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History of Lawrence County, Pa

Oliver Hazard Perry

Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (August 20, 1785 - August 23, 1819) was an officer in the United States Navy. He served in the War of 1812 against Britain and earned the sobriquet "Hero of Lake Erie" for leading American forces in a decisive naval victory at the Battle of Lake Erie. The city of Perrysburg, Ohio is named after him.

He was born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, the son of Captain Christopher Raymond Perry (December 4, 1760 - June 8, 1818) and Sarah Wallace Alexander (1764 - December 4, 1830), and older brother to Matthew Calbraith Perry. Through their maternal lineage, Oliver and Matthew were able to trace their ancestry back to William Wallace of Scotland.

Educated in Newport, Rhode Island, Perry was appointed a midshipman on April 7, 1799 and assigned to his father's frigate, General Greene. He first experienced combat on February 9, 1800 off Haiti. During the First Barbary War, he served on the Adams and commanded Nautilus during the capture of Derna.

At his request during the War of 1812 he was given command of U.S. Naval forces on Lake Erie. He supervised the building of a small fleet at what is now Erie County, Ohio. On September 10, 1813 Perry's fleet defended against an attacking British fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie. During the battle Perry's flagship the Lawrence was destroyed and Perry rowed a half-mile through heavy gunfire to transfer command to the Niagara, carrying his battle flag which read "DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP" [sic], the famous final words of Captain James Lawrence. His battle report to William Henry Harrison after victory is famous: "We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop".

While this opened Canada up to possible invasion, it simultaneously protected the entire Ohio Valley. It was one of only two significant fleet victories of the war. See Battle of Plattsburgh for the other.

In 1819, during an expedition to the Orinoco River in Venezuela, he died of yellow fever contracted from mosquitos while aboard the Nonsuch. His body was originally buried in Port of Spain, Trinidad but his remains were later reinterred in Newport, Rhode Island. After briefly resting in the Old Common Burial Ground in Newport, his body was moved a final time to Newport's Island Cemetery where his brother Matthew C. Perry is also buried.


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