Ohio History Journal

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38 Ohio Arch

38        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.




September 10, 1813.



It was a fair morning in September, a gentle breeze was

blowing down the lake, rippling the water. A little American

fleet lay peacefully at anchor in the beautiful island-locked bay

of South Bass Island, its brave young commander and sturdy

men anxiously waiting for the sign of a coming hostile sail.

A few days before, with the Union Jack vauntingly flying, they

had passed the British forts at Malden, up at the head of the

lake, behind which, under cover, lay the British fleet. The

challenge to come out and fight in open water had been un-

heeded, and Perry and his men were waiting for something to

turn up.

The sun was just coming up in a cloudless sky behind the

slopes of the islands, when a messenger knocked at the com-

mander's cabin door. The British fleet was in sight, coming

down the lake. "The day has come at last!" exclaimed Lieu-

tenant Elliott as he climbed up the side of the flagship Lawrence

to get his commander's order. "The one we have long been

wishing for," responded Perry. Quickly the plan of action was

decided. Hurried orders were given. On the ship Lawrence,

up from the halyards, rose the great blue flag, bearing to the

breeze the dying words of the brave James Lawrence: "Don't

give up the ship"-words that so soon were to be the sign by

which a great battle was to be won and the fame of an American

boy made immortal.

What a little fleet it was to win so great a victory!-Meas-

ured by modern standards of engineering warfare but a mere

handful of small sailing vessels, rudely constructed; compris-

ing, all told, but nine boats, some carrying but one or two guns,

and all only fifty-four. The most effective of these were as

* Paper read by Mrs. Jno. T. Mack, of Sandusky, at the Second Annual

Ohio State Conference Daughters of the American Revolution, Colum-

bus, Ohio, October 31, 1900.