"We have met the enemy and they are ours."

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813. On that day, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led the young United States of America to naval victory in Put-In-Bay, Ohio, against the British during the War of 1812.

A super-quick history:

Perry was aboard the USS Lawrence, which had been named after Captain James Lawrence. Lawrence had died earlier in the year, aboard the USS Chesapeake, in a battle just off of Boston; as he passed away, his dying words were reported to have been, “Don’t give up the ship; fight her ‘till she sinks!” The Lawrence came under heavy fire from the HMS Queen Charlotte and became virtually, but not completely, destroyed. When no more guns aboard the ship were working, Perry personally and almost miraculously rowed across the lake, amidst the rest of the fighting, to the USS Niagara, where he hoisted the flag “DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP”. From that point, he commanded the Niagara and other American gunboats to enclose and fire on the British ships, inflicting massive damage to them and forcing them to collide amongst themselves amidst the confusion. With this, the British surrendered, which Perry forced them to do officially aboard the floating remains of the Lawrence.

In the aftermath, Perry wrote the following to William Henry Harrison, in pencil on an envelope:

Dear General:

We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.

Yours with great respect and esteem,

O.H. Perry

My Point: To this day, “Don’t give up the ship!” has been a rally cry for the U.S. Navy as a result of Perry’s conviction to not give up; I believe it is something that all Americans should hearken to. As we head into September 11, and we think about what happened in 2001, it is especially important to remember the words of Lawrence and the flag of Perry. The United States has terrible and abnormal enemies out there who wish to inflict much more harm upon us than sinking our battleships, and they will not play politics or wait for official war declarations to do so. If we do not recognize the absolute existence of such enemies, and we do not fight them until they sink, then we will lose our own ship and everything it carries, which in one word is: Freedom.

The Niagara has been raised and is now on display at Erie, PA.


More at Commodore Perry.