2015 End of the BOLE Celebration

Happy New Year, may the next 43 years until the 250th BOLE anniversary begins be prosperous and meaningful for you and your family. I wanted to thank everyone that supported the broad and noble effort to observe the bicentennial of The Battle of Lake Erie. I enjoyed writing stories that celebrated so many of the people, places and organizations that made this three year observance so successful. The next 43 years should lead us to an even bigger celebration in 2063. I plan to be there, at least in spirit. Thank you.

Dont Give Up the Ship

Peter Huston

(check out my new column PIBIO at https://hiddenarts.wordpress.com )

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Historic Weekend Wreath Laying Ceremony

Historic Weekend Wreath Laying Ceremony & Reception

Join us for the Final Events in the three-year observance of the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie.

Saturday, September 12*

Join us for a day to remember. Tickets for the day are a donation to the Perry Group and include passage aboard the Miller Ferry to the battle site, coffee and light breakfast and the reception at the Keys with hors d’oeuvres and a drink. $35 per person, $25 for Perry Group Members.

8 a.m. Check-in for Wreath Laying Begins at Perry’s Victory Visitor Center

Programming will be provided National Park Service Rangers Bill Krejci and Kathie Holbrook of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial and historic military interpreters from For King and Empire of St. Johns Newfoundland and the Halifax Citadel Regimental Association of Halifax, Nova Scotia and Chaplain Mother Mary Staley of St. Paul’s Church. Musical performances provided by the Black Swamp Inter-Tribal Foundation, historical re-enactor Bob Ford, and Border Patrol Agent Tim Nickell and Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Allen Terry of the United States Border Patrol Pipes & Drums

8:45 a.m. * Miller Ferry Departs for Wreath Laying at Battle Site (departure dock TBD)

11:30 a.m. Ferry Returns

12:00 p.m * Reception at The Keys

2:15 p.m. Historic Weekend Parade—Downtown Put-in-Bay, Ohio (Community parade with high school bands, antique cars, re-enactors, US Navy, US Park Service, US Navy Sea Cadet Corps, Boy Scouts of America, and more)

3 p.m. Military Tattoo (Artillery and special maneuvers of ground forces from War of 1812, combined with musical performances, and remarks from special guests.)

5 p.m. Battle of Lake Eric Lecture presented by Gerry Altoff in the Visitor Center

6 p.m. Sounds of Sousa Concert sponsored by the Perry Group on the lower plaza (In case of rain this concert will be held inside at the Niagara Event Center)

At Dusk (9ish) *Lights of Peace—Harbor Illumination sponsored by the Perry Group. Flares will be lit around South Bass Island in memory of friends & loved ones.

Sunday, September 13

10 a.m. Procession: In Remembrance of the Fallen (20 minute ceremony) Participants need to arrive NLT 9:45 a.m. to line up.

Reserve and buy tickets by phone 419-285-2491, or email info@theperrygroup.org purchase online at http://www.theperrygroup.org

*There are no rain dates for these events

DGUTS and the story of Captain James Lawrence

I was recently sent an article by Boston Globe Writer Tom Halsted entitled “The real shameful story behind ‘Dont give up the ship’!”, about the iconic American slogan that is attributed to Captain James Lawrence. His recounting of that fateful June 1st day casts an ugly shadow on Lawrence, Perry’s hero, albeit not the resulting slogan that emerged. While it was a terrible Naval/military loss—Halsted’s article puts forward the idea that is was a PR win for the US. I might add that from that perspective is was perhaps the most important propaganda message to emerge from the early part of the War of 1812.

searchYou can read his Boston Globe article online:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/05/18/the-real-shameful-story-behind-don-give-ship/AVYGogGB9gtXrydeyRx1BP/story.html#

Mr. Halsted offers up an “official” recounting of the day: “200 YEARS AGO, on June 1, 1813, in the midst of a bloody sea battle between an American and a British frigate a few miles north of Boston, one of America’s most memorable wartime slogans was born. As the mortally wounded Captain James Lawrence of the US frigate Chesapeake lay dying in his cabin, his crew locked in hand-to-­hand combat on the quarterdeck above, he is alleged to have uttered the memorable words: “Don’t give up the ship!” His rallying cry, published a few weeks later in a Baltimore newspaper, became the unofficial motto of the US Navy.

But he quickly goes on to paint a much bleaker picture. The events that day, according to Mr. Halsted were a combination of James Lawrence not following orders, bad decision making, poor strategy and a lack of crew training. Some say that Captain Lawrence was goaded into battle by bold editorials whipping up local fervor in local newspapers, patriotic crowds standing watch and an early over confidence among American leaders and the military.

It was just a year into the war and the British were still pretty preoccupied with Napoleon and the French. American privateers, and the USS Constitution had all been quite able to defeat and or outwit many of the British ships. So why not think Captain Lawrence could defeat the British. He had been a stand out leader and had led his past commands with valor and success. A young OH Perry had been aboard with Lawrence and valued his expertise and good judgment. There was no reason to think that this would be a devastating loss.

What Mr. Halsted brushed over is that Lawrence had just taken over command of the Chesapeake. He had a green, untested, untrained crew and officers with little actual battle experience. He had expressed his concern to his superiors that his ship was not ready to engage in battle and he was the only ship in Boston Harbor at the time. It would be easier to try a avoid conflict. But the British blockade, commanded by the very experienced Captain Block and the HMS Shannon was an opponent to be very wary of. But we also know that public opinion, hype and bravado sometimes cause us to make ill-fated decisions. And so it was for Captain Lawrence that day

According to Mr. Halsted, in late May 1813, Captain Philip Broke sailed the HMS Shannon, flagship of the blockading British squadron, into Massachusetts Bay alone, knowing the Americans had only one frigate ready for sea in Boston. On June 1, the Chesapeake rose to the challenge. Unlike most sea battles, which take place far from land, the whole encounter was staged for public viewing. “Spectators lined the rooftops in Boston and along the North Shore, and commanders of both ships repeatedly had to warn a boisterous spectator fleet of yachts and small boats to stay clear,” wrote Halsted.

The battle commenced, Lawrence not only put his ship in harms way, pulling aside HMS Shannon but he loses the battle in a record 11 minutes. There was tremendous carnage and casualties on both sides with nearly 40 dead on the USS Chesapeake and 34 on the British ship HMS Shannon. The worst of it was that according to Mr. Halstead’s account Captain Lawrence was mortally wounded and taken below to be attended to by the ships surgeon. From there he was unable to command his ship allowing the British to board and seize control. A total disaster at sea with an audience!

As Napoleon is credited with saying “What is history but a fable agreed upon?” There is no question that on that day the engagement between the Chesapeake and the Shannon should never have taken place. Halsted observed that not only did Lawrence’s surviving crew give up the ship almost immediately, but some historians believe that Lawrence had disobeyed orders to avoid combat in the first place, then committed a series of tactical blunders that all but guaranteed he and his ship would lose. So what was won that day?

Mr. Halsted concludes that “Rather than a heroic stand, what took place that day and after was one of the most spectacular—public relations coups in American military history. It was carried out with the full support of the public. And to look back on what really happened, as it has been pieced together by historians since, is to appreciate how little has changed about one aspect of war: our need to transform even the most pointless losses into a noble, defiant message.”

We do know that a few months after the battle, a dark blue almost black banner, was commissioned by OH Perry with Lawrence’s words sewn on. It was hoisted to the masthead of his namesake vessel, the Brig USS Lawrence. Its captain, Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry, then won the most decisive victory in the War of 1812 on Sept. 10 over British naval forces in the Battle of Lake Erie. That original “Dont give up the ship” banner now graces the US Naval Academy main hall. So as Winston Churchill once may have said “History is written by the victors”.

Note: Tom Halsted is a Gloucester Massachusetts writer and sailor and the great great grandson of James Curtis, a midshipman who, as a 15 ­year ­old, was Lawrence’s aide ­de ­camp on the Chesapeake.

The Niagara Returns!

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Set your clocks, mark your calendars, program your smart phone and get ready to experience the Brig Niagara again. Our friends from Erie, The Brig Niagara and the Flagship Niagara League are setting sail, returning to Put-in-Bay Ohio June 18-22 for the Put-in-Bay Maritime Celebration and Pyrate Fest. This is an epic event hosted by the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce.

What began as a pipe dream last winter is now a five-day event, one that we envision growing and blossoming into a broadly attended festival that will continue to celebrate Put-in-Bay’s 200+ year maritime heritage. The Perry Group is proud to be a partner in this new adventure.

This year we are looking forward to seeing many of our old friends, visitors and neighbors back to relive some of the excitement of the 2013 Bicentennial. We also want to extend a warm welcome to the new friends we will make coming to the island for the first time, including the new superintendent and staff joining us from Perry’s Victory.

There is no question that our deeply rooted maritime heritage here in the Bass Islands was built upon the square riggers, schooners, steamers and later affordable pleasure craft built and enjoyed here on the great lakes.

Ever since the first indigenous natives started visiting the islands they knew as “Split Winds”, people have wanted to visit Put-in-Bay. Our regions’ collective conscious is all about the water and the backbone of our island’s destination heritage.

You can imagine that it did not take very long after Oliver Hazard Perry visited the island in 1813 before Put-in-Bay became a regular stop for merchant vessels looking for safe harbor. And by the late 1850’s Jose De Rivera’s dream for establishing a “new start” farming opportunity here had bloomed with vineyards and fruit orchards attracting summer visitors from “far away” places like Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland.

The residents of Put-in-Bay’s love for the water was infectious and groups like the ILYA (Inter-Lake Yachting Association) began hosting its now world famous sail and powerboat regatta here in 1890’s. It annually draws hundreds contestants, along with thousands of spectators and boating enthusiasts. People from all ends of the Great Lakes return again and again, attracted to our warm and gracious host port island.

This year’s “Return of the Niagara” also marks the beginning of a new era in our celebration of peace with Canada and Great Britain. Once the treaty of Ghent was signed back in 1815 the clock started ticking. The next 200 years starts now with events like our Put-in-Bay Maritime Festival.

From rowing boats to Tallships, the Brig Niagara presence over the next several years provides the public with a direct connection to that important history. And with Pyrate Fest sharing the weekend comes our fantastical connection to the good and the bad of sailors, pirates and privateers.

On May 1 the public will be able to access the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce (visitputinbay.com) website for advance tickets to June’s events. I recommend being early in line. Tickets for tours, the catered reception, and 5 hour sail will be available in limited quantities and for 10 lucky folks there will be a VIP pass for sale that covers the tour, reception and the sail for two plus dinner with wine at the Crews Nest. All of the details can be found on the chambers website.

Please help us to make the 2015 Put-in-Bay Maritime Celebration a success. Find us on Facebook, twitter, instagram and share the news. Your social media tool kit starts with our hash tags for this year’s events #pibmaritimecelebration, #pyratefest and #returnoftheniagara. Spread the word, share the hash tags!

Mt. Moriah’s Treasure

On a bitter cold day this past February during a trip to Philadelphia for the Tallships America conference Marc Burr and I drove to the far side of Old Philadelphia to the once famous Mt. Moriah Cemetery. We were looking for the final resting spot of Commodore Jessie Duncan Elliott. Elliott, as you know, was the Commandant of the Brig Niagara until Oliver Hazard Perry rowed from the Lawrence and took command from him changing the outcome of the Battle of Lake Erie and America’s future. Elliott would forever spend the rest of his career with the shadow of that day looming over him. For most of us Perry stands tall as an American hero but Elliott has faded into obscurity.

monument-hill

We were fortunate to be able to meet with Samuel Ricks from “Friends of Mt Moriah” at the eastern gate of Mt Moriah Cemetery. He led us up a hill on a broken down pathway through thick overgrowth of a once grand parkway to the far corner of this 350 plus acre site. Over 80,00 people, including Betsy Ross, were buried here starting around 1855. Many of Philadelphia’s older churches moved their ancient burial grounds here too. In 2004 the last living commissioner of Mt. Moriah Cemetery Association, Horatio Jones, passed away. A “perpetual care” fund set up in the 1950’s was soon depleted and Mt Moriah went out of business and was abandoned.

Today it looks like a gothic nightmare with once imposing mausoleums, elaborate family plots and giant statuary toppled by time, brambles, vandals and trees. Thanks to the Mt. Moriah friends group and a contingent of college students about 35% of the cemetery has been cleared of weeds, bramble and trees. In the back potion of this amazing place Sam Ricks showed us the Navy Asylum cemetery. In the 1800’s Naval Asylums were a mixture of hospital and nursing home and often the place of last refuge for dying sailors.

This Naval portion of Mt. Morriah is actually a cemetery within a cemetery where those who died at the Philadelphia Asylum were buried and is “owned” by the US Government. Within the Naval cemetery is small section of War of 1812 Veterans, which is where we found the final resting spot of Jessie Duncan Elliott. DSCN0158_01

Thanks to Mr. Ricks and his friends, this sacred Naval burial ground was pulled back from the brink of complete obscuration. The cemetery now finally has the US Government’s attention. Sadly, Elliott’s grave marker says “unknown” today because the Veteran’s Administration, tasked with oversight of the Navy plot, has been slow to verify those buried there and replace the decaying grave markers. But Sam Ricks and the board of “Friends of Mt Moriah” have continued the research to verify the men buried in this historic plot.

Many of the headstones have become hard to read, but with special techniques, effective research and a little sleuthing, the Friends of Mt Moriah have verified the final resting spots for several sailors aboard War of 1812 vessels including the Niagara, Lawrence, Constellation and Constitution. In fact Seaman Thomas Johnson, last survivor of the BonHomme Richard captained by John Paul Jones during the American Revolution, is buried here as well.

Mr. Rick’s stated to us “Our first priority on this project is to identify the sailor and marine graves, then go back and research their histories at a later date.” Two stories that he is working on are based on an 1893 Philadelphia Enquirer article about the Asylum. It mentions George Adams and John “Jack” Smith as the two sailors who rowed Perry from the Lawrence to the Niagara during the Battle of Lake Erie.

Sam has a copy of the pension papers of George Adams that shows that OH Perry personally vouched for Adams being wounded while rowing him from the Lawrence to the Niagara! There was also a Boatswain’s Mate from the Niagara, Edward Coffee who is buried nearby in the Naval Plot.  The Friends group has a page from his pension file that mentions his service during the Battle of Lake Erie, “Perry’s Victory”

As you can imagine, we couldn’t help but be drawn in by the facts and stories Sam Ricks shared with us. There is much more research to be done on the sailors buried here to find out which others may have served during the Battle of Lake Erie. The pension records for many who served on the Lakes during the War of 1812 are becoming more readily available on the internet, but most still require going to the federal archives for verification.

If you’re interested in being involved in this important project and insuring that Elliott and all the 1812 Navy veterans get the attention they deserve I urge you to write to the VA area director (for Washington’s Crossing that services the Naval Plot) Gregory Whitney (Gregory.Whitney@va.gov).  The Perry Group continues to work on sighting a permanent marker to properly commemorate Commodore Jessie Duncan Elliott as well as the Niagara and Lawrence sailors buried at the Mt. Moriah Naval Plot. For more information about Mt. Moriah go to  http://friendsofmountmoriahcemetery.org/

War is Over-Congress Ratifies the Treaty Of Ghent

I wanted to share this press release that came in last week from Dave Zavagno. After nearly three years of war, word comes from Europe at the end of December 1814 that a treaty to end the war has been signed, but needs to be ratified. American’s rejoice in the north but the word does not come fast enough to stop the final battle to in New Orleans from playing out, with Andrew Jackson emerging as the only American leader to have fought in the Revolution and the war of 1812. On February 16th, 1815 Congress Ratifies Treaty of Ghent

Today is the 200-Year Anniversary

Put-in-Bay Township, OH—February 16, 2015— The Perry Group, a volunteer, nonprofit organization will be celebrating with representatives from Ohio, Indiana and Michigan the historic date of February 16, 1815, when Congress ratified the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812. A dedication ceremony will take place on Memorial Day at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, honoring the 557 sailors who served during the Battle of Lake Erie, a turning point during the war.

The Treaty of Ghent ended hostilities between Great Britain and the United States and restored boundaries to what they were before the outbreak of war. Territory, now compromising three states was carved out by the British as “Indian States.” Indian tribes fought on the side of the British during the war of 1812. Indiana and Michigan may never have become states, and the continued westward expansion of America would have been seriously jeopardized without the ratification of the Treaty.

Donald R. Hickey, professor of history at Wayne State College in Nebraska and author of The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict states: “If the American Revolution established the nation, the War of 1812 confirmed the nationhood. Convinced that they had won the war, the American people emerged from the contest with a buoyant self-confidence, with a clear idea of their identity and a newfound sense of propose.”

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Ohio was built to recognize the decisive victory of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry over the powerful British Navy during the Battle of Lake Erie. According to Mr. Hickey: “…not only did it secure naval superiority in Lake Erie, but it also paved the way for the American victory on land.”

Perry’s battle flag with the iconic words “Don’t Give Up the Ship” is now on display at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. “DGUTHS” is known throughout the U.S. Navy and is a central command for all midshipmen.
Memorial Day ceremonies honoring the 557 Navy sailors who served during the Battle of Lake Erie and a celebration of the end of the War of 1812 will take place at Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

According to David Zavango, chairman of the Perry Group’s Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial celebration, “February 16 is one of the most important days in Ohio’s long and storied history. Memorial Day will bring together thousands to honor those who served gallantly in the Battle of Lake Erie.

“At the conclusion of the ceremonies, a permanent plaque will be unveiled to honor those who served and the 557 modern-day sailors, who stand in their place today honoring their memories.”
About the Treaty of Ghent.

The initial terms of the treaty were written in 10 days, but it wasn’t until December 24, 1814 that both sides agreed to the terms and even longer, due to poor telecommunications, to officially announce to all parties involved that the war was over. The war of 1812 officially ended on February 16, 1815, after nearly six months of peace negotiations in the city of Ghent, which is now Belgium.

About Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (IPM) is located within the Village of Put-in-Bay, OH. Put-in-Bay is on South Bass Island. IPM was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812, and to celebrate the long-lasting peace between Britain, Canada and the U.S. The Memorial, a Doric column, rising 352 feet over Lake Erie is situated 5 miles from the longest undefended border in the world.

About The Perry Group

The Friends of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, also known as The Perry Group, is a volunteer, nonprofit organization working with the National Park Service and the local, national, and international community to commemorate the Battle of Lake Erie and celebrate the long-lasting peace between Britain, Canada and the United States.

Since 1989, The Perry Group has supported Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in its educational, historic and peacekeeping goals through the promotion and sponsorship of the Memorial’s programs and special events.

Time Capsule Mystery Revisited

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Recently I got a letter from Nell Fike whose great Aunt was a “winner” in the 1912 Battle of Lake Erie Centennial Committee’s essay contest “Commodore Perry, the man and the Commander”. I had done some research into this story two years ago when I wrote about “Jane’s Missing Essay”
(https://chasingperry.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/lost-and-waiting-to-be-found-janes-missing-essay/) and this story only gets more unfortunate as I learn more about the essay contest.

This was a well-publicized contest that was competed at both county and statewide levels. There is some evidence that perhaps some form of this essay contest was even done in all the 14 states that were part of the Perry’s Monument Commission. As I investigated further it seems that there probably were winners in every county. And then to make matters worse, there were two submission categories, high school and college! In Ohio alone there are 88 counties, which means there would have been 172 winners and a like number of runners up.

The county winners were then submitted to the state for “final” judging. There was conflicting information that said that these winning essay(s) would be placed “in” the Monument, though not necessarily in the time capsule placed in the column wall.

The complicating factor was that when the monument was originally designed and built there was supposed to be a museum built where these essays and many other artifacts would have been housed. That museum was never built (see picture). What happened over the next 100 years under the monument plaza were poorly controlled conditions in the chambers where items were stored. Water, humidity and poor storage conditions damaged much of the contents. Sometime in the 80’s prior and during the Monuments major repair for water damage, former NPS employees recall boxes and boxes of ruined “stuff” were hauled away.

When that same renovation was being done, the construction workers discovered the time capsule. They removed it the National Park Service logged its contents and placed it back in the wall. No essays were in that time capsule content list unfortunately. When we had the Mason’s here to do the cornerstone ceremony I inquired with them on this story and the contents as well. They had been in charge of the capsule and contents and they had no information on the essay contest winners being included in this box either.

After the renovation construction was completed the time capsule was put back in a wall and the capsule’s exact location was not noted. There were no organized efforts to locate it during the bicentennial year again since it had already been opened previously.

So sorry to say we did not pursue this missing essay project any further. The hundred or more essay(s) could have been in the boxes of “stuff” removed, or perhaps they could be in some never inventoried box at the Columbus Statehouse Archives or some other county historical society storage facility.

I am sorry there is no happy ending to yet for this story. But who knows, maybe the essays will turn up in some archive or family barn. I would hate to think they all rotted away in the storage areas under the plaza of the Monument.

I am hopeful that somewhere there is a person who may know of the where about’s of these essays. Nell was able to find a few in the Western Reserve Historical Society. If you have an idea on where we might look, email us at the battleoflakeerie@gmail.com so we can put this mystery to rest!

The USS Lake Erie gets a new home

 

MarcNanBurrUSSLakeErieDuring this past year’s Historic Weekend, (now known as Perry’s Victory Heritage Festival) Perry Group President Marc Burr and his wife Nan were invited to fly to Los Angeles to be aboard the USS Lake Erie by XO Gonzalez when the USS Lake Erie was repositioned from Pearl Harbor (via Los Angeles) to San Diego for a refit. After the refit, the Lake Erie will make San Diego it’s permanent new homeport after 20 years in Pearl Harbor.

 

Thanks to Glenn Cooper, the Perry Group has had a long and wonderful history with the USS Lake Erie that has built long term friendship with the Captain(s) and crew of the ship.

 

Back in 1987 Captain Glenn Cooper, as you may or may not know, decided to submit an idea for the future name of the soon to be built ship. Glenn told me how he was in Florida and happened to be reading a book about Navy ships. As he perused the book Glenn realized that the Ticonderoga class Navy ships were named for important US Naval battles.

So Glenn took the initiative to follow up on this idea, and enlisted the help of then Put-in-Bay School Principal Kelly Faris and Superintendent Dick Lusardi. Together they composed a letter to Senator John Glenn on why the ship should be named Lake Erie based on the heroic efforts of Oliver Hazard Perry and his men in the Battle of Lake Erie. John Glenn, who was on the committee that had oversight on Navy projects was able to present the idea to the Navy command.

 

According to “uscarrier.net”, the USS Lake Erie (CG 70) was the 24th Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser built and was named by Perry Group advisory board member Glenn Cooper for the decisive USN victory in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Her keel was laid at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, on March 6, 1990, and she was launched on July 13, 1991. The ship was christened by Mrs. Margaret Meyer, the wife of Rear Adm. Wayne E. Meyer. Capt. William H. Parks, Jr., was the prospective commanding officer. Several members of the Put-in-Bay community were on hand for that ceremony.

 

May 12, 1993 The Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Lake Erie departed Bath Iron Works for the last time. July 9, PCU Lake Erie arrived in its homeport of Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, after a 57-day transit from Bath, Maine and on July 24, 1993 USS Lake Erie was commissioned during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

 

The Battle of Lake Erie is very significant to the US Navy and this important connection to US Naval History and the Navy’s adoption of Perry’s motto “Don’t Give Up the Ship” has made the USS Lake Erie the pride of the Pacific fleet. Glenn Cooper has fostered a strong bond with the crew and leadership of the USS Lake Erie with the Perry Group and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial over the years.

 

If you’re heading to San Diego, the public is encouraged to go visit the USS Lake Erie while in dry dock. Glenn Cooper and the Perry Group’s long-term commitment to the officers and the crew of the ship is very evident and it has made the USS Lake Erie solid connection not just to history but to a community a standout among the fleet.

Sail Training Scholarship

By Peter Huston

It is an amazing experience to be aboard a tall ship like the Brig Niagara as her sails unfurl and the hull begins to surge forward, the rig creaking as the sails fill. Just being a passenger aboard as the ship begins to move ahead under sail is an inspiring moment. You can feel the power in the rig, and the excitement on the deck as the crew busily works all around you to hoist, trim, adjust and secure the lines in a repeated symphony of orchestrated commands and responses.

The Brig Niagara is one of the most majestic of tall ships designs from the early19th century. Two hundred years ago ships like it shared the waterways with graceful schooners, brigantines, and barques. Standing on its’ deck you can let yourself imagine for just a moment that you have gone back in time.

People of all ages are often amazed and spellbound by tall ships when they come into port. For many just going aboard for the first time is an eye opening experience. Some wonder about the life at sea and consider the romantic notion of being a volunteer or perhaps taking courses to become trained crew.

Raising the sails

Raising the sails


But even though I have been sailing aboard small boats since I was a young boy, I quickly recognized when I first went aboard a tall ship that it is altogether different from my other sailing experiences. It takes a large crew of trained sailors to carry out the wishes of the captain. There is a complex set of skills and verbal commands required and an absolute need for teamwork and communication to make this ship sail effectively.

Perhaps a little known fact about the current US Brig Niagara is that the ship’s primary mission is sail training. “Sail Training” is a step-by-step process designed by the Brig Niagara staff to train willing students to become a crewmember. Over the past 30 years the Niagara has trained hundreds, perhaps thousands of crew. Many of their crew has gone on to sail aboard other tall ships going around the globe or transporting “semester at sea” students around the Caribbean. Some have become mates, even captains.

Over the years the National Park Service, the Perry Group, Chamber of Commerce and the many businesses here in Put-in-Bay have embraced the Brig Niagara as a crucial part of sharing our unique history with others visiting the islands. No other ship embodies the teamwork and skill required to sail a tall ship, any tall ship. The crew and officers of the Brig Niagara are known around the world for their premier sail-training program. We are working hard to promote their ongoing mission on the great lakes.

It is incumbent upon us, the supporters of the Brig Niagara, to keep the sail-training program healthy and growing. Part of that mission is to find and train new young students the basics about sailing aboard a tall ship. The Perry Group, along with the help of Flagship Niagara League are interested in promoting this amazing connection between the Brig Niagara and Lake Erie Islands by establishing and underwriting an annual scholarship for one student from our area to be aboard the Brig Niagara for 4 weeks during the summer.

We think this is one of the most important educational projects we can promote and participate in, a that will not only help a student learn a new skill, but promote the Brig Niagara which is so important to our history and tourism here in Put-in-Bay. If you’re between 16 and 23 or know someone how is and want to learn more about this scholarship let us know. This scholarship will require an essay and a keen interest in learning seamanship.

And if you’re a parent or philanthropically inclined and would like to support this scholarship we want to hear from you. Email us at Battleoflakeerie@gmail.com

Legacy, Perry’s Victory Heritage Festival

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As our nations observance of the War of 1812 continues, here in Put-in-Bay we are seeing the tangible results of last years promotion of the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial to families, history buffs and empty nesters. More and more are coming here with the hopes and expectations of seeing and connecting to the history and adventure that was part of the storyline in so many of the magazine and press articles. They are coming to Perry’s Victory, Pyrate Fest, LEIHS Auctions and hopefully the newly branded Perry’s Victory Heritage Festival (you know it as Historic Weekend).

This is exciting to see and something that we all hope to foster and promote. Last year when the Perry Group and Lake Erie Heritage Foundation worked with the NPS and our local business owners and community leaders to promote the Bicentennial we all hoped this might be the long-term result. This collaboration resulted in awards and recognition for our NPS park and the partners like the Perry Group, LEHF, and PIB Chamber of Commerce that made this possible. So now we are excited because many great things are on the horizon.

While we have known this weekend as “Historic Weekend” for years, the rebranding of the event as “Perry’s Victory Heritage Festival” will help visitors to better understand what the weekend is all about. And that will help us to better promote the events and grow the festival.

Next year the US Brig Niagara will be in port for this event adding to the concluding observances for the War of 1812. The Niagara is one of the most identifiable ways for us to attract and interest visitors that want to learn about the ship and it’s importance to our island’s history.

A long term association with Parks Canada will allow us to share the importance of the “Peace” that we enjoy with Canada and allow Americans to hear a different perspective on the war and the 200+ years of Peace we have shared.
Finally, the Perry Group is excited to see the Harbor Illumination and Toledo Symphony performance on Saturday become a major part of the overall experience for islanders, cottagers and our visitors. Here is a list of events for this years Perry’s Victory and Heritage Festival;

Friday, September 5
7:30 p.m. Sunset Flag Retirement Ceremony

Saturday, September 6
9:15 a.m. Wreath Laying at Battle Site- Miller Ferry leaves from Lime Kiln Dock at Put-in-Bay. Free tickets but only 225 available! 2 per family, Ages 10+ only, Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.)

11 p.m. – 1 p.m. War of 1812 Family Dance Workshop Dance instruction and Music by Fiddlesix

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. The Perry Group Reception and Fundraiser at the Keys 20 donation at the door, except life members are free

2:15 p.m. Historic Weekend Parade—Downtown Put-in-Bay, Ohio (Community parade with high school bands, antique cars, re-enactors, US Navy with special emphasis on 200 Anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner)

3 p.m. Military Tactical (Combined artillery and special maneuvers of ground forces from War of 1812)

4 p.m. Retracing History: A 1812 Conversation Roundtable discussion about the War of 1812 and the Present Day US Moderator: Greg Peiffer, Executive Director/Owner of WPIB/WPCR Radi0, Special Guests: Grant Walker, Naval Historian, United States Naval Academy Don Hickey, War of 1812 author and scholar USS Lake Erie Command Master Chief Mike Killio Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation

6 p.m. Toledo Symphony Concert sponsored by the Perry Group
At Dusk Lights of Peace—Harbor Illumination sponsored by the Perry Flares will be lit around South Bass Island in memory of friends & loved one

Sunday, September 7
9 a.m. Ecumenical Worship Service by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

10 a.m. Procession: In Remembrance of the Fallen (20 minute ceremony Starts near flag poles ends in Rotunda


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War of 1812 Final Ceremonies

Perry's Victory Heritage FestivalSeptember 10th, 2015
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