Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry was born
on August 20, 1785 near the village of Wakefield in South
Kingston, RI. Perry became a national hero when he defeated the
British squadron in the Battle of Lake Erie.
Perry was appointed a midshipman at the
age of 14. He served in both the West Indies and the
Mediterranean until February 1813, when he was sent to Erie, PA,
to complete the building of a U.S. squadron intended to
challenge the British control of the Great Lakes. Prior to his
assignment in Erie, Perry had served aboard the U.S. Navy ships
Adams, Constellation, Nautilus, Essex and Constitution.
By October of 1813, he had assembled a
fleet of 10 small vessels and was ready to engage the enemy.
When the battle was joined on September 10, Perry's fleet was
greatly superior in short-range firepower but only slightly
superior at long range. A light wind prevented Perry from
closing quickly on the six British warships commanded by R.H.
Barclay. When Perry's flagship, the “Lawrence,” was
disabled, he transferred to the “Niagara,” winning the
battle within the next 15 minutes by sailing directly into the
British line and firing broadsides. Perry will always be
remembered for his official report of the battle in which he
stated, "We have met the enemy and
they are ours."
successful action at Lake Erie helped ensure U.S. control of the
Northwest; it also raised him to a position of national eminence
and earned him promotion to the rank of captain. He commanded
the “Java” in the Mediterranean
(1816–17) and a small
U.S. fleet sent to the South Atlantic
to bring under control certain vessels that were preying on
American shipping out of Buenos Aires and Venezuela.
Oliver Hazard Perry
died on the return
trip from South America of yellow fever on August 23, 1819.
Perry's paternal great-grandfather was Oliver Hazard. The
Hazard family were part of the original settlers in Rhode Island
and when I was a young lad, I worked for Irving R. Hazard of
Saunderstown in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.