Volume 37

The Building of History II: The Battle of Lake Erie

200 Years Since We Showed Britain Who Owned The Great Lakes


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Oliver Hazzard Perry did not have the greatest fleet in the world—but he did have the best fleet on Lake Erie in 1812! Many Britts did not pay much attention to what was going on here in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. They were more concerned with their main European foe, France. Napoleon was causing all kinds of havoc in Western Europe.


The War of 1812 was actually a continuation of the 100 years war England had with France and we just happened to be a colony of Britain and France which was just a pain in the butt for each. We were a mixed bag of “political nuts” according to many Europeans. Most Europeans thought of us as social rejects, religious zealots, and country bumpkins! Worse than that—we lived like and with the American Indians.


The Senecas, Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, and Chippewas were just a few of the local Indian tribes that both France and Britain tried to pay to fight against us. Fort Meigs (Perrysburg), Fort Stephenson (Fremont), and Fort Seneca (Tiffin) were just a few of the local battle grounds that saw American infantry battle the “Redcoats”.


But it was on the West side of South Bass Island, 12 miles from Put in Bay that saw one of the greatest naval battles in North America in the late 19th Century. The battle itself was only hours long but great sayings like “Never Give Up the ship” and “We have encountered the enemy and they are ours” are two key battle cries from O.H. Perry as he abandoned his flag ship to travel across bloody waters to his backup frigate.


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