September, 1813: Battle of Lake Erie Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Following the surrender of Detroit in 1812, U.S. officials sought to reclaim their control of the Old Northwest by first gaining naval dominance of Lake Erie. The U.S. Navy ordered Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry to Erie, Pennsylvania, where he supervised the construction of an American squadron. By August, 1813, his efforts provided the U.S. Navy superiority in vessels and firepower over its foe. Commander Robert H. Barclay, operating out of the small, isolated Detroit River port of Amherstburg, Ontario, could not match the American shipbuilding effort.

Following the surrender of Detroit in 1812, U.S. officials sought to reclaim their control of the Old Northwest by first gaining naval dominance of Lake Erie. The U.S. Navy ordered Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry to Erie, Pennsylvania, where he supervised the construction of an American squadron. By August, 1813, his efforts provided the U.S. Navy superiority in vessels and firepower over its foe. Commander Robert H. Barclay, operating out of the small, isolated Detroit River port of Amherstburg, Ontario, could not match the American shipbuilding effort.

Commodore Perry, transferring his flag to the brig Niagara, at the Battle of Lake Erie—the bloodiest naval battle of the War of 1812. (F. R. Niglutsch)

A shift in the wind gave Perry the advantage and allowed him to close with the British and bring his short-range carronades to bear. His squadron lagged behind the flagship, the Lawrence, and the British concentrated their fire on that vessel, rendering her useless. Perry transferred his flag to the advancing brig Niagara and ordered its commander to bring up the other vessels. Niagara crossed the British line, and the trailing vessels raked the six Royal Navy ships. This bloodiest naval engagement of the war saw 41 British killed and 94 wounded. Perry lost 27 dead and 96 wounded.

Perry’s victory opened the way for American ground forces to reclaim Detroit and drive the British and their Indian allies out of Michigan’s lower peninsula and southwestern Ontario.

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