USS Enterprise - Lake Erie

USS Enterprise takes the HMS Boxer
September 5, 1813
 By William James

On September 5, 1813, the U.S. Brig Enterprise captured the HMS British Brig Boxer in a battle that took place in the waters off Monhegan Island, Maine. The Boxer's commander, 39 year old Captain Samuel Blyth, was killed in the opening exchange of cannon fire. USS Enterprise Lieutenant William Burrows was mortally wounded a short time later. Lieutenant Burrows, age 28, would not consent to being carried below until the end of the engagement, after which he accepted the British surrender.

On the 5th of September, at daylight, as the British brig sloop (late gun-brig), Boxer, of 12 carronades, 18-pounders, and two sixes, Captain Samuel Blyth, was lying at anchor near Penguin point, a few miles to the eastward of Portland in the United States, the American gun-brig Enterprise, of 14 canonades, 18-pounders, and two nines, Lieutenant-commandant William Burrows, was seen in the south-south-east. At 7:30 am , leaving her surgeon, two of her midshipmen, and an army officer, a passenger, on shore at Manhegan, “shooting pigeons,” the Boxer got under way, and, at 8:30 am, hoisting three English ensigns, bore up for the Enterprise, then standing on the larboard tack. 

At 9 am, the latter tacked and stood to the southward. At 9:30, when the two brigs were about four miles apart, it fell calm; and at 11:30 am, a breeze sprang up from the southward, which placed the American brig to windward. At 2 P.M. the Enterprise made sail on a wind, to try her rate of sailing with the Boxer; and, in half an hour, having clearly ascertained his advantage in this respect, as well as that the Boxer was inferior in size and force, Lieutenant Burrows hoisted three American ensigns, and firing a shot of defiance, bore up to engage.

At 3:15 pm the Boxer, being on the starboard tack, fired her starboard broadside, and immediately received the larboard broadside of the Enterprise in return; the two brigs then not more than half pistol-shot apart. In the very first broadside, an 18-pound shot passed through Captain Blyth’s body, and shattered his left arm. The command of the Boxer then devolved upon her only lieutenant, David M‘Creery. 

At about the same time a musket-ball fired from the Boxer mortally wounded Captain Burrows. At 3:30 pm the Enterprise, now commanded by Lieutenant Edward R. M‘Call, ranged ahead, and, rounding to on the starboard tack, raked the Boxer with her starboard guns, and shot away her main top mast and fore top sail-yard. The American brig then set her foresail, and, taking a position on the starboard bow of her now wholly unmanageable antagonist, continued pouring in successive raking fires until 3:45pm, when the Boxer surrendered.

The Boxer was much cut up in hull and spars, and, out of her 60 men (12 absent) and six boys, lost, besides her commander, three men killed, and 17 men wounded, four of them mortally. The Enterprise suffered very little injury in her hull and spars; but her rigging and sails were a good deal out. Out of her 120 men and three boys the American brig'lost one man killed, her commander, one midshipman (both mortally), and 11 men wounded, one of the latter mortally.

The established armament of the Boxer was 10 carronades; and that number, with her two six pounders, was as many as the brig could mount with effect or carry with ease. But when the Boxer was refitting at Halifax, Captain Blyth obtained two additional carronades: had he taken on board, instead of them, 20 additional seamen, the Boxer would have been a much more effective vessel. Against the English 18-pounder carronade, complaints have always been made, for its lightness and unsteadiness in action; but the American carronade of that caliber is much shorter in the breech, and longer in the muzzle: therefore it heats more slowly, recoils less, and carries farther. The same is the case, indeed, with all the varieties of the carronade used by the Americans; and they, in consequence, derive advantages in the employment of that piece of ordnance not possessed by the English, whose carronades are notoriously the lightest and most inefficient of any in use. 

If the English carronade, especially of the smaller calibers, had displayed its imperfections, as these pages have frequently shown that the English 13-inch mortar was in the habit of doing, by bursting after an hour or two’s firing, the gun must either have been improved in form, or thrown out of the service. While on the subject of carronades, we may remark, that even the few disadvantages in the carronade, which the Americans have not been able entirely to obviate, they have managed to lessen, by using not only stouter, but double, breechings; one of which, in case the ring-bolt should draw, is made to pass through the timberhead.

Although it was clearly shown, by the number of prisoners received out of her, that the Boxer commenced the action with only 66 men and boys, Captain Isaac Hull was so officious as to address a letter to Commodore Bainbridge at Boston, purposely to express his opinion, that the British brig had upwards of “100 men on board; for,” says Captain Hull, “I counted upwards of 90 hammocks.” As the American public did not know that, in the British service, every seaman and marine has two hammocks allowed him, this statement from one of their favourite naval officers produced the desired effect all over the republic, Washington not excepted.

The Boxer measured 181 tons and a fraction, the Enterprise at least 245 tons; and, while the bulwarks of the latter were built of solid oak, those of the former consisted, with the exception of one timber between each port, of an outer and an inner plank, pervious to every grape-shot that was fired. As a proof of the difference in the size of the two vessels, the mainmast of the Enterprise was 15 inches more in circumference than that of the Boxer, and her main yard upwards of 10 feet longer.

We will, however, admit that, but for the two fold disparity in their crews, these two vessels would have been a tolerably fair match. It was not in number of men only that the disparity existed; an acting-master’s mate, Hugh James, and three seamen, as proved at the court-martial assembled to try the surviving officers and crew for the loss of the Boxer, deserted their quarters in the action. So that, as the two midshipmen were absent, Lieutenant M‘Creery was the only officer left after the death of the captain, and the latter, it will be recollected, was killed in the first broadside; whereas the Enterprise, after her gallant commander fell, had still remaining two lieutenants, one or two master’s mates, and four midshipmen. 

Her crew, also, had evidently been well practiced at the guns; but the Boxer’s men appear to have known very little what use to make of their guns. The sentence of the court-martial refers particularly to this disgraceful circumstance. Upon the whole, the action of the Boxer and Enterprise was a very creditable affair to the Americans; but, excepting the Frolic’s action, and that it was the first engagement in which an’ American vessel had succeeded against a British vessel nearly equal to her in guns; and, even in this case, the American vessel was doubly superior in crew, better formed in every respect, nearly a third larger, and constructed, as we have already stated, of much stouter scantling.

On the 7th of September the gallant commanders of the two brigs were buried at Portland with military and civic honours;' and the few surviving officers of the Boxer, to testify their regard for their late commander, caused a tombstone, with a suitable inscription, to be placed over his grave. None of the praises lavished upon the “ fine brig-of-war Boxer” could gain her a place among the national vessels of the United States. She was put up to auction, and sold for a merchant-brig; for which service only, and that in peaceable times, she was ever calculated.

200th Aniversary Celebration

Battle of Lake Erie
By Alexander Slidell Mackenzie

Peter Maverick Engraving of Battle of Erie, Printed by Samuel Maverick, N.Y

The Battle  of Put-in-Bay was fought on 10 September 10th, 1813, in Lake Erie off the coast of Ohio during the War of 1812. The United States Navy defeated and captured six vessels of British Royal Navy. The success of these nine US vessels ensured American control of Lake Erie for the remainder of the war. This Battle of Lake Erie also enabled the United States to recover Detroit and win the Battle of the Thames breaking the Native American confederation formed by Tecumseh. It was one of the largest naval battles of the War of 1812.

With a crew that Commodore Perry once described as “a motley set, blacks, soldiers and boys,” the Americans met Britain’s powerful Royal Navy on Lake Erie. A flag flew above Perry’s ship, the Lawrence, emblazoned with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” This battle cry was the dying command, in an earlier battle, of Perry’s friend Captain James Lawrence for whom the ship was named.

In the middle of the battle, however, Perry abandoned the Lawrence because it had become disabled and two-thirds of its crew were casualties. Refusing to surrender, Perry was rowed to the Niagara and then commanded his squadron to an unprecedented victory. After the battle was won, Perry wrote a short report about the victory in a letter to Secretary of the Navy William Jones, shown above.

U.S. Brig Niagara off the Western Sister Head of Lake Erie,  
Sept. 10th, 1813 4 p.m.
It has pleased the Almighty to give to the arms of the United States a signal victory over their enemies on this Lake. The British squadron consisting of two ships, two brigs, one schooner & one sloop have this moment surrendered to the force under my command, after a sharp conflict.
I have the honor to be Sir Very Respectfully Your Obed. Servt.
O.H. Perry

ON the fourth of September Captain Perry despatched the Ohio to Erie for provisions and stores, with directions to hasten back, as her services would probably be required in a week. On the fifth, our squadron still continuing in Sandusky Bay, three citizens arrived from Malden, who communicated to Captain Perry that the British army under General Proctor being short of provisions, it had been determined that the squadron should sail to engage ours, and endeavour to open a communication with Long Point, so as to draw the necessary supplies from the depot at that place. Captain Perry now also received more accurate information than he had yet obtained as to the force of the enemy's squadron. From the information he then obtained, with what was afterward learned of the squadron, we will now state that it consisted of the new and very strongly-built ship Detroit, of five hundred tons and nineteen guns, all long except two twenty-four pound carronades; of the ship Queen Charlotte, of four hundred tons and seventeen guns, three of them being long guns, the Detroit and Queen Charlotte having each one of the long guns on a pivot; of the schooner Lady Prevost, of two hundred and thirty tons and thirteen guns, three being long guns; of the brig Hunter, of one hundred and eighty tons and ten guns; of the sloop Little Belt, of one hundred tons and three guns, two long twelves and one long eighteen; and of the schooner Chippeway, of one hundred tons, mounting one long eighteen; making in all sixty-three guns, thirty-five of which were long. 

The squadron was commanded by Captain Robert Heriot Barclay, a veteran officer, who had served with distinction in many of those naval engagements which had rendered the name and flag of England so terrible on the ocean, and who had been with Nelson at Trafalgar, and been desperately wounded in that ever-memorable seafight; more recently, as first lieutenant of a frigate, he had lost an arm in action with the French. He was a skilful seaman, and an officer of approved courage. He was seconded by a brave and experienced officer in Captain Finnis, with others of honourable standing in their profession. He had, within a day or two, received a draught of fifty men from the Dover troop-ship, then lying at Quebec, and his crews now consisted of one hundred and fifty men from the royal navy, as admitted in the finding of the court-martial on Commodore Barclay, with, according to James's statement, eighty Canadian sailors, and two hundred and forty soldiers from the forty-first regiment of the line and the regiment of Newfoundland Rangers, chiefly from the former; making together, by their own account, an aggregate of four hundred and seventy seamen and soldiers, to whom are to be added thirty-two officers known to have been in the squadron, making in all five hundred and two souls.

Of our vessels, mounting in all fifty-four guns, only the Lawrence and Niagara, each of five hundred tons, could be considered men-of-war. The others were exceedingly frail, and without bulwarks. They were chiefly armed with long guns. The brigs mounted each twenty guns, eighteen thirty-two pound carronades and two long twelves. They constituted the main dependence of the squadron, and could only be effective against an enemy chiefly armed with long guns by coming at once to close action. The second in command of the American squadron was Captain J. D. Elliott, who had recently superseded Lieutenant D. Turner in the command of the Niagara, on the eve of sailing from Erie. The other officers were very young men, of little experience though of great promise, and sailing-masters taken from the merchant service, chiefly selected by Captain Perry from among his fellow-townsmen, and all of whom did great credit to his selection, and proved most worthy of his confidence. The whole force in officers and men of our squadron amounted to four hundred and ninety; of these, one hundred and sixteen were on the sick-lists of the different vessels on the morning of the action, seventyeight cases being of bilious fever. There were a greater number of so-called seamen among them than in the British squadron, but they were such as remained from the draughts sent to Lake Ontario after the best materials had been selected. They were of all colours and climes, reduced in numbers and emaciated by disease. 

The Kentucky volunteers were stout fellows, it is true, with gallant spirits, but utter strangers to ships, and unaccustomed to discipline. Those who have been accustomed to look upon the picked soldiers of a British regiment will readily believe that the soldiers embarked in the British squadron were not less stout than the Kentuckians. They had been trained to subordination by years of service, while their voyages to every clime whither the ambition of England carries her triumphant arms had made them familiar with the ocean, and at home on shipboard. The physical force, like the force in ships and number of guns was greatly in favour of the English. A consideration of the intelligence thus obtained as to the enemy's superiority did not check Captain Perry's oftrepeated desire to meet him. It was not in his nature to neglect the advice of Commodore Chauncey, however tauntingly given, however well suited to increase his responsibility in the event of failure, "Never despise your enemy!" But if he did not despise his enemy, he had yet a just sense of his own resources, a proper confidence in himself. He shared, in a degree in no respect inferior, the feeling which made all things possible to Nelson, which impelled Paul Jones to enterprises of such seeming hardihood.

On the receipt of this intelligence of Barclay's preparations to encounter him, Perry set sail from Sandusky on the sixth of September, and, after reconnoitring the enemy off Malden, and observing that he was still at his moorings, returned to Put-in Bay, which offered so many facilities for watching his movements. Here the last preparations were made for battle, the last instructions given to regulate the conduct of the subordinate commanders. The commanders of the various vessels, being summoned by signal on board the Lawrence, were each furnished with Perry's corrected instructions for their government; and he farther explained to them verbally his views with regard to whatever contingency might occur. He now produced a battle-flag, which he had caused to be privately prepared by Mr. Hambleton before leaving Erie, and the hoisting of which to the main royal mast of the Lawrence was to be his signal for action: a blue flag, bearing, in large white letters, "Don't give up the ship!" the dying words of the hero whose name she bore. When about to withdraw, he stated to them his intention to bring the enemy from the first to close quarters, in order not to lose by the short range of his carronades; and the last emphatic injunction with which he dismissed them was, that he could not, in case of difficulty, advise them better than in the words of Lord Nelson, "If you lay your enemy close alongside, you cannot be out of your place!"

Every preparation had thus been made to meet the enemy, and the young commander had done all that depended upon him to secure a triumph for his country. The crew were all well stationed, had become thoroughly practised at the guns, and felt something of the confidence which familiarity with the weapons they were to use inspires. The sickness, however, had extended itself throughout the fleet, and operated as a great discouragement. On the eighth, all the medical officers were ill but Dr. Parsons, who, though but half recovered, had returned to duty. He was obliged to be carried twice through the rain, which continued the whole day, to see the surgeon and the other sick of the Niagara. By Dr. Parsons' advice, the water used by the crews was boiled; it being thought that the prevailing dysentery, and perhaps the fever, were caused by the use of the lake water.

The British commander, who had shown a chivalrous spirit throughout, did not long keep his antagonist in suspense. At sunrise on the morning of the tenth of September, the British squadron was discovered from the masthead of the Lawrence, on the northwestern board, standing towards Put-in Bay, in which our squadron was lying. Barclay's object was evidently attack, not an uninterrupted passage to Long Point, which he could certainly have had; and if battle was only an alternative with him, to be risked in extremity when it could no longer be avoided, he could have risked it on his return with supplies for the army, if it could no longer be avoided. Barclay, choosing his time, might have sailed out along the Canada shore to the northward of all the islands in the night, and got well to the eastward down the lake before Perry's look-out vessels which he kept off the Sister Islands, could have advised him of the enemy being out. But he bore gallantly down to engage, choosing his time so as to have a long day before him, coming more than half way towards his enemy, and offering him battle on his own coast. This fact is interesting, setting completely at rest the pretension to any inferiority of force on the part of the British, never set up by Barclay or his officers at the time, and only since produced by disingenuous and unfaithful historians, endeavoring systematically to account, by an alleged superiority of force, for a victory that, at any rate in this instance, was effected by superior gunnery, and the extraordinary mental resources of the victorious commander.

The fact of the British squadron being in sight of the masthead was at once reported to Perry by Lieutenant Dulany Forrest, the officer of the deck on board the Lawrence. He ordered the signal made "under way to get!" In a few minutes the whole squadron was under sail, beating out of the harbor against a light breeze from southwest, and with the boats ahead to tow.

Map of Lake Frontier to Illustrate Campaigns of 1812-1814 From Sea Power in Its Relations to the War of 1812.  by A.T. Mahan,Circa 1905 

Snake Island and some other islands of the Bass group interposed between our squadron and the enemy. By beating round to windward of these islands, our squadron would have had a leading breeze to run down upon the enemy, and, consequently, the weather-gauge in the approaching battle. With this view the squadron had commenced beating out. The wind, however, was very unsteady, and, as not infrequently happens on such occasions, it headed the squadron off almost every time it crossed the channel and was obliged to tack. Several hours had passed in this way. It was near ten o'clock, when Captain Perry, now become impatient, addressed his sailing-master, Mr. Taylor, who was working the Lawrence, and asked his opinion as to the probable time that would still be required to weather the islands. When Mr. Taylor's reply confirmed the opinion he had himself formed of the probable delay that this evolution would occasion, Perry told the master he would wear ship, and run to leeward of the islands. Mr. Taylor remarked that they would then have to engage the enemy from to leeward. 

Captain Perry replied, "I don't care, to windward or to leeward, they shall fight to-day!" The signal was accordingly made to wear ship; but, before the evolution was performed, the wind shifted suddenly to southeast, and enabled the squadron to clear the island and keep the weather-gauge. The anecdote is illustrative of Perry's fixed determination to fight. With an armament composed chiefly of carronades, in surrendering the weather-gauge to a squadron having a preponderance of long guns, he gave up the ability, in a great measure, to choose the distance at which he would fight the enemy, which, with such relative armaments, was an advantage of no slight importance. Still he was aware that, with an enemy so gallantly seeking an encounter, the lee-gauge had also its advantages. It would have enabled him, while the enemy was bearing down, to rake him for a period more or less long, according to the strength of the breeze, with his whole broadsides, while the enemy would only be able to assail him from his bow-chasers; it would have enabled him, moreover, to form his squadron in a compact line, so essential to such a mixed force, and await the necessarily more disordered attack of the enemy. The lee-gauge, too, would have afforded great facility for relieving disabled vessels, by permitting them to drop under cover of the line, or might have enabled the whole squadron, if worsted in a first encounter, to run to leeward, form a fresh line of battle, and engage a second time with increased chances of success.

At ten o'clock the Lawrence was cleared for action, shot collected in the racks and in circular grummets of rope, pistols and cutlasses brought by the boarders to quarters, preventer braces rove, matches lit, and the decks wet and sanded, to prevent the explosion of scattering powder, and create a secure foothold amid the approaching carnage. At this hour the enemy, having lost all hope of obtaining the weather-gauge by maneuvering, and observing our squadron coming out, hove to in line of battle on the larboard tack, with the heads of his vessels to the southward and westward. The wind continued light from southeast, enabling the vessels to advance at the rate of near three knots an hour; the weather was serene, and the lake perfectly still. There had been a slight rain in the morning; but, with the shift of wind, the clouds had blown away, and the day assumed all the splendor of our early autumn. 

The British vessels were freshly painted and in high condition; being hove to in close order, with the morning sun shining upon their broadsides, and their red ensigns gently unfolding to the breeze, they made a very gallant appearance as our squadron bore down to engage them, with the wind on the larboard quarter. It was now discovered that Barclay had formed his line with the Chippeway, of one long eighteen on a pivot, in the van; the Detroit, of nineteen guns, second in the line; the Hunter, of ten guns, 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 now remodeled his line of battle, so as to bring his heaviest vessels opposite to their designated antagonists. Claiming for himself the- most formidable -vntagonist, he passed ahead of the Niagara so as to encounter the Detroit, and stationed the Scorpion, of two long guns, ahead, and the Ariel, of four short twelves, on his weather bow, where, with her light battery, and having, like the other small vessels, no bulwarks, she might be partially under cover. The Caledonia, of three long twenty-fours, came next, to encounter the Hunter; the Niagara next, so as to be opposite her designated antagonist, the Queen Charlotte; and the Somers, of two long thirty-twos, the Porcupine, of one long thirty-two, Tigress, of one long twenty-four, and Trippe, of one long thirty-two, in succession towards the rear, to encounter the Lady Prevost and Little Belt. 

The line being formed, Perry now bore up for the enemy, distant at ten o'clock about six miles. He now produced the lettered burgee which, at the last assembly of his commanders to receive their instructions, he had exhibited as the concerted signal for battle. Having unfurled it, he mounted on a gun-slide, and, calling his crew about him, thus briefly addressed them: "My brave lads! this flag contains the last words of Captain Lawrence! Shall I hoist it?" "Ay! ay! sir!" resounded from every voice in the ship, and the flag was briskly swayed to the main royal masthead of the Lawrence. The encouragement of these few brief words, and, still more, the mild and cheerful smile with which they were uttered; the habitual expression of his countenance, which gave such a winning fascination to his manners, imparted a rare spirit and alacrity to the crew; they responded to their young and beloved commander's appeal with three hearty and enthusiastic cheers, which, as the battle-flag unfolded and became visible to the crews of the other vessels, were responded to enthusiastically throughout the line. In this moment of heroic excitement, all the sick that were capable of motion came on deck to offer their feeble services in defense of their country; not a little excited thereto by the reflection that their young commander, reduced, like themselves, by a wasting disease, and hardly recovered, was standing bravely at his post.

As the ordinary mealtime was certain to find them engaged, the noonday grog was now served, and the bread-bags freely resorted to; after which all repaired once more to their quarters. Perry now went round the deck carefully examining his battery gun by gun, to see that everything was in ample order, stopping at each and exchanging words with the captain. For all he had some pleasant joke, some expression of encouragement. Seeing some of the Constitution's, he said to them, "Well, boys! are you ready?" "All ready, your honour!" was the brief reply, with a general touch of the hat or the handkerchief which some of the old salts had substituted for their more cumbrous trucks. "But I need not say anything to you," he added; " you know how to beat those fellows." Passing on, he exclaimed, with a smile of recognition, "Ah! here are the Newport boys! they will do their duty, I warrant!"

The British and American squadrons at the start of the Battle of Lake Erie. Source: Theodore Roosevelt, The Naval War of 1812, 4th edition, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1897

A dead silence of an hour and a half succeeded, during which our squadron continued slowly to approach the enemy, steering for the head of his line on a course forming about half a right angle with it, the headmost vessels under easy sail, the others with everything set. Every preparation for battle had been long since made. The interval of inactivity, so trying to the warrior, was passed in silence, or in low and brief requests, among officers and men, to render to each other, in case of death, some office of friendship, the survivor to take charge of the effects of the deceased, or to break to his relations the news of their bereavement. Perry gave Mr. Hambleton, who stood near him in charge of the after guns, directions how to act with regard to his private affairs in the event of his death. He leaded his public papers in readiness to be thrown overboard, and destroyed his private ones. "It appeared," says Mr. Hambleton, "to go hard with him to part with his wife's letters. After giving them a hasty reading, he tore them to ribands, observing that, let what would happen, the enemy should not read them, and closed by remarking, ' this is the most important day of my life.'

The suspense, though long, had its end. Suddenly a bugle was heard to sound on board the Detroit, the. signal for loud and concerted cheers throughout the British squadron. Soon after, being a quarter before meridian, the enemy's flag ship Detroit, then distant about a mile and a half, commenced the action by firing a single shot at the Lawrence, which did not take effect. Signal was now made for each vessel to engage her opponent, as designated in previous orders. 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. In addition to the inferiority of our force, we had a serious disadvantage from its being broken up into greater numbers. The line of battle prescribed half a cable's length for the distance of the vessels from each other, the least, probably, that could have been adopted. Hence, having three more vessels than the enemy, our line necessarily overspread his not less than one thousand feet. Thus, besides all the other disadvantages of the inferior size of our vessels, the enemy could bring to bear upon them a heavier battery in a smaller space, and thus, being stronger at any given point, had a greater superiority even than his nominal one.

The second shot from a long gun of the Detroit, five minutes later than the first, took effect on the Lawrence as she fanned down towards the enemy, passing through both bulwarks, when fire was also opened from the long guns of all the British squadron, which, as they lay drawn up in line of battle, did not materially differ in distance from the Lawrence and the two schooners on her weather bow. At five minutes before meridian, the Lawrence, beginning to suffer considerably from the enemy's fire, returned it from her long twelve pounder, when the schooners on the weather bow, being ordered by trumpet to commence the action, and the Caledonia and Niagara astern, likewise opened their fire with their long guns. The sternmost vessels soon after opened also, but at too great a distance to do much injury.

Owing to the superiority of the enemy in long guns—the entire armament of the Detroit, with the exception of two carronades, being of this description —this cannonade was greatly to the disadvantage of the Lawrence, against which the British fire was chiefly directed. In order to hasten the moment when his carronades would take effect, and enable him to return more fully the fire of the enemy, Perry now made all sail again, and ordered the word to be passed by trumpet for the vessels astern to close up and take their stations. The order was responded to and transmitted along the line by Captain Elliott, of the Niagara, whose vessel was stationed next but one astern of the Lawrence, and was therefore, at the commencement of the action, quite near the commodore, and in a position to accompany him in closing with the enemy. The Niagara did not, however, make sail with the Lawrence, and accompany her down into close action, but continued at long shots, using only her long twelve-pounder.

Meantime, the Lawrence fanned slowly down towards the enemy, suffering terribly. At meridian, supposing himself within range of the carronades, he luffed up and fired the first division on the starboard side. Discovering that his shot did not tell, he bore away again, and continued steadily to approach the enemy until a quarter past meridian, when he opened his whole starboard broadside, and still continued to approach until within about three hundred and fifty yards, when he hauled up on a course parallel to that of the enemy, and opened a rapid and most destructive fire on the Detroit. So steady had been the approach of the Lawrence in bearing down, and so unwavering the purpose of her commander, that the enemy had apprehended an intention to board. Captain Perry's only object had been to get the enemy within effective reach of his carronades, who hitherto had derived great advantage from his superiority in long guns; and a half hour of almost unresisted cannonade upon the Lawrence, from twenty long guns which the British squadron showed on one side in battery, caused great carnage and destruction on board of her.

Nevertheless the action was now commenced from her with spirit and effect; and, notwithstanding the overpowering odds with which she was assailed, the whole battery of the enemy, amounting, in all, to thirty-four guns, being almost entirely directed against her, she continued to assail the enemy with steady and unwavering effort. In this unequal contest she was nobly sustained by the Scorpion and Ariel on her weather bow, which, being but slightly noticed by the enemy or injured by his shot, were enabled to direct their fire upon him with sure aim and without interruption. The commander of the Caledonia, animated by the same gallant spirit and sense of duty, followed the Lawrence into close action, and closed with her antagonist, the Hunter; but the Niagara, which, when the battle began, had been within hail of the Lawrence, did not follow her down towards the enemy's line so as to encounter her antagonist, the Queen Charlotte. She had not made sail when the Lawrence did; but got embarrassed with the Caledonia, instead of passing astern and to leeward of her to close with the Queen Charlotte, which was next to the Hunter. Captain Elliott hailed the Caledonia, and ordered Lieutenant D. Turner to bear up and make room for him to pass. Though this officer was in the station assigned to him astern of the Lawrence, and pressing down to engage his antagonist, the brig Hunter, yet he obeyed the order of his superior, without stopping to inquire whether that superior, as a subordinate like himself, had a right to give an order involving a change in the order of battle. 

Lieutenant Turner at once put his helm up, and made room for the Niagara by bearing down towards the enemy. Captain Elliott did not, however, follow in the Niagara, but sheered to windward, and, by brailing up his jib and backing his main topsail, balanced the efforts of his sails so as to keep his vessel stationary, and prevent her approaching the enemy. The Niagara did not, therefore, approach the enemy's line near enough to use her carronades, but remained at long shots, firing only her long twelve-pounder, doing little injury, and receiving less from casual shots aimed at the Lawrence and Caledonia, of which she was partially under cover.
At half past twelve, the Queen Charlotte, finding that she could not, with her light guns, engage her expected antagonist, the Niagara, on account of her distance off, filled her main topsail, and, passing the Hunter, closed up astern of the Detroit, and opened her fire at closer quarters upon the Lawrence. In this unequal contest, the Lawrence continued to struggle desperately against such overpowering numbers. The first division of the starboard guns was directed against the Detroit, and the second against the Queen Charlotte, with an occasional shot from her after gun at the Hunter, which lay on her quarter, and with which the Caledonia continued to sustain a hot though unequal engagement. The Scorpion and Ariel, from their stations on the weather bow of the Lawrence, made every effort that their inconsiderable force allowed. The Niagara had taken a station, as we have seen, which prevented her from firing, except with her long gun, on the sternmost of the enemy's vessels. The small vessels at the rear of our own line were too remote to do more than keep up a distant cannonade with the nearest vessels of the enemy.

Oliver Hazard Perry. Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, Circa 1818

Overwhelming as was the superiority of the force directed against the Lawrence, being in the ratio of thirty-four guns to her ten in battery, she continued, with the aid of the Scorpion, Ariel, and Caledonia, to sustain the contest for more than two hours, her fire being kept up with uninterrupted spirit, so long as her guns continued mounted and in order. Never was the advantage of thorough training at the guns more exemplified than in the case of the Lawrence. The surgeon remarks that he could discover no perceptible difference in the rapidity of the firing of the guns over his head during the action; throughout, the actual firing seemed as rapid as in exercise before the battle. By this time, however, her rigging had been much shot away, and was hanging down or towing overboard, sails torn to pieces, spars wounded and falling upon deck, braces and bowlines cut, so as to render it impossible to trim the yards or keep the vessel under control. Such was the condition of the vessel aloft; on deck the destruction was even more terrible. One by one the guns were dismounted, until only one remained that could be fired; the bulwarks were so entirely beaten in that the enemy's round shot passed completely through. 

The slaughter was dreadful, beyond anything recorded in naval history. Of one hundred well men who had gone into action, twenty-two were killed and sixty-one wounded. The killed were hastily removed out of the way of the guns, and the wounded passed below and crowded together on the berth-deck. It was impossible for Doctor Parsons, the assistant surgeon of the Lawrence, the only medical officer who was in health to perform duty in the squadron, to attend to such a press of wounded; bleeding arteries were hastily secured, shattered limbs supported by splints, and those that were nearly severed by cannon-balls hastily removed. Owing to the shallowness of these vessels, the wounded were necessarily all above the water-line, and exposed to be again struck by cannon-balls passing through the vessel's side; thus, midshipman Laub, while moving away from the surgeon, with a tourniquet on his arm, to resume his duties upon deck, was struck by a cannon-ball, which traversed his chest; and a Narraganset Indian, named Charles Poughigh, was killed in like manner by a cannon-ball after his leg had been taken off. 

Perry had a favorite spaniel on board the Lawrence, which had been left in a state-room below to be out of the way. The confinement, the noise, and the groans of the wounded, terrified the poor animal, and at each discharge it growled and barked with affected rage, or howled most piteously. In the course of the action, a shot passed through the bulkhead and left a large hole, through which the dog immediately thrust its head, yelping terribly for release. Its strange manoeuvres were too much for the gravity even of the suffering wounded, and some of them broke forth into loud and intemperate laughter. Meantime Perry continued to keep up a fire from his single remaining carronade, though to man it he was obliged to send repeated requests to the surgeon to spare him another hand from those engaged in removing the wounded, until the last had been taken. It is recorded by the surgeon, that when these messages arrived, several of the wounded crawled upon deck to lend a feeble aid at the guns. At length the commander's own personal aid, with that of the purser, Mr. Hambleton, and chaplain, Mr. Breese, was necessary to fire this sole remaining gun, and it, too, was at last disabled.

The conduct of Perry throughout this trying scene was such as to inspire the most unbounded confidence in his followers, and to sustain throughout their courage and enthusiasm. Free from irritation and undue excitability, the necessary orders were given with precision, and obeyed with steady alacrity. Undismayed amid the surrounding carnage, calm, collected, and even cheerful, his eye became the rallying-point to which those of his followers reverted after each new disaster, and received from its electric flash a kindred encouragement. After the fearful havoc which would occasionally be made among a gun's crew by a single round shot, or a stand of grape or canister, the survivors would for a moment turn to Perry, exchange a glance with him, and step into the places of their comrades. Those that lay weltering on the deck, some in the agony of expiring nature, would contrive to get their faces towards him, and, fixing their eye upon his, seem to seek, as an only reward for that life's blood which was ebbing away in the cause of their country, an assurance that they had done their duty. They seemed to die cheerfully in the consciousness that, if they had fallen, his more important life was still spared to secure the triumph of their country.

The humane heart of the commander could not yield to the painful feelings which this spectacle, under other circumstances, would have rendered overpowering. The animating sense of the responsibility that weighed upon him, and confidence in his own resources, enabled him to maintain his cheerfulness. In the hottest of the fight, Yarnall, the first lieutenant, came to Perry, and told him that the officers in the first division under his command were all killed or disabled. Yarnall had received a wound in the forehead and another in the neck, from which the blood flowed profusely over his face and person, while his nose, which had been struck by a splinter, was swollen to a most portentous size. Perry, after expressing some good-humored astonishment at his tragi-comical appearance, sent him the required aid; but soon after he returned with the same complaint of a destruction of his officers, to which he replied, "You must endeavour to make out by yourself; I have no more to furnish you." In addition to the other oddities of Yarnall's appearance, some of the hammocks were struck in the nettings, and the contents of the mattresses, chiefly stuffed with the down of flag-tops or cat-tails, were distributed in the air, having much the appearance of falling snow. This substance, lighting on Yarnall's face and adhering to the blood, gave it, as Dr. Parsons describes it, the appearance of a huge owl. When he went below at the close of the action, even the wounded were moved to merriment by his ludicrous appearance, and one of them exclaimed, "The devil has come for his own."

Another incident is characteristic of the calm cheerfulness of Perry and of his officers. Dulany Forrest, the second lieutenant, was standing immediately beside Perry, attending to his division, when a grape-shot struck him in the breast, and he fell upon the deck. Perry raised him up, and, observing no appearance of injury—for the shot had spent its force—uttered some cheering assurance to Forrest that he could not be hurt. The lieutenant, who had only been stunned, presently became conscious; and, pulling out the shot, which had lodged in the bosom of his waistcoat, put it quietly in his pocket, replying, "No, sir, I am not hurt, but this is my shot!" Several cases occurred, during this scene of carnage, in which men were shot down while in the act of speaking to the commander. One of these was that of a captain of a gun, which was somewhat out of order, whom Perry had approached to offer assistance. The sailor, who was a noble-looking fellow, being one of the "Constitution's," was in the act of drawing himself up, with a fine, sailor like air, to fire, when a twenty-four pound shot passed through his body, and he fell without a groan at the feet of his commander.

Another incident no less painfully illustrates the carnage which occurred on the deck of the Lawrence, and the destruction by which her commander was so closely surrounded. The command of the marines of the Lawrence was entrusted to Lieutenant John Brooks, a gay, amiable, and intelligent young officer, whose numerous good qualities were enhanced in their effects by the rarest personal beauty. He was addressing Perry with a smile, and in an animated tone, with regard to the battle, when a cannon ball struck him in the thigh, shattering him in the most horrible manner, and carrying him to the other side of the deck. The sudden torment of his wound wrung from him piercing cries. He implored his commander to relieve him from pain too great for endurance by shooting him dead. Perry ordered some of the marines to take him below. Ere this could be effected, a mulatto boy, only twelve years old, who was Brooks's servant, came with a cartridge to a neighboring gun, and, seeing Brooks down, threw himself on the deck with frantic cries, exclaiming that his master was killed. When Brooks was taken below, he returned sobbing to his duty. One occurrence for a moment during the action disturbed the settled equanimity of Perry. He beheld his young brother, then but twelve years old, who had already, during the action, received two musket balls through his hat, and had his clothes torn by splinters, suddenly struck down at his side by a hammock torn from the nettings by a cannon ball. Fortunately, the shot itself had missed him. He was only stunned; and, in a few moments, his anxious brother had the satisfaction of seeing him return to his duty.

At length, about half past two, when the last gun of the Lawrence had become disabled and unfit for farther use—when, of all his crew, Captain Perry could only find throughout his vessel eighteen persons, besides his little brother and himself, undisabled by wounds—it became evident to him that he must have recourse to other means within his command in order to win the battle. Repeatedly during the engagement, Mr. Taylor, whose duty as sailing-master placed him beside the commander, to manoeuvre the Lawrence under his orders, had asked Perry if he observed the conduct of the Niagara, which was lying far to windward, out of reach of the Queen Charlotte, her antagonist, and the very different conduct of the little Caledonia, which had so gallantly borne down to relieve the Lawrence from the enemy's fire. Similar remarks were made among themselves by the officers and crew. The wounded, as they went below, and were asked for news of how the day was going, each had the same tale to relate of the Niagara keeping aloof and failing to relieve the Lawrence from the fire of the Queen Charlotte. As, then, the last gun of the Lawrence became useless, and the ship, now an unmanageable wreck, was beginning to drop astern, Captain Perry was looking around, as the smoke cleared away, to estimate the ideal condition of his resources, when Lieutenant Forrest again called his attention to the strange manoeuvres of the Niagara, at this time on the larboard beam of the Lawrence, directly opposite to the enemy, while the Caledonia was passing the starboard beam between the Lawrence and the enemy. "That brig," said Forrest, " will not help us; see how he keeps off, he will not come to close action." "I'll fetch him up," was the commodore's reply; and he immediately ordered his boat. He remarked that the Niagara did not appear to be much injured, and that the American flag should not be hauled down from over his head on that day. Giving Mr. Yarnall command of the Lawrence, Perry stepped down the larboard gangway into his boat, telling his officers, as he shoved off, with the prophetic confidence of a hero conscious of his powers, "If a victory is to be gained, I'll gain it!"

At half past two, when Perry left the Lawrence, the Niagara was passing her weather or larboard beam at the distance of nearly half a mile. The breeze had freshened, her main topsail was filled, and she was passing the British squadron rapidly. Elated with the prospect of getting on board of this fresh vessel, and trying his prowess upon the host of enemies, whose efficiency his previous desperate resistance had essentially diminished, he went off in gallant style and full of ardour from the Lawrence, standing erect in his boat, and urging his crew to give way cheerily. The enemy, observing this movement, quickly penetrated his design; and apprehending the consequences of the Niagara, then entirely fresh, passing under the immediate command of the superior officer, who had fought the Lawrence with such skill and obstinacy against the whole British squadron for more than two hours and a half, they immediately directed a fire of great guns and musketry at his boat, and exerted all their energies to destroy it. Several of the oars were splintered, the boat was traversed by musket balls, and the crew covered with spray from the round shot and grape that were striking the water on every side. Perry, unconscious or unmindful of the danger, continued to stand erect, until his brave crew implored him not to expose himself; and, losing for a moment their sense of subordination in sympathy for his danger and anxiety for the periled glory of their country, threatened to lay upon their oar unless he sat down. Thus entreated, he yielded to their wishes; and they gave way with a hearty good-will. The breeze had now freshened, and the Niagara, having set her foresail, was ranging rapidly past the enemy, in a direction which would soon have carried her entirely out of the action. With all the exertions of the boat's crew, nearly fifteen minutes were passed in reaching the Niagara.

By none of the squadron was this critical movement so anxiously watched as by the fourteen brave fellows who alone remained unhurt of the officers and crew of the Lawrence; the life of their beloved commander, tenfold endeared to them by their recent observance of his heroism; the fate of the day; the glory of their country; and their own condition as prisoners or victors, all dependant on that life, wrought their feelings to the most intense and painful sympathy. Powerless to do anything for their own protection or for the farther annoyance of the enemy, they clustered along the weather bulwarks of the Lawrence, and watched each dip of the oars that were carrying Perry along at a rate which seemed slow to their impatience; each ball that seemed destined to destroy him would have been more welcome to themselves. But he moved on unscathed, as amid the wreck of the Lawrence. And now they see him cross the gangway of the Niagara, and their joy bursts forth in enthusiastic cheers.

The feelings of the few survivors and wounded of the Lawrence were thus relieved from a painful solicitude amounting to agony. They felt that all was now safe, and that they had not fought, nor their less fortunate shipmates bled and died in vain. While this crisis had absorbed them, the brig, with her colors still flying, had continued to be a principal object for the enemy's fire. It became the duty of Lieutenant Yarnall, as commander, to spare the farther destruction of the brave fellows entrusted to him, and the frightful slaughter of the wounded below. He had a brief consultation with the second lieutenant, Dulany Forrest, and Sailing-master W. V. Taylor, and, with their concurrence, determined to surrender. It may be here remarked that all three of these officers were wounded, though continuing at their posts. The colours were therefore hauled down. Their descent was greeted by cheers from all the British vessels, the crews of which appeared exultingly on their weather bulwarks, waving triumphant defiance at their enemies. But the hope was delusive. The first act was over, and its close had imparted to the British an unsubstantial encouragement; the second was to terminate in a catastrophe not less brilliant than they might have anticipated, but far different. On the berth-deck of the Lawrence, the explanation of the British cheers by the surrender of their vessel had filled the hearts of the wounded, with which the deck was literally covered, with the deepest despondency. The assistance of the humane and indefatigable young surgeon was rejected, and scarcely any exclamations met his ear but "Sink the ship! Let us all sink together!" 

Such is the desire to conquer, such the heroism of Americans, when trained and inspired by a hero. It was in the midst of this despondency that the chivalrous young Brooks, whose life-blood had been fast ebbing away, breathed forth a spirit worthy of the fair temple in which it was enshrined. Mr. Samuel Hambleton, purser of the Lawrence, who had preferred a post of danger on deck to the usual station of his grade in charge of passing powder below, had received a severe wound in the shoulder, by which it was completely shattered, while working by the side of his noble commander, like a common sailor, at the last gun. For want of space in the wardroom, Hambleton was laid on the same mattress with Brooks, face to face with his dying messmate and friend. The intense suffering which had impelled him, in the first moment of being struck, to ask for death at the hand of his commander, had passed away, and he lay calmly expecting his end. Never before had Hambleton been so much impressed with his surpassing beauty. While the fever from his wound had imparted a surprising lustre to his ordinarily radiant countenance, its expression gave the idea of a spirit sublimated by approaching release from the burden of mortality. The glory of his country, the welfare of his friends—feelings worthy of angels—were still uppermost in his thought. He inquired, with earnest solicitude, how the battle went, and as to the fate of Perry. 

The Lawrence had surrendered; but Perry had reached the Niagara, to bring her up to take her share in the battle, which, earlier taken, might have spared so many lives. Brooks briefly directed the disposition of his affairs, the messages to be sent to his father and friends, and commended his faithful mulatto boy to their protection and kindness. While he was yet speaking in a failing tone, Hambleton's attention was diverted by favourable news from deck, and the tumultuous excitement of joy which it occasioned among the wounded. When he turned to communicate it to Brooks, his spirit had departed.

But the enemy had other employment than to take possession of the surrendered Lawrence. As Perry reached the deck of the Niagara, he was met at the gangway by Captain Elliott, who " inquired how the day was going. Captain Perry replied, badly: that he had lost almost all of his men, and that his ship was a wreck; and asked what the gunboats were doing so far astern. Captain Elliott offered to go and bring them up; and, Captain Perry consenting, he sprung into the boat and went off on that duty."

Perry's first order on board the Niagara was to back the main topsail, and stop her from running out of the action; his next, to brail up the main trysail, put the helm up, and bear down before the wind, with squared yards, for the enemy, altering the course from that which Captain Elliott had been steering a whole right angle; at the same time, he set top-gallant-sails, and hove out the signal for close action. As the answering pendants were displayed along the line, the order was greeted by hearty cheers, evincive of the admiration awakened throughout the squadron by the hardy manoeuvre of the Niagara, and of renewed confidence of victory. By great efforts, Lieutenant Holdup Stevens, who had been astern of the line in the Trippe, soon closed up to the assistance of the Caledonia, and the remaining vessels approached rapidly, to take a more active part in the battle, under the influence of the increasing breeze.
The helm had been put up on board the Niagara, sail made, and the signal for close action hove out at forty-five minutes after two, the instant after Perry had boarded her. With the increased breeze, seven or eight minutes sufficed to traverse the distance of more than half a mile which still separated the Niagara from the enemy. As the enemy beheld her coming boldly down, reserving her fire until it could be delivered with terrible effect, they poured theirs in upon her in a raking position, and the Detroit made an effort to wear in order to present her starboard broadside to the Niagara, several of the larboard guns being disabled. As this evolution commenced on board the Detroit, the Queen Charlotte was running up under her lee. The evolution of wearing, which should properly have commenced with the sternmost and leewardmost vessel, not having been imitated with sufficient quickness by the Queen, the consequence was, that the latter ran her bowsprit and head booms into the mizzen rigging of the Detroit, and the two British ships got foul of each other, and continued in this unfortunate predicament, when the Niagara, having shortened sail to check her velocity, passed slowly under the bows of the Detroit, within half pistol-shot, and poured into both vessels, as they lay entangled, a deadly and awfully destructive fire of grape and canister; the larboard guns, which were likewise manned, were directed with equally murderous effect into the sterns of the Lady Prevost, which had passed to the head of the line, and the Little Belt; the marines, at the same time, cleared their decks of every one to be seen above the rails. The piercing shrieks of the mortally wounded on every side showed how terrific had been the carnage. Passing under the lee of the two British ships, which had now got clear, but were but slightly separated, Captain Perry, brought by the wind on the starboard tack, with his head to the northward and eastward, and backing the Niagara's main topsail to deaden her headway, continued to pour his starboard broadside into the Queen Charlotte and the Hunter, which lay astern of her. Some of his shots passed through the Queen Charlotte's ports into the Detroit. At this juncture the small vessels also came into close action to windward, and poured in a destructive fire of grape and canister; their shot and that of the Niagara, whenever it missed its mark, passing the enemy, and taking effect reciprocally on our own vessels.

All resistance now ceased; an officer appeared on the taffrail of the Queen, to signify that she had struck; and her example was immediately followed by the Detroit. Both vessels struck in about seven minutes after the Niagara opened this most destructive fire, and about fifteen minutes after Perry took command of her. The Hunter struck at the same time, as did the Lady Prevost, which lay to leeward under the guns of the Niagara.

The battle had begun on the part of the enemy at a quarter before meridian; at three the Queen Charlotte and Detroit surrendered, and all resistance was at an end. As the cannonade ceased and the smoke blew over, the two squadrons, now owning one master, were found completely mingled. The shattered Lawrence, whose condition sufficiently attested where had been the brunt and burden of the day, lay to windward, a tattered and helpless wreck, with the flag of liberty once more flying over her; the Niagara, with the signal for close action still set, lay close under the lee of the Detroit, Queen Charlotte, and Hunter; the Caledonia, Scorpion, and Trippe, which had gallantly followed the Niagara through the enemy's line, had taken a position to leeward very favorable for preventing the enemy's escape. As the smoke passed to leeward, the Chippeway and Little Belt were discovered bearing up towards Malden under a press of sail. The Scorpion and Trippe went immediately in pursuit, and, after a few shots, compelled them to surrender.

And now began the proud yet melancholy task of taking possession of the enemy's ships. On boarding the Detroit, the officer sent from the Niagara found her in a condition only less pitiable than the Lawrence had been left, in by Perry; her gaft and mizzen topmast hanging over the taffrail and quarter; her masts and yards badly wounded; all her braces shot away, not a single stay standing forward, and her stout oak bulwarks very much shattered. Many of the thirty-two pound shots were sticking in her side; they had been fired from the carronades before the Lawrence had got to close quarters. On deck the destruction and carnage had been terrible; many of the guns were dismounted, and the deck was strewed with the killed and wounded, and slippery with blood. The deck was found nearly deserted of officers and men, and in charge of the second lieutenant, Mr. Inglis, the first lieutenant having been killed towards the middle of the action, and Commodore Barclay having been most dangerously wounded somewhat earlier by a grape shot in the thigh. This heroic officer, after having been carried below and placed in the hands of the surgeon, made use of the first moment of returning consciousness to cause himself to be again borne upon deck. When the Niagara bore down and delivered her raking fire, he received a second grape shot in the right shoulder, which, entering below the joint, broke the blade to pieces, and left a large and dreadful wound. It is said that when, towards the close of the action, a message was sent down to this heroic officer that the day was lost, he caused himself to be carried once more on deck, to convince himself that farther resistance was impossible and would be unavailing.

The other British vessels were found to be also much cut to pieces, especially the Queen Charlotte, which had lost her brave commander, Captain Finnis, very early in the action; her first lieutenant had been soon after mortally wounded, and the loss of life on board of her was very severe; she was also much cut to pieces both in hull and spars. The other vessels suffered in like proportion; the Lady Prevost had both her commander and first lieutenant wounded, and, besides other extensive injury, was become unmanageable from the loss of her rudder; Lieutenants Bignal, commanding the Hunter, and Campbell, the Chippeway, were also wounded; thus leaving only the commander of the Little Belt fit for duty at the close of the action. Indeed, in the official account of Commodore Barclay, it is stated that every commander, and every officer second in command, was disabled. The total of killed and wounded rendered by Commodore Barclay in his official report were forty-one killed, including three officers, and ninety-four wounded, nine of whom were officers. The returns, on account of the condition of the commanders and their seconds in command, could not have been very complete, and the numbers of killed and wounded are believed to have been greater. The killed of the British squadron were thrown overboard as they fell, with the exception of the officers.

The feeling which the spectacle of these prizes awakened in the minds of the victors had in it as much of sorrow as of exultation. The ruined and tattered condition of that squadron, which, three short hours before, had presented itself in such proud array, beginning the action, and hurling death and defiance at those who, with inferior force, had ventured to brave the power of England; and, still more, the spectacle of bloodshed and agony which they everywhere presented within, after the excitement of battle was over, could not but overwhelm the mind with gloom, and make way once more for the indulgence of those humane sympathies which had been smothered in the strife of conflict. Nor did our own ships fail to exhibit scenes well suited to harrow the feelings; the Lawrence especially presented an awful spectacle. As has been already stated, twenty-two of her crew were killed and sixty-one wounded, making an aggregate of slaughter which is believed never to have been surpassed in any modern naval combat, unless where the conquered vessel has sunk with her whole crew. 

The Niagara lost two killed and twenty-three wounded; all but two of the wounded having been struck after Captain Perry took command of her, as stated by the surgeon who attended them. Three were wounded on board of the Caledonia; two on board the Somers; one killed and three wounded on board the Ariel; two killed on board the Scorpion; and two wounded on board the Trippe; making an aggregate in the whole squadron of twenty-seven killed and ninety-six wounded. Among our killed we had to mourn the loss of Lieutenant John Brooks and Midshipman Laub on board the Lawrence; and of Midshipman John Clark on board the Scorpion. Lieutenants Yarnall and Forrest, Sailing-master Taylor, Purser Hambleton, Midshipman Swartout and Claxton, and Mr. Stone, carpenter, were wounded on board the Lawrence, and Lieutenant Edwards and Midshipman Cummings were wounded on board the Niagara. 

Two of the schooners, the Tigress and Porcupine, had no casualties whatever; and as the Trippe and Somers had each but two wounded, it shows that, notwithstanding the great efforts made by their commanders to close up, they were unable to take an important part in the battle until just before the enemy struck. The Trippe, though originally the last in the line, from her superior sailing, and the great exertions of her commander, Lieutenant Holdup Stevens, was the first of the four sternmost vessels to get into close action. From the enemy's awaiting the attack in a compact line of battle, his vessels were all equally available from the first; and, accordingly, the destruction on board of them, from their want of bulwarks, was more severe than in his heavy vessels. Hence, in addition to the actual inferiority of our force, the disparity was farther increased during the action by its being fought by the whole of the British force, and only a part of ours.

The splendour of this victory dazzles the imagination. It was gained by a portion of an inferior squadron over another every way superior, and throughout the action concentrated in its force. It was gained, more eminently than any other naval victory, by the exertions of one individual, a young man of twentyseven, who had never beheld a naval engagement. He had dashed boldly into action with the Lawrence, counting upon the support of those immediately around him, and trusting that the rear of his line would soon be able to close up to his support. Deserted by the Niagara, which was to have encountered the second of the enemy's ships, and sustained only by the Caledonia, the Ariel, and the Scorpion, we find him resisting for more than two hours the whole of the British squadron. Finding, at length, his vessel cut to pieces, his guns dismounted, means of resistance destroyed, and nearly the whole of his brave crew lying dead or wounded around him, instead of yielding the day,after having done everything that depended upon him to win it, and leaving the responsibility of defeat to the commander of the Niagara, he thought only of using the means that remained to him still to secure a victory. 

Passing from the Lawrence under the enemy's fire; saved from death, as if miraculously, by the protecting genius of his country, he reached the Niagara, and, by an evolution unsurpassed for genius and hardihood, bore down upon the enemy, and dashed with his fresh and uninjured vessel through the enemy's line. It was thus that the battle of Erie was won, not merely by the genius and inspiration, but eminently by the exertions of one man. Nelson was indeed a splendid hero, the subject, in no slight degree, of Perry's admiration. But it may with truth be said, that no one of his many brilliant victories was opposed by so many difficulties, or effected by so many resources of genius. They were usually effected by single combined movements in execution of previously-concerted plans. Nelson would go into action at the head of his line, be gallantly supported by his subordinate chiefs, and the steady display of British courage and superior skill would give him the victory. In Perry's victory, the original intention of engaging the enemy in line, vessel to vessel, as designated in previous orders, had failed, from the Niagara keeping back and abstaining from the encounter of her proper antagonist, which was thus left free to aid in overpowering the Lawrence. In suffering destruction, she had fought with desperate obstinacy, and dealt many and formidable blows to her numerous assailants. Overcome at last and abandoned to her fate, Perry made a new arrangement of his remaining resources, and snatched from the enemy a victory which he had already claimed with exulting cheers for his own. Nelson had triumphed over Frenchmen and Spaniards; Perry was called upon to meet the conquerors of these, led, moreover, by a veteran formed in the school of Nelson, and bearing upon his person the marks of Nelson's greatest victory. The battle of Trafalgar was won by the whole British fleet over a part of that of the allies; the battle of Lake Erie was won over the whole British squadron by only a part of ours.

Let us now follow the movements of Perry subsequent to the victory. After the enemy's colors had been hauled down, and provision had been made for officering and manning the prizes, confining the prisoners, securing the wounded masts, stopping shotholes, and the combined squadron had been hauled by the wind on the starboard tack, he retired to the cabin to communicate briefly to General Harrison intelligence of an event which was to admit of the immediate advance of his army, and rescue our territory from the savage warfare which the surrender of Hull's army and subsequent disasters had entailed on it. The letter which he wrote, though short, was ample, since it expressed all that was necessary to be known.

Dear General,We have met the enemy, and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop. Yours, with very great respect and esteem,O. H. Perry

He also wrote the following letter to the secretary of the navy, which was forwarded by the same express. 
It has pleased the Almighty to give to the arms of the United States a signal victory over their enemies on this lake. The British squadron, consisting of two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop, have this moment surrendered to the force under my command, after a sharp conflict. 
I have the honour to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 
O. H. Perry.

Nothing can be more beautifully conspicuous or more characteristic than the blended modesty and piety of this celebrated letter, written without deliberation, in the moment of victory, and in the midst of abundant occupation. In ascribing the victory to the Almighty gift, he was not using a simple form of speech, which would appear gracefully and flatter the strongly religious feelings of the country, but giving vent to a spontaneous impulse of his heart. He keeps all allusion to himself out of sight; self is nowhere referred to, except when he unavoidably characterizes the squadron as being under his command, and the simple words "a sharp conflict" alone convey any idea of the desperate struggle in which his own courage and genius had been so ascendant.

Having dispatched these letters by express, he made signal to anchor, for the greater facility of providing for the comfort of the wounded, the security of the prisoners, and the general reorganization of the squadron. Soon after, he visited the Ariel, and dispatched Sailing-master Brownell to take charge of the Somers, to which he subsequently ordered seventy prisoners to be removed from the large vessels. Forty of them were ironed or confined below; the remainder were arranged within the circle of the long gun, in a sitting posture, while the crew remained under arms during the night, forming bulwarks across the deck, and ready to fire at the least indication of a disposition to rise. Having completed some other arrangements for the safe keeping of the prisoners in other vessels, Perry returned to the Lawrence, to be again among his brave shipmates, and to do what he was able for their succour. 

It was proper also that he should receive in his own ship the surrender of the prizes by their commanders, and that the brave fellows who had done most to win the victory should behold the proud but mournful ceremony by which it was completed. From Doctor Parsons, to whom the writer has been indebted for valuable aid in every stage of his undertaking, he has the following brief yet impressive description of Perry's return to the Lawrence: "It was a time of conflicting emotions when the commodore returned to the ship. The battle was won; he was safe. Put the deck was slippery with blood and brains, and strewed 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, approached him as he came over the ship's side, but the salutation was a silent one on both sides: not a word could find utterance."


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