the day. Perry received them at the stern of his ship, permitting each British officer to retain his sword.
The capitulation having been completed, there was a sad duty to perform to the dead of the two squadrons. During the twilight of that day the bodies of the slain, except those of the officers, were wrapped in rude shrouds, and with a cannon ball at the feet of each were dropped one by one into the calm, blue and peaceful bosom of Lake Erie. Next day at 9 A. M. the two squadrons weighed anchor and sailed into Put-in-Bay harbor, and there, 24 hours afterward, on the margin of South Bass island, three American and three British officers were laid to rest. The American officers were Lieutenant Brooks and Midshipmen Lunt and Clarke, and the British officers were Captain Finnis and Lieutenants Stokoe and Garland.
Mr. Hambleton, purser of the Lawrence, was chosen prize agent, and a board of officers from Lake Ontario, assisted by Henry Eckford, prized the captured squadron at :$225,000. Commodore Chauncey, commander of the vessels on the lakes, received of this sum $12,750; Perry and Elliott each received $7,140; each commander of a gunboat, sailing master, lieutenant and captain of marines received $2,295; each midshipman, $811; each petty officer, $447; and each marine and sailor, $200. Congress voted Perry $5,000 additional, and also voted thanks and a gold medal to Perry and Elliott, and a silver medal to each of the nearest male relatives of Brooks, Clarke and Claxton (Lunt), who were killed. Three months' extra pay was voted to each of the commissioned officers of the navy and army, who served in the battle, and a sword to each of the midshipmen and sailing masters.
During the 11th of September, the next day after the battle, Commodore Perry visited the wounded Barclay on board his ship, the Detroit, and treated all .his prisoners with the greatest kindness, which was a great surprise to some, especially to a couple of Indians, who had hid themselves to keep out of his way. He then immediately prepared for the transportation of Harrison's troops to Canada, all the wounded Americans being first placed on the Lawrence and the wounded British on board the Detroit and Queen Charlotte. The Niagara and the lighter vessels were utilized as transports. On the 13th a furious storm swept over Lake Erie, during which the masts of the Detroit fell upon her deck, and the main and mizzen masts of the Queen Charlotte also fell. There were then three vessels all helpless, the Lawrence, the Detroit and the Queen Charlotte. All were converted into hospital ships. The Lawrence on the 21st sailed for Erie, and was soon followed by the other two. Arriving at Erie on the 23d, the Lawrence was greeted by a salute of seventeen guns.
The conduct of Captain Elliott in the engagement has been the subject of severe criticism. In the desire to keep unblemished the American joy at the victory and in the generous impulses of his nature, Perry in his official report had passed lightly over the delinquency of Captain Elliott. But there was common complaint among the officers and men of the other vessels, which gradually reached the ears of the public, and in after years occasioned much controversy. Elliott had a few defenders, among them J. Fenimore Cooper, the novelist, who, in his history of the battle of Lake Erie, gave Elliott chief credit for the victory. But the great mass of writers and readers kept undimmed in their memories the luster of Perry's fame.
The character of Elliott is thus portrayed by George Bancroft in his "Battle of Lake Erie": "Elliott was a young man, born the self-same year with Perry, his peer in rank as master-commandant, except that Perry, from having entered the navy in boyhood, was some years his senior in the service. How could he suffer the enemy undisturbed, to fall in numbers on one, whom he should have loved as a brother, whose danger he should have shared, in the brightness of whose glory he should have found new luster added to his own name ? Some attributed his delay to fear; but though he had so far one attribute of a timid man, that he was a noisy boaster, his conduct during the day, in the judgment of disinterested observers and critics, acquits him of having been spellbound by downright cowardice. Some charged him with disaffection to his country, from sympathy with family connections in Canada; but this is an imputation justified by no concurrent circumstances, or acts of his earlier or later life. Some thought him blinded by envy, which sews up the eyes with an iron thread, and leaves the mind to hover on an undis-cerning wing. He may, perhaps, have been disturbed by that unhappy passion, for a year before he had himself conspicuously won applause near Buffalo, and had then promised himself the command on Lake Erie, to be followed by a victory achieved under his own flag; that very morning, too, his first position had been in the van, but it had been very properly changed for the very purpose of placing him opposite to the Queen Charlotte. Elliott had inherent defects of character. He wanted the generous impulse, which delights in the fame of others; the delicacy of sentiment, which rejects from afar everything coarse and mean; the alertness of courage, which finds in danger an allurement; the quick perception, that sees the time to strike; the self-possessed will, which is sure to hit the nail on the head. According to his own account, he at first determined to run through the line in pursuit of the Queen Charlotte; and having a fair and sufficient breeze, he directed the weather braces to be manned for that purpose; but he changed his purpose when he observed the Lawrence was crippled and that her fire was slackening; and after a consultation with the purser, Magrath, who was an experienced seaman, he agreed: 'If the British affect the weather gauge, we are gone.' So he kept his place next in line to the Caledonia, which lingered behind, because she was a dull sailor, and, in the light wind, was, moreover, retarded in her movements by the zeal of Turner, her commander, to render service by his armament, which enabled him to keep up an effective fire from the distance. It was a part of Elliott's orders to close with the Queen Charlotte, but he held it to be his paramount duty to keep his place, a half-cable's length behind the Caledonia on the line as designated in the original order of battle, even though the flagship of the squadron might be cut to pieces. So Perry lay exposed to thrice his force, at the distance of fifteen hundred or a thousand feet, aided only by two schooners on his beam and the constant help of the Caledonia."
The same distinguished historian pays this tribute to Perry: "The personal conduct of Perry throughout the 10th of September was perfect. His keenly sensitive nature never interfered with his sweetness of manner, his fortitude, the soundness of his judgment, the promptitude of his decision. In a state of impassioned activity, his plans were wisely framed, were instantly modified as circumstances changed, and were executed with entire coolness and self-possession. The mastery of the lakes, the recovery of Detroit and the far West, the capture of the British army in the peninsula of Upper Canada, were the immediate fruits of his success. The imagination of the American people was taken captive by the singular incidents of a battle in which everything seemed to have flowed from the personal prowess of one man; and wherever he came the multitude went out to bid him welcome. Washington Irving, the chosen organ as it were of his country, predicted his ever-increasing fame. Rhode Island cherishes his glory as her own; Erie keeps the tradition that its harbor was his shipyard, its forests the storehouse for the frames of his chief vessels, its houses the hospitable shelter of the wounded among his crews; Cleveland graces her public square with a statue of the hero, wrought of purest marble, and looking out upon the scene of his glory; the tale follows the emigrant all the way up the Straits, and to the head of Lake Superior."
There is probably not to be found in the history of naval warfare an instance where the heroism of one man has shown with such transcendent luster over all others as that of Perry in the battle of Lake Erie. After fighting his own ship till 83 out of 101 were killed or wounded, he went to a fresh ship of the same size having only three men injured, took her into the thickest of the fight, and in seven minutes added 22 to the list, making 105 killed or wounded on the decks on which he stood.
The sailors of the Lawrence and Niagara, after the battle, it is related, were never expected to meet peaceably. The following scene was often enacted: An "Elliott" champion would maintain that the wind was light and they could not get up; the "Lawrence" man would allude to "the main top sail to the mast, and the jib brailed up," and immediately a trial of muscle would ensue, and blood flow unless prevented by by-standers.
Battle Heard at Cleveland. -- The distant boom of the cannon was heard at many points along Lake Erie. The Chronicler at Cleveland gives the following description of the scene at that little village: On the 10th of September, 1813, Levi Johnson and some of his hired hands were busy putting the finishing work on the rude court house, which he had contracted to build a year before. Some of them heard a noise in the distant west, which was at first supposed to be thunder. Looking up, they were surprised to see no clouds as far as the eye could reach, in every direction. The sounds continued. Suddenly Johnson exclaimed: "Its Perry's guns; he is fighting with the British." In a moment all the workmen by common consent threw down their hammers and nails, scrambled to the ground and hurried to the lake shore with their employer at their head. In a short time all the men of the village, with many of the women and the children, were gathered on the beach, listening to the sounds of battle. The scene of conflict was seventy miles distant, but the listeners could not only plainly hear the roll of the broadside, but when the fire slackened from time to time, could distinguish between the heavier and the lighter guns. At length there was only a dropping fire; one fleet had evidently succumbed to the other. Finally heavy shots were heard, and then all was silent.
"Perry has the heaviest guns," exclaimed Johnson; "those are Perry's shots -- he has won the day -- three cheers for Perry!!" "Hip, hip, hurrah !" promptly responded the crowd, willing to believe the assertion; but yet separating with anxious hearts, uncertain what might be the result. In fact, the English had some as heavy guns as the Americans, but not so many of that class.
Not only in Cleveland, but all along the lake shore, among the scattered inhabitants of Dover, Rockport, Brooklyn and Euclid, the sounds of battle were heard; the people soon divined that it was not thunder, and listened with mingled dread and hope to the deathnotes from the west. Nay, even as far east as Erie, Penn., a hundred and sixty miles from the scene, the sound of the conflict was heard, but merely as a low rumbling, which was supposed to be distant thunder. Soon the welcome news of victory was borne along the shore, and the people freely gave way to their exultation.
Effects of the Battle. -- As to the consequences of the victory of Perry over Barclay they can hardly be overestimated. The British abandoned all hope of retaining their possessions beyond Lake Erie, and General Proctor was reduced to the necessity of taking immediate measures for a retreat. He at once set about the destruction of Forts Detroit and Maiden, and the public buildings in Detroit and Amherstburg, and also all stores that it was impossible to carry away. He then began his retreat toward the Thames, up which his boats had preceded him. On the 27th of the month the American fleet, composed of sixteen vessels of war and upward of 100 boats, received General Harrison's division, and on the same day landed them three miles below Amherstburg, there being probably about 5,000 men in his command. General Proctor had about 1,330 soldiers, including 500 Indians. Harrison's army closely followed Proctor's retreating forces, and defeated them on the Thames.
On October 22, 1813, the Ariel sailed into Erie with Harrison and Perry on board, after the battle of the Thames. The Niagara arrived on the same evening, and other vessels soon arrived.
CANADIAN ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE.
To the above versions of the battle of Lake Erie is subjoined the following brief Canadian report, taken from a Toronto work: "On September 10, 1813, took place the memorable battle on Lake Erie between the American and British squadrons. The former was under the command of Commodore Perry, U. S. N., the latter under that of Commander Barclay, R. N. Barclay's force consisted of the Detroit, flagship, of 19 guns (she was a new vessel, and had only just been put upon the lake); the Chippewa, carrying two swivel guns and one long 18-pounder on a pivot; the brig Hunter, of 10 guns; the Queen Charlotte, 17 guns (she was under the command of Captain Finnis); the Lady Prevost, 13; and the Little Belt, of three guns. The United States fleet comprised nine vessels, namely: Perry's ship, the Lawrence, of 20 guns; the Scorpion, 2; the Caledonian, 3 (this vessel had previously been captured from the Canadians); the Niagara, 20; the Ariel, 4; the Trippe, Tigris, Ohio and Porcupine, of one gun each. The Americans had fewer guns than the Canadians, but they were of heavier calibre. Their ships, too, were well manned by nearly 600 picked men of the American merchant service. The Canadians, on the other hand, had only 50 experienced seamen among their six ships, while the rest of the crews were made up of 240 soldiers and 80 wholly untrained volunteer sailors.
"The ships did not come to close quarters until about 11 o'clock in the morning, then for more than four hours the battle continued. For some little time during the earlier part of the engagement the advantage was wholly with the Canadians. The guns from Barclay's ship had not only silenced those of the Lawrence, but also disabled her. Of her crew of 103 men no less than 22 had been killed and 61 wounded. Perry, perceiving his ship was useless, determined to abandon her. Wrapping his commodore's flag around him, he, in an open boat, made for the Niagara, which he reached safely, and was received on deck by her astounded commander, Captain Elliott. The latter, acting upon orders from Perry, put off from his ship in a small boat to bring the other American vessels into action.
"About this time the wind changed, and then was seen how lamentably deficient Barclay was in efficient seamen. His vessels from that cause soon became unmanageable. The Detroit and Queen Charlotte were entangled, and the Lady Prevost was wholly disabled. Barclay, commanding the Detroit, was seriously wounded. Finnis, the captain of the Charlotte, was killed, and all the other officers and three-fourths of the men were killed or wounded. It was not possible for Barclay to continue the fight with any hope of success, and at 3 o'clock in the afternoon his flag was lowered on the Detroit, and the whole fleet capitulated. In this terrible encounter the Americans lost 27 killed and 96 wounded; the Canadians lost 41 killed and 94 wounded. Barclay was paroled at first, then exchanged. Immediately this
was effected he, by the rules of the service, was tried by court-martial for the loss of the ships, the result being that he was fully and honorably acquitted of all blame."
When General Vincent received intelligence of the defeat of the British on the Thames he concentrated his forces at the head of Lake Ontario, and Proctor with the remnant of his army joined him there, on the 10th. Colonel Scott then placed Fort George in command of General McClure, who sent out foraging parties, which greatly alarmed and annoyed the inhabitants, and General Vincent when appealed to for protection sent about 400 British troops under Colonel Murray and about 100 Indians under Capt. M. Elliott, to drive the foragers away. The Americans were soon driven within their own lines by the British, who took possession of Twelve-Mile Creek (now St. Catharines). General McClure, feeling that his little garrison was in too great danger, resolved to abandon the post and place his garrison in Fort Niagara. He attempted to blow up Fort George, and set fire to the little village of Newark, destroying all the houses in it but one, 150 in all, turning the women and children out into to the cold. This was on the 10th of December, and the ground was covered with snow. McClure's men crossed the icy flood of the Niagara while the town was being destroyed.
The British resolved, on revenge. On December 18, a cold, black night, Colonel Murray crossed the Niagara with 1,000 men, British and Indians. With about half this force he went down to Fort Niagara, three miles below his crossing place, and there to his amazement found it unprepared for an attack. The fort was partially destroyed, but little resistance being possible. According to American historians Colonel Murray did not exercise any restraint over his troops, and they, in the fell spirit of revenge, put about 60 of the troops to the bayonet, some of whom were invalids. This work being performed on Sunday morning, December 19, Murray's force then plundered and destroyed the little village of Youngstown, near Fort Niagara. General Riall then crossed the Niagara river at Queenston Heights, sacked and destroyed the town of Lewiston, making it a perfect desolation, and killing at or near the place eight or ten of the inhabitants. His soldiers then pushed on to the little village of Manchester (now Niagara Falls), and then to Buffalo, destroying the entire American side of the river. The town of Buffalo was plundered and destroyed, only four buildings left standing in the place, one of them the jail, another Reese's blacksmith shop, a frame barn, and the residence of Mrs. St. John, who upon the approach of the Indians treated them with kindness. At Black Rock only one building escaped destruction, a log house in which the women and children had taken refuge.
The Ariel, the Little Belt, the Chippewa and the Trippe, all of which had been in the battle of Lake Erie, were committed to the flames. The result was that the British destroyed six villages, many isolated country houses, and four vessels, and killed many soldiers and others who were in no way connected with the destruction of the village of Newark. The losses of the British under General Riall were, according to his report, 31 killed and 72 wounded and nine missing. He said that the Americans lost between 300 and 400 killed and wounded and 130 prisoners.
The following disposition was made of the vessels which participated in the battle of Lake Erie: the Lawrence was repaired, and, after making a cruise to Lake Huron, was sunk in Misery bay for her better preservation. Many years later her stern was elevated and a portion secured for memorials. The Niagara, after being kept at Lake Erie many years as a receiving ship, was sunk near the Lawrence. The Ariel, Little Belt, Chippewa and Trippe, as related above, were destroyed when Buffalo was burned. The Detroit was sunk in Misery bay, near the Lawrence. She was, in 1835, raised and rigged a bark, by Captain Miles, and navigated the lake some years; she was finally purchased by a hotel keeper at Niagara Falls with the view of making a spectacle for visitors there on a summer day. A live bear was placed on board, together with some other animals, and she was set adrift above the rapids. A great crowd of people watched her from the banks of the river, expecting to see her go over the Falls, but she caught on the rocks and went to pieces. This was the end of the Detroit.
The Queen Charlotte was sunk in Misery bay, and afterward fitted out for the lake trade. The Lady Prevost was sold to R. S. Reed, and afterward resold to Grant & Kirby, merchants at Fort Erie, in Canada, who sailed her until she was worn out. The Hunter was sold and used in the merchant service. The Caledonia stranded below Erie, and was sold to John Dickson, who raised and rebuilt her and named her General Wayne. She was finally broken up at Erie. The Somers and Ohio were captured off Fort Erie, and used in Canadian merchant service. The Scorpion and Tigris were captured in 1814 on Lake Huron, and worn out there. The Porcupine was repaired and used until 1820, when she was transferred to the revenue service. Later she became a trading vessel, and eventually became the property of Barber & Mason, pioneer lumbermen on the Grand river, who used her in the lumber trade between Spring Lake, then called Mill Point, and Chicago. She was afterward sold to Ferry & Sons, who used her in their extensive lumber trade, until she became unseaworthy, and she was then sailed up into Spring Lake and allowed to sink in 1848. During her last year on the lakes her condition was such that Capt. Pat Mahoney was obliged to hire a new crew at every point, as it was a case of "pump ship" in order to keep afloat. Recently she was raised by E. C. Richards, principal of the Fruitport schools. The old condemned Amelia was taken to the little basin opposite Erie, and there went to decay.
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Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.