“We have met the enemy and they are ours.” Those historic words, written by Oliver Hazard Perry to General William Henry Harrison, announced the American victory over the British at the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. For the rest of the War of 1812, the Americans retained control of Lake Erie, leading to victories at the Battle of the Thames and the recapturing of Detroit.
Oliver Hazard Perry, the older brother of Matthew Calbraith Perry, and son of Revolutionary War veteran Christopher R. Perry, began his Naval career at the dawn of the 19th Century, serving as a midshipman under his father’s command. Following service in the Quasi-War and the First Barbary War, Perry returned home for gunboat duty enforcing the 1807 embargo against Great Britain. After a second tour of gunboat duty, Perry was dispatched to Lake Erie early in 1813 with orders to assemble a squadron. Following the War of 1812, Perry took command of U.S.S. Java, serving as her master until 1817. Two years later, Perry was tasked with a diplomatic mission to Venezuela, during which he succumbed to yellow fever, dying on August 23, 1819.
The Oliver Hazard Perry Collection represents numerous accessions of the United States Naval Academy Museum. The materials focus primarily on the Battle of Lake Erie and the resulting commemorations of Perry’s victory. Other documents in the collection touch upon Perry’s early career, relationship with his brother Matthew, and the circumstances of Perry’s death.