'Don't Give Up the Ship': Giant Celebration Planned for 'Battle of Lake Erie' Bicentennial in 2013

Festivities Include Re-Enactment of Pivotal Encounter Between British and U.S. Navies

Sep 02, 2010, 07:00 ET from The Perry Group

PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio, Sept. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- It all occurred on just one tense and foreboding day, September 10, 1813, but the conflict proved to be one of the major battles of the War of 1812 that would see Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and his sailors defeat the British Navy to secure the Great Lakes region for the U.S. once and for all.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100902/CL58486 )

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100902/CL58486 )

Two hundred years later The Perry Group, a registered charity organization dedicated to supporting Perry's International Peace Memorial, is planning a massive tribute to that historic day. The victory led to Detroit and environs being returned to the U.S. as well as the securing of states such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the coastal areas of Western New York.  

The celebration will begin on September 7, 2013, the exact week of the bicentennial of the battle, sometimes also called the "Battle of Put-In-Bay," the coastal and island area of Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio, and about ninety miles west of Cleveland.  

"We are engaging the entire region in our efforts to remember this day in history and to salute our freedom and sovereignty," says David Zavagno, a Perry group Board member.  "We expect thousands of people to attend - not just from the region but from across America, Canada, and overseas.  Many war history scholars and buffs have been interested in the Battle of Lake Erie for years. Many others would like to know more about how important it was in helping to establish a permanent, non-violent but mutually participatory, relationship between the United States and Great Britain that very much exists to this day."  

Hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, visit the towering Perry Monument on South Bass Island, near Put-In-Bay.  That number will swell significantly for the bicentennial celebration, organizers say.

"Don't give up the ship"

On Sept. 10, 1813, Master Commandant Perry, his 540 seamen, and nine vessels took on the British of Commander Heriot Barclay and his squadron of 450, and their six ships.  

Early in the battle, Perry's flagship, The Lawrence, suffered serious damage and many casualties. He was unhurt but forced, under heavy fire, to take a small rowing craft to reach another of his ships, The Niagara, to resume his command.  The Lawrence was nearly destroyed and had lost four-fifths of its crew to death and wounds.  

The odds seemed to be against Perry and his squadron.  In the end the British Navy, ironically then regarded as the largest and most professional in the world, was defeated by the Americans whose main mission was to preserve their country. Their heroic efforts helped preserve independent citizenship to the Americans of their day, to those born in the states in the future as well as to those who would become naturalized.  

"The men on both sides fought gallantly. In the very end the American navy and Oliver Perry prevailed. It was as important a naval battle as anything else that happened on the Great Lakes or at sea in the War of 1812," says Zavagno.

With Perry's capturing of the British vessels, the Americans were able to reclaim Detroit, which Barclay had invaded, and control the strategic territory of Lake Erie.  After the September 10 turnaround, Perry penned to American military commander, General Benjamin Harrison, this famous note on the back of an old envelope:  "We have met the enemy and they are ours.  Two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop."  

The Battle of Lake Erie helped lead to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, which struck a harmonious accord between the two countries and ensured that the Canadian territory under England's control would be protected, as well, from any encroachment by the U.S.  Some scholars say it ultimately proved to be a win-win-win compromise for the three countries.

"More than a celebration from a bygone era"

"The bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie activities represent far more than a celebration of quaint relics from a bygone era," says Zavagno. "They represent the noble aspirations of the people.  They speak not only of what has passed, but also to what endures: ingenuity, bravery, and the sensational appetite for freedom."

Tall ships representing the U.S. and Great Britain will gather in the Put-In-Bay area, and there also will be a re-enactment of the Battle of Lake Erie to commemorate the occasion, something Zavagno says is designed to really bring home what "this pivotal conflict" represents to all Americans.

Along with the massive reenactment, Zavagno says plans for Saturday, September 7, 2013, and surrounding days include:

  • Major outdoor speaker's address
  • One of the biggest fireworks displays in North America
  • National music acts
  • A gala parade is planned featuring the largest and best marching bands in the area, namely Ohio State, Michigan, and some noted high schools are being courted;
  • Solemn ceremonies and honor guard to memorialize the fallen
  • Special dinners, lunches and fundraising events highlighting different aspects of Battle of Lake Erie history and the bicentennial festivities; and,
  • New Bicentennial flags and accessories unveiled.
  • Food and beverage concessions, featuring fare both exotic and comforting.

Official invitees will include representatives from the U.S., British, and Canadian governments, and Native American Indian groups.  Local, regional and state officials will be part of these ceremonies, as will dignitaries from business, colleges, schools, historical organizations, and much will also be open to the general public.

Zavagno says the organization is seeking a national spokesperson for the celebration.

The bicentennial organization expects to raise $1.5 million for the celebration through corporate and other sponsorships, underwritings and through the registering of 1,000 U.S. pleasure craft and their owners as symbolic members of the U.S. fleet of the Battle of Lake Erie as well as members of the infantry.  

Participants will be able to register for $50.00 each and will be given numbered certificates that embody Perry's line: "Don't give up the ship" and a graphic treatment of the American flag with 13 stars.

The bicentennial organization also plans to sell at $2,000 to $5,000 per person spots for "commissioned" sailors to help man the American ships in the re-enactment of the Battle of Lake Erie. They will represent by name the actual American service personnel who have been identified as having been on the ships September 10, 1813. A permanent registry and dedication of all participants is being designed.

For further information about the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial, inquirers should contact: The Perry Group, 25 Town Hall Plaza, Put-in-Bay, OH 43456, telephone: 419-285-2804.    

A website for the celebration will be available soon, as will information about ticket prices for various events connected to the bicentennial.

SOURCE The Perry Group