Posted August 31, 2021
Commemorating Perry’s Victory
By Cliff Eckle
September 10th marks the 208th anniversary of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie. Prior to this great triumph, the Americans had been on the defensive in the Ohio region during the War of 1812. After the battle, American control of Lake Erie meant they could use the waterway to supply American forces with food and supplies and deny the British any hope of resupply or reinforcement. General William Henry Harrison was able to retake Detroit and push the British back into Canada. Harrison’s advance culminated in an American victory at the Battle of the Thames on October 5th.
Although the War of 1812 ended up as a draw, victories like the Battle of Lake Erie were a source of national pride and identity. Men like Oliver Hazard Perry joined the pantheon of American heroes. Citizens found inspiration in the courage and determination of military victors like Perry and created monuments and commemorative objects to keep their exploits fresh in popular memory. The collections of the Ohio History Connection contain many of these commemorative objects and images.
Two of these objects are pitchers made within a few years of the end of the war. Surprisingly, British craftsmen from Staffordshire made these for the American market. Despite the fact that the transfer images decorating the pitchers show British defeats, it would seem that a desire for profit was more important that patriotism.
American craftsmen created many kinds of decorative objects to honor heroes like Perry in the years following the War of 1812. This whale tooth decorated with scrimshaw shows Perry aboard his flagship.
Prints of drawings and paintings were popular means of teaching American history. Inexpensive and readily available, prints like this were common in classrooms throughout the country in the late 19th century.
Perry’s Victory by William Henry Powell depicts the critical time during the battle when Perry transferred his flag from the wrecked USS Lawrence to the undamaged USS Niagara. A monumental painting, it is prominently displayed at the Ohio Statehouse.
First dedicated on the centennial of the battle, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial is on South Bass Island overlooking Put-in-Bay. The column has a viewing platform that is 352 feet high and is the final resting place of three American and three British sailors. Maintained by the National Park Service, the Perry Memorial serves as a beacon of courage and hope.