Don’t Give Up the Ship

September 10, 1813

Perry's Battle Flag

The last spoken command from Captain James Lawrence on the frigate USS Chesapeake during the War of 1812 was brought from Boston to the Great Lakes during the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. The fame and honor bestowed upon Captain Lawrence as a fallen war hero were emblazoned on the flag Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry used when signaling his troops to engage the enemy in the largest naval battle of the entire war. Captain Lawrence had been a friend to Perry, and the flag made for him by the women of Erie would help to find a place for Lawrence’s famous words in American naval history.

The Battle of Lake Erie began on the morning of September 10, 1813 when British warships were spotted approaching near Put-In-Bay. Winds were not in Perry’s favor that morning, and his flagship the Lawrence was attacked for nearly 20 minutes before she was in range to fire.

British troops lost a commander and first lieutenant early in the battle, while 80% of the crew aboard the Lawrence lost their lives. Americans engaged 5 schooners, 3 brigs, and 1 sloop in the battle, while British forces utilized 2 schooners, 2 ships, 1 sloop and 1 brig. TheLawrence was basically destroyed, and the American surgeons were unable to help, all suffering from “lake fever” (known to us as malaria).

The Lawrence surrendered and Perry climbed aboard the Niagra, taking the iconic flag with him. Two British ships, the Detroit and the Queen Charlotte collided, and Perry steered theNiagra in closer, with strengthening winds now in his favor. American gunboats fired at the British vessels, the smaller of which tried in vain to flee, the larger of which were ineffective in battle.

At around 3:00 in the afternoon, the British surrendered. Master Commandant Perry did not receive their surrender aboard the Niagra, however; instead he brought his battle flag aboard the Lawrence and heard the British surrender amid the ruin. Perry wanted the British to have an up close and personal view of the heavy price his men had paid aboard the ship.

Americans retained control over Lake Erie for the remainder of the war. The Battle of the Thames took place a month later; the British loss of Lake Erie helped to ensure an American victory in Upper Canada. Victory in Lake Erie also helped Americans reclaim Detroit, which had been turned over to the British in 1812, during the Siege of Detroit.

Potato Crusted Lake Erie Walleye

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. freshly ground sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder
Fresh Parsley
2 Beaten eggs
1 cup instant potato flakes
Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 lbs. Walleye fillets

Combine flour and seasonings in a shallow bowl. Put potato flakes on a plate. Dredge fillets in the flour mixture, then dip in eggs, then roll in potato flakes. Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a large skillet. Fry fillets a couple minutes per side, until golden brown, and drain on paper towel covered plate. Serve with lemon wedges or tartar sauce.

Recipe Courtesy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources

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