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Lake Erie 1813

Perry's Victory on Lake Erie
Perry's Victory on Lake Erie (1815)

Battle of Lake Erie — Battle of the Thames

Throughout 1812 and into 1813, a British squadron led by Commander Robert H. Barclay held control of Lake Erie. Control of the Great Lakes was of paramount importance in the War of 1812. Roads were rough or nonexistent, especially in the Old Northwest, so moving and supplying troops was most efficiently accomplished by boat. Starting in the fall of 1812, the United States began construction of a squadron of ships on Presque Isle in Lake Erie under U.S. Master Commandant Oliver H. Perry, completing the work in July 1813. Perry used his squadron to block supplies headed to the British Fort Amherstburg, and the British squadron under Barclay sailed out to meet to confront Perry.

On September 10, 1813, the two squadrons met and exchanged fire for nearly three hours, leaving Barclay seriously wounded and many senior British officers dead. Perry began the battle on his flagship, the Lawrence, but after hours of battle it was severely disabled. Perry was rowed out to the Niagara, a ship that had been hanging back from the main fighting, and resumed the battle from there. The British squadron surrendered not long afterward. Perry was widely celebrated for his victory, the first U.S. defeat of an entire squadron, and the victory secured control of the Lake Erie, strengthening the position of Harrison’s army in the west.

After the rout of the British squadron on Lake Erie, Brigadier General Henry Procter retreated from Fort Amherstburg on the Detroit River and moved northeast with a small force of British regulars and native Americans toward the British stronghold of York. On the way, he encountered United States forces under General Harrison. Colonel RM Johnson led the cavalry charge of Kentucky militia on Procter’s position, devastating Procter’s forces and killing the Native leader Tecumseh. The Battle of the Thames (also known as the Battle of Moraviatown) secured U.S. control of the Northwest and delivered a terminal blow to the Pan-Indian movement. It also made the careers of a number of U.S. military men, including a future president, vice president, four senators and twenty congressmen.