Battle of Lake Erie

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Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813, history painting by William Henry Powell

The Battle of Lake Erie of September 10, 1813 between a British and American navy took place during the British-American War on Lake Erie in Put-in-Bay ( Ohio ) and ended in an American victory.

In September 1813, the US fleet on Lake Erie under Oliver Hazard Perry had outnumbered the British fleet under Commander Robert Heriot Barclay, which was suffering from a lack of supplies and equipment . The Americans were able to bring eleven ships into battle, the British only six. Since the British ships and the land forces under Henry Procter standing at Detroit , which was captured in 1812, were cut off from their supplies by the American ships and they ran out of food, ammunition and money, Barclay finally had to fight to force the blockade to be lifted. To get enough crews, he had to take infantrymen on board. The British fleet consisted of the ships Detroit ( flagship ) and Queen Charlotte , the brig Hunter , the schooners Lady Prevost and Chippeway and the sloop Little Belt . Perry, however, had the Briggs Lawrence (flagship), Niagara and Caledonia , the schooners Ariel , Scorpion , Somers , Porcupine and Tigress and the Sloop Trippe . In terms of artillery, the superiority of the Americans was even more oppressive, as the British ships were sometimes only equipped with light, inadequate guns. While one broadside of the American fleet weighed 896 pounds, the British could only raise 459 pounds.

At dawn on September 10, the Americans anchored in Put-in-Bay ( Ohio ) sighted the British ships, which then formed a line of battle. The Americans attacked them in an irregular line and approached at an acute angle. Since initially only part of the American ships effectively intervened in the battle, the Scorpion , Ariel , Chesapeake and Lawrence on the one hand, and the Caledonia , Detroit , Queen Charlotte and the Chippeway on the other, carried the bulk of the battle. In a fierce battle, the British managed to incapacitate the Lawrence and shoot at the wreck. However, they themselves suffered severe damage, particularly the flagship Detroit and Queen Charlotte . Barclay was badly wounded and taken below deck. Before his flagship dropped the flag, Perry switched to the Niagara and led the largely undamaged ship as well as the three schooners not seriously involved in the battle to break through the British line. The British ships fought back bitterly, but were so badly damaged by the previous battle that they were partially unable to maneuver. After a four-hour battle, the Detroit dropped the flag at 3 p.m. Almost all British ships were only wrecks, only the Chippeway and the Little Belt were still able to attempt an escape, but had to surrender to the Trippe and the Scorpion . The Americans had 27 dead and 96 wounded, the British 41 dead and 94 wounded. The main part of the losses on the American side had suffered the Lawrence , who had lost 83 dead and wounded with a crew of 103 men. Most of the British casualties had been on the Detroit and Queen Charlotte .

After the battle ended, Perry wrote a famous note to General William Henry Harrison :

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

For the first time in history a British fleet had been defeated and fallen completely into the hands of the enemy. Barclay, who had only one arm ( Tecumseh : "Our Father with One Arm"), was not to blame for this defeat, as he had led his fleet excellently in battle. The decisive factor was the American superiority. After his release from captivity, he was honorable acquitted in a sea war trial.

The American victory had a decisive impact on the theater of war west of Lake Ontario . Forcing the British to surrender Detroit and most of the conquests of 1812, it enabled General Harrison to advance into Canada and intercept the retreating British land forces and their Indian allies and rubbing them up in the Battle of the Thames River . This essentially ended the war in the North West and largely eliminated the British presence in this area. Together with the Battle of the Thames River and the American victory at Plattsburgh in 1814, the American victory on Lake Erie was a major factor in the British government's consent to a peace treaty based on the status quo at the end of 1814 and not to conquer.

The Lawrence and the Niagara were sunk by the US Navy in Lake Erie, as the combat damage was so severe that it was no longer worth repairing. The Lawrence was raised in 1875 and exhibited in Philadelphia , but was destroyed by fire there. The Niagara was also lifted and restored in 1913, but fell apart due to a lack of conservation measures. Eventually the ship was dismantled. Parts were used for reconstruction, which in Erie ( Pennsylvania is issued).


  • David Curtis Skaggs: The Battle of Lake Erie and Its Aftermath: A Reassessment. Kent State University Press, Kent 2013, ISBN 978-1-60635-179-6 .
  • Theodore Roosevelt : The War with the United States. In: William Laird Clowes : The Royal Navy. A History from the Earliest Times to the Present. Volume 6. Sampson, Low & Marston, London 1901, pp. 1–180, here pp. 117–128.