BATTLE OF LAKE ERIE
At daybreak, on September 10, 1813, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s lookout sighted Captain Robert Heriott Barclay’s fleet of six vessels northwest of Put-In-Bay, Ohio. With the American Fleet on the lake, the British supply line was cut, and Barclay was forced to fight or abandon Fort Malden and the Northwest. When preparing for the battle, both commanders considered two critical factors: guns and wind.
Captain Barclay was armed with mostly long guns; Commodore Perry used mostly carronades. Carronades needed few men, could be loaded and fired faster, and their heavier caliber gave Perry a 2-1 firepower edge at close range. However, the carronades had less than half the range of Commodore Barclay’s long guns. To use his advantage, Perry would need the “weather gauge,” that is, have the winds at his back, so he could choose the distance at which to fight. Perry’s plan was for his two brigs, LAWRENCE and NIAGARA, to engage the two largest British ships, DETROIT and QUEEN CHARLOTTE. Barclay’s strategy was to soften up the American brigs with his longer guns before Perry could get close enough to use his carronades.
When the nine American ships sailed from Put-In-Bay at 7:00 a.m., the wind advantage was with the British. Perry maneuvered his fleet, but was unable to gain the weather gauge. At just before 10:00 a.m., as he decided to engage the enemy, the wind suddenly shifted in his favor. The British furled sails, heaved to, and prepared to fight.
Just before the battle opened, Perry hoisted his battle flag to the topmast. It was a large blue banner with the crudely inscribed words “DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP.” These were the dying words of his friend, Captain James Lawrence, who was killed in battle in June, and for whom Perry’s flagship was named.
DETROIT began firing at approximately 11:45 a.m. At 12:30, when Perry opened fire, he thought he had the advantage, but Jesse D. Elliott, Commanding Officer of the NIAGARA mysteriously kept his ship out of the battle. The now unchallenged QUEEN CHARLOTTE also pounded the LAWRENCE. By 2:30, not only were four of every five men on the ship killed or wounded, but all of its guns were out of action. Perry took a small boat to the undamaged NIAGARA and sailed toward the British line. DETROIT and QUEEN CHARLOTTE tried to maneuver into better firing positions, rammed and locked together. Perry broke through the British line, raking the ships on both sides with NIAGRA’s heavy guns. The battle was over in only 15 minutes, and the British struck their colors.
Other Ship's Named Erie / Lake Erie
The first Erie, a sloop-of-war, was launched 3 November 1813 by Thomas Kemp, Baltimore, Md.; and first put to sea 20 March 1814, Commander C. G. Ridgeley in command.
Erie could not reach the open sea because of the large British force blockading Hampton Roads, and she returned to Baltimore 7 April 1814. She lay at Baltimore without a crew until early in 1815, and on 8 May sailed to Boston to join Commodore W. Bainbridge's squadron sailing for the Mediterranean 2 July. With peace concluded with Algiers before the squadron reached the area, the squadron returned to the United States, leaving Erie to cruise with the naval force assigned to protect commerce and guard against any further disturbance of peace by the Barbary Powers. She remained on station for 4 years, sailing from Gibraltar for home 27 November 1819. After calling at Madeira and in the West Indies, she reached New York 20 January 1820, and was laid up there for repairs for 3½ years.
Lengthened to 122 feet and with her tonnage increased to 611 tons, Erie sailed from New York in November 1823 to serve in the Mediterranean until 1826. From 1827 to 1832, she was based at Pensacola, returning north to New York or Norfolk for necessary repairs. Erie patrolled in the West Indies and off the coast of Mexico, protecting American citizens and property, suppressing the slave trade, and convoying merchantmen.
After lying in ordinary at Boston from 21 August 1832 to 24 June 1834, Erie served on the Brazil Station for 3 years, as. flagship during the last two. During a period of revolution and other political disturbance, her squadron gave protection to Americans and their commerce, and provided vital intelligence concerning Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. She was again in ordinary at Boston from 15 September 1837 to 4 February 1838, and on 9 February sailed to cruise the Atlantic coast to aid any merchantmen she might find in distress. In July, she sailed to Pensacola to patrol the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico for 2 weeks, guarding American interests during the French blockade of Mexican ports.
Between July 1840 and February 1843, Erie was rebuilt at Boston, and converted into an armed storeship. She sailed for the Pacific 9 February, delivered supplies to ships on the Brazil Station en route, and reached Callao, Peru, 27 July. During a cruise to the Hawaiian and -Society Islands between November 1843 and January 1844, she served as flagship, and in June 1844, she sailed for New York, arriving 10 November.
Erie crossed the Atlantic to supply the African Squadron, then repaired at New York, returning to the Pacific Station 18 November 1845. When the Mexican War opened, Erie was in the Hawaiian Islands, but she returned to the coasts of Mexico, California, and Panama in August 1846, to supply the fleet in its operations at sea and in landings. She participated in the occupation of Mazatlan 11 November 1847, and shortly thereafter sailed for the east coast, reaching New York 24 June 1848.
Erie set sail for the coast of Africa and the Mediterranean 15 September 1848 to deliver supplies to ships on those stations. She returned to New York 11 July 1849, and between 6 September 1849 and 12 September 1850, twice more voyaged to the Mediterranean with supplies. She was sold in New York 26 November 1850.
Lake Erie (formerly War Beaver)
Lake Erie, a 2028 gross ton steam cargo ship, was built at Detroit, Michigan and was launched as War Beaver 22 September 1917 under a USSB contract by Detroit Shipbuilding Co., Detroit, Mich.; acquired by the Navy 31 December; and commissioned at Boston 17 January 1918, Lt. Comdr. T. C. Sorensen in command.
Assigned to NOTS, Lake Erie operated as a collier along the east coast until she departed Norfolk 5 April 1918 for European waters. She made four round-trip cruises from the United States to European ports, transporting mines and general cargo.
On 16 January 1919 Lake Erie collided with steamship Hazelbranch off Lavernock and sank 5 miles from Cardiff, Wales. She was salvaged in August 1919; sold to Th. Brövig of Farsund, Norway; and renamed Gezina.
Erie (PG 50)
The second Erie (PG-50) was launched 29 January 1936 by New York Navy Yard; sponsored by Mrs. Edmund A. Knoll; and commissioned 1 July 1936, Commander E. W. Hanson in command.
During her shakedown cruise, for which she sailed from New York 31 October 1936, Erie had temporary duty with Squadron 40-T, a group organized to protect Americans and their interests during the Spanish Civil War. She visited a number of European ports, and evacuated refugees from the northern coast of Spain to San Juan de Luz. She returned by way of the Azores to New York City 30 December 1936.
From 5 May 1937 to 25 October 1937, Erie sailed primarily out of Annapolis, carrying midshipmen on afternoon training cruises during academic months and on an east coast cruise in June, July, and August. After overhaul, she arrived at Balboa, C.Z., 3 February 1938 to serve as flagship of the Special Service Squadron operating along the coasts of Central and South America, training with submarines, conducting exercises, and later on neutrality patrol and serving as guard ship for the Panama Canal.
Through the first half-year of World War II, Erie was based at Balboa, on the Pacific side of the Canal Zone, patrolling regularly along the Central American coast and to the Galapagos Islands. On 9 June 1942, she arrived at Cristobal on the Atlantic side, her new base. On 10 June, patrolling out of Cristobal, she rescued 46 survivors of torpedoed SS Fort Good Hope, and 6 days later, took 25 survivors of SS Lebore from a lifeboat, and 28 more from St. Andrew's Island. She escorted convoys to Yucatan Channel and Guantanamo Bay, and on 28 September cleared Coco Solo to guard the passage of a convoy to Trinidad.
Erie got underway from Port-of-Spain 10 November for Guantanamo Bay, and when 2 days out of Curacao, was torpedoed. Raging fires, worsened by the rupture of tanks of oil and gasoline, exploded the charges for her 6" guns; abandon ship was ordered after the fires got out of control. Seven men were killed, and 11 wounded. Survivors were taken from the water by a Netherlands ship, HMNS Van Kinsbergen. Four days later, firefighters with advanced equipment boarded Erie, and next day they were augmented by specialists brought down from Norfolk. The fires were extinguished and Erie was brought in to Willemstadt Harbor for repairs. Before they could be completed, she began to take on a starboard list, and when counterflooded, capsized to port, sinking on 5 December 1942.
COMMISSIONED: 24 JUL 1993
Location: Pearl Harbor, HI