Oliver Hazard Perry


Born: 23 August 1785
Died: 23 August 1819 (Malaria)
Birthplace: South Kingstown, Rhode Island
Best known as: The hero of the Battle of Lake Erie (1813)
Oliver Hazard Perry joined the navy in his early teens, and by his early twenties he had been promoted to lieutenant. After he served in the Tripolitan War in the Mediterranean (1802-03) he returned to the U.S. to build and command gunboats at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson. His great fame came from the Battle at Lake Erie (1813), where U.S. ships under Perry's command defeated British forces, a turning point in the War of 1812. Perry's flagship Lawrence was incapacitated, but he went back and got the smaller Niagara, transferred the flag that read "Don't Give Up The Ship," (honoring the last words of Capt. James Lawrence of the U.S.S. Chesapeake) then went back and beat the British ships under the command of Captain Robert Heriot Barclay. After the battle his message to William Henry Harrison, waiting to advance into Canada, became famous: "We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner, one sloop." After the war he was promoted to captain and fought again in the Mediterranean (1816-17), then was sent in 1819 on a diplomatic mission to Venezuela, where he contracted a fatal case of malaria.
Extra credit: Oliver Hazard Perry was the older brother of that other famous naval guy, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry.

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