Appointed a midshipman in 1799, he served in the Tripolitan War, was promoted to lieutenant (1807), and from 1807 to 1809 was engaged in building gunboats. In the War of 1812 he was commissioned to build, equip, and man a fleet at Erie, Pa. On Sept. 10, 1813, Perry's fleet left Put-in-Bay, Ohio, and met a slightly inferior British force. In the subsequent battle, the battle of Lake Erie, Perry's flagship, the Lawrence, was reduced to ruins, but he transferred his flag to the Niagara and shortly forced the British to surrender. His report of the battle sent to Gen. William H. Harrison—"We have met the enemy and they are ours"—has become famous. The victory, which made Perry a national hero, gave the United States control of Lake Erie and helped pave the way for Harrison's victory in the battle of the Thames River, in which Perry participated. After the war he served as a captain in the Mediterranean. Later, on a mission to Venezuela, he contracted yellow fever, died, and was buried in Trinidad. His body was later brought to Newport, R.I., where a monument was erected to him. A memorial to Perry at Put-in-Bay, built 1912–15, was made a national monument in 1936.
See biography by C. J. Dutton (1935); C. O. Paullin, ed., The Battle of Lake Erie (1918); C. S. Forester, The Age of Fighting Sail (1956).
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