Don’t Give Up The Ship

Not long after the death of Lawrence, Oliver H. Perry, a young naval officer on Lake Erie, sailed out to meet a British squadron with his nine small and roughly built vessels. Perry, who had never been in a real naval battle before, finding himself face to face with one of Nelson’s officers, determined to do his best. As the enemy began fighting, he boldly unfurled a blue flag, upon which was written, in big white letters, Lawrence’s famous words, “Don’t give up the ship.”

This was the signal for the Americans to begin. With a wild cheer they joined in the fight, serving their guns with great energy, until their principal vessel, the Lawrence, was completely disabled. But although the Lawrence could not go on fighting, Perry was not yet ready to stop. He left the shattered vessel, with four seamen and his young brother, and in spite of a rain of cannon balls, carried his flag to another ship. Then, instead of surrendering, as the enemy expected, he continued the famous battle of Lake Erie with such energy that eight minutes later the enemy’s flagship struck her colors, and Perry was master of the inland sea.

Hoping to cheer his countrymen, he quickly wrote this message on the back of an old letter, the only paper at hand: “We have met the enemy, and they are ours—two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.” At nine o’clock that same evening he came back in triumph to the harbor he had left that morning, and ever since then his name has been famous. It is because he won such a great victory that all Americans honor him, and that two monuments have been erected for him, one in Cleveland, Ohio, and the other in Newport, Rhode Island.

Thanks to the victory of Lake Erie, Perry could take Harrison’s soldiers over into Canada. Here they fought the battle of the Thames, beating the British and Indians, and killing the dreaded Tecumseh. This chief, as you may remember, was the principal leader of the Indians, so when he fell they were ready, to give up the struggle.


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