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Tag: war of 1812

“A Signal Victory”: The Battle of Lake Erie

Our new Featured Document–Oliver Perry’s letter to the Secretary of the Navy–will be on display from September 10 to 19, 2014, at the National Archives in Washington, DCToday’s blog post was written by former student employee Meghan O’Connor.

Early in the War of 1812, the Americans lost control of Detroit and Lake Erie to the British and their Native American allies. The U.S. Navy sent 28-year-old Oliver Hazard Perry to Lake Erie to build a squadron and retake that important waterway.

On September 10, 1813, the Americans defeated the British on Lake Erie. Commodore Perry declared the naval battle “a signal victory.” In a war marked by early failures, this victory secured Ohio and the territories of Michigan and Indiana. It also provided a needed boost in national morale and marked a rare surrender of a complete Royal Navy squadron.

Letter from Commodore Oliver Perry to Hon. Wm. Jones, Secy. of Navy, September 10, 1813

With a crew that Perry once described as “a motley set, blacks, soldiers and boys,” the Americans met Britain’s powerful Royal Navy on Lake Erie. A flag flew above Perry’s ship, the Lawrence, emblazoned with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” This battle cry was the dying command, in an earlier battle, of Perry’s friend Capt. James Lawrence (for whom the ship was named).

In the middle of … [ Read all ]

Tornado saves capital, scares British

One hundred and ninety-six years ago today, the British sacked the District of Columbia. They were, in turn, sacked by a tornado.

In 1814, the British wanted revenge. U.S. troops had burned the legislative building,  government structures, and private warehouses in the Battle of York (modern-day Toronto), and the Brits were inclined to teach their former colonies a lesson in how to properly sack a city.

Their charge on the American capital city was led by British Maj. Gen. Robert Ross and Adm. George Cockburn, who burned the Capitol, the White House, the Treasury Department, and plenty of other government buildings without losing a single soldier.

Cockburn was, well, a cocky fellow. Aside from burning much of the District, he did it with an unapologetic gusto. He supped on the dinner that had been prepared for President James Madison before burning down the White House.

While marching back through the city, he also made a stop at the National Intelligencer, where the editor had been “telling some tough stories” about him, and later had all the c’s removed from the press so the editor could no longer spell his name. As a testament to Cockburn’s ego, when he returned to camp after burning much of the District, he left a single soldier to guard the captured city overnight.

Unfortunately for Cockburn, day two of sacking the U.S. capital did … [ Read all ]