Today, the Cleveland Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin with its map of the Great Lakes tells the story of the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813.
On that day, the small U.S. Navy added six warships to its fleet.
The Mentor, publication of October 1920, described those events of 202 years ago.
The morning of September 10, 1813, dawned fine and clear. Commander (Master Command ant) Perry, with his fleet, was anchored in the quiet waters of Put in Bay.
Suddenly the British fleet was discovered sailing toward him. Perry was ready, and, in twelve minutes, he was off to meet the enemy.
The flag-ship of Perry’s was the Lawrence and on the masthead flew a pennant bearing on it the last words of Captain Lawrence, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”
Perry had serious work cut out for him. There had been several single fights between the English and American vessels in the War of 1812, but this was the first engagement between fleets—and on it rested the possession of the Great Lakes.
About noon the British commenced firing and the Lawrence suffered so that she became unmanageable and would soon have had to lower her flag. There was only one chance for the young commander—and he took it.
He lowered the only seaworthy boat left on the Lawrence, left the ship, and, bearing with him his new pennant and the banner with Lawrence’s stirring words on it, he ordered four seamen to row him over to the Niagara.
It was a desperate adventure.
Three of the British ships poured shot at the small row boat, but by some miracle Perry got past and reached the Niagara in safety, where he raised his flag to the masthead.
Though the Lawrence was helpless, Perry, like Paul Jones, “had only just begun to fight.”
He brought the Niagara into position, broke the enemy’s lines of battle and raked the enemy with fearful broadsides.
A little after three o’clock in the afternoon a white flag was raised on the British ship, Hunter.
The Lawrence was now slowly drifting.
Perry was rowed back to his old flagship and there, on deck, he received the surrender of the British officers.
When the formalities were over, Perry ripped off the back of an old letter and using his stiff hat for a writing desk, scribbled the historic message: “We have met the enemy and they are ours: two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”
The simple old flag, designed in homely fashion by Perry’s order, and carried by him through the Battle of Lake Erie, now hangs in the Flag Room at Annapolis.
The letters are in white on a dark blue field, and they were rudely fashioned by the hands of jack tars.
When the British squadron came in sight on that memorable morning of September, 1813, Commander Perry jumped up on a gun slide and addressed the crew of the flagship; “My brave lads, this flag bears the words of Captain Lawrence. Shall I hoist it?”
Wild cheers rang out as the bunting rose to the main royal mast head, and the men hurried to their places at the guns.
So began the historic battle that ended with a complete victory, and that saved the Great West for the United States.
The flags of all the vessels in the Battle of Lake Erie are in the Navy Collection, but the place of honor is given to this time-worn piece of bunting with its inspiring message, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”
The Cleveland Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows against an artist’s view of the Battle of Lake Erie.