Life During Wartime

Life During Wartime > Military and Civilian Leaders > Oliver Hazard Perry

Oliver Hazard Perry

St. Leonard Creek
Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, c.1813, by Rembrandt Peale, courtesy Maryland Historical Society

Captain Oliver Perry (1785–1819) may be best remembered for his understatement “We have met the enemy and he is ours,” after capturing a whole British naval squadron against all odds in the Battle of Lake Erie. But a year later, the “Hero of Lake Erie” was in Washington, D.C., and then in Baltimore assisting the Chesapeake defense.

Born in Rhode Island, Perry joined the US Navy at age 13, first serving on his father’s ship, the 30-gun U.S. frigate General Greene. By 1813, he commanded the naval forces on Lake Erie where he led his small fleet to victory over the British on September 10.

On September 5, 1814, Perry erected a gun battery at Indian Head on the Potomac in an attempt to harass the British moving down the Potomac after the surrender of Alexandria, Virginia.

Perry went to Baltimore to take command of the 44-gun U.S. frigate Java, which was under construction, but the action on the Potomac proved to be his last command of the war. Peace came before the Java was completed.

This banner with the famous words of Captain James Lawrence on the US frigate Chesapeake was flown by Oliver Hazard Perry during his victorious engagement with the British in the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813. You can see it at the US Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland.

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