Posts Tagged 'Buoy'

“No time to rest”

By the end of November 1812, as the war with the British staggered on, our 4th US president, James Madison, had been re-elected. The American fleet and our militia had suffered numerous defeats to British and Canadian forces. To make matters worse several strategic ports in South Carolina and Georgia were being successfully blockaded by the British Fleet. By December of 1812 Madison’s Secretary of War, William Eustis, was forced to resign in disgrace.

Oliver Hazard Perry was still on a leave of absence after being exonerated in his 1811 court martial case for the sinking of the USS Revenge. According to Wikipedia “On May 5, 1811, he [Perry] married Elizabeth Mason of Newport, Rhode Island, whom he had met at a dance in 1807. They enjoyed an extended honeymoon touring New England.”

I am certain that news of the various American Fleet setbacks reached very patriotic Perry and motivated him to finally end his extended honeymoon and ask for a return to active duty. In March of 1813 Perry was given his new command and he was sent to Presque Isle to build a fleet to challenge the British control of Lake Erie. And as we know that important decision changed the course of US history. The summer of 2012 was the start of a three-year observance of the War of 1812 and especially the Battle of Lake Erie. For us this was a chance to create a buzz for things to come.

Here in Put-in-Bay our summer of 2012 was one of great hope and success. The National Park Service staff got things rolling here on the island in June with the “Declaration of War” observance. Shortly after that the Perry Group got underway with building Commodore Perry’s iconic “Long Boat”. The longboat, which is now fully planked, is slowly working it’s way through the final stages of its’ completion.

On August 30th beautiful weather made the excursion from Put-in-bay to Cleveland’s Navy week a huge success. The “transfer of command” from The Brig Niagara to Perry Class Frigate USS DeWert capped off the day’s festivities at the Navy’s kick off event for the Battle of Lake Erie Celebration. The summer ended with Historic Weekend hosted by Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, and included re-enactors, carronades, marching bands and parades. Historic weekend would not be complete without music and included an outstanding performance by the Toledo Symphony.

Saturday evening ended with the “Lights of Peace” Harbor Illumination. On Sunday morning a solemn ceremony was held at the placement of the permanent “Battle of Lake Erie” buoy by the US Coast Guard at the battle site.

The upcoming 2013 Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial celebration planning is well underway. The Perry Group and the National Park Service are preparing for a summer of memorable events here in Put-in-Bay and the Western Basin of Lake Erie from August 30th through September 10th. We have 19 tall ships scheduled to make their way to our area next August 29th. Eleven ports have signed on to be hosts, including Put-in-Bay, Middle Bass Island, Kelley’s Island, Pelee Island, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Monroe, Windsor, Leamington, Kingsville, and Amherstburg. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, The Perry Group and the eleven host ports cities will host Twelve days of activities, both on the water and on land.

But we can’t rest yet. Get out your calendars, because on Martin Luther King weekend January 17-21st, the Lake Erie Maritime Association has invited The Perry Group along with the NPS to host a weekend Battle of Lake Erie Celebration preview at the Cleveland Boat Show. We will have the newly completed Perry’s Longboat on site, re-enactors, authors and period musical performers gathered together to help raise the awareness level of our 2013 roster of summer’s event one more notch. Stay tuned!

“199 and counting”

September 10th, 2012

Today as I write this column it is the 199th anniversary of Oliver Hazard Perry’s Victory in the Battle of Lake Erie. This past historic weekend (September 8th and 9th) we celebrated along with the National Park Service, US Navy, US Coast Guard, Boy Scouts of America, the community of Put-in-Bay and all our friends who came from near and far the opening salvo to the 200th anniversary in 2013.

Just a little over one hundred years ago, newspaper man Webster Huntington and engineer John Eisenmann and group of interested citizens began a success campaign to build a monument of national importance to honor Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s incredible accomplishments in the Battle of Lake Erie before the Centennial Year (1913) began. They formed a multi-state commission to raise the funds for building the monument we see today. In 1911 President Howard Taft signed a bill to conditionally fund the monument. Various designs were considered but on July 4th 1913 the cornerstone was laid, not just for a monument, but a truly fitting tribute to Oliver Hazard Perry and the men that collectively changed the course of our history and the enduring peace and friendship we have enjoyed since with Great Britain, Canada and the First Nation.

In June of 1915 the International Peace Memorial was completed and opened to the pubic (thought it did not actually become a National Park Service site until July of 1936), providing a view to the battle site, and a call out for generations to come, reminding us why September 10th 1813 was a turning point in the War of 1812.

So Sunday morning (September 9th) a group of 50 or so people headed out past Rattle Snake Island to the far corner of the western basin of Lake Erie aboard the Coast Guard vessel “Mobile Bay” to the Battle of Lake Erie site to set a permanent mark. At around 11:30 while stationed on the battle site, we witnessed Bicentennial Chairman Dave Zavagno, who was given the privilege by Captain Stone of the USCG vessel “Mobil Bay” to order the buoy release, the beautiful “Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial buoy” set in place. The buoy is now located at the precise coordinates of 41-44-50.00 N by 083-02-00.00 W.

Now Perry’s monument view is connected exactly to the place and time where so many men died for a fledgling country, and where Perry accepted British Commander Barclays’ surrender. And not far from where Perry scribbled the words “we have met the enemy, and they are ours…” A sacred place is now properly marked for the 200th Anniversary.

The Buoy ceremony had capped off a week of activities to denote the advent of the celebration to come in the year ahead that kicked off on Thursday August 30th when over 250 people boarded the Jet-Express 2 in Put-in-Bay and headed to Cleveland’s Navy Week. This year’s Navy Week in Cleveland was especially important since US Navy had designated Cleveland as one of 15 port cities that are part of its’ official observance of the War of 1812.

So on that balmy day in Cleveland, Blue Angles streaking by overheard and the Brig Niagara on hand after a day of sailing, the Friends of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial coordinated a special observance that included a moving “Transfer of Command” from the Brig Niagara to the USS DeWert. Oliver Hazard Perry Cabot, a direct descendant of Commodore Perry was rowed from the Niagara to the docked USS DeWert just across the Port of Cleveland Channel. He presented his “Don’t give up the ship flag” to Rear Admiral Greg Nosal. This connection of the past to the present was a poignant symbol of a amazing progression from Perry’s first ever-fleet victory for the fledgling Us Navy to the modern Navy’s current peacekeeping mission. Despite the difference of vessels and costume, Perry’s motto (DGUTS) still resonates just as strongly today as it did 199 years ago.

Historic weekend’s festive parade, the NPS ceremonies featuring Rear Admiral Joseph Horn Jr., the Toledo Symphony and the evenings quietly moving “Lights of Peace” Harbor Illumination capped off a wonderful 199th anniversary. As we count the days until the 200th anniversary we are thankful for the sacrifices made on our behalf and savor the continued sacred peace we all enjoy here in Ohio.

“Buoyed Up”

On September 8th the US Coast Guard’s Mobile Bay, a 140 foot bay class icebreaking tug, will leave the Put-in-Bay harbor dock escorted by the US Navy’s Patrol Craft Hurricane, with the Battle of Lake Erie Buoy on board on a voyage into history. She will be sailing to very site where on that nearly windless day 199 years ago the American and British fleets converged, setting into motion a chain of events that would forever change the relationships between Canada, Great Britain and the United States.

September 10th 1813 was a pivotal day for us as a young country, for the emerging US Navy, and the many men aboard the ships of Commodore Perry’s fleet that sacrificed so much for a victory that day. This buoy will be a timeless reminder of the men, valor and courage required to change history’s course.

Finally we will have a permanent marker for the site, this sacred place we refer to as the Battle of Lake Erie.

The site has gone unheralded for nearly 200 years. While scholars like our own Gerald Altoff pinpointed the zone years ago where the battle took place by analyzing the captain’s logs, no one has ever found any real evidence of a battle at the site. Since no ships sank that day, the only evidence we could hope to recover would be the cannon shot, boat fragments, or perhaps some remnants of the ceremonial mass burial at sea of the dead sailors.

We know that the 6 officers who perished that day, both American and British, were buried in DeRivera Park on South Bass Island. Then, as the story goes, on September 10th 1913 their bodies were exhumed, placed in a coffin, and reburied ceremonially under the monument rotunda that was still under construction. But no other verifiable evidence of the battle has every turned up. The real “evidence” of the history made that day lives on in the later recalled written accounts made by the officers and sailors aboard the British and American ships.

A few years back, the National Park Service helped fund an expedition to determine if any artifacts could be found or identified near the battle site. A team of divers, skilled in underwater archaeology spent many days examining side scan sonar data, then dove on the sites, but only ordinance from nearby Camp Perry was ever identified.

That makes this new marker, a non-navigational buoy, so important. Now interested boaters, the descendants of the over 500 officers, sailors, and militia aboard, and those interested in our nation’s history will have a floating “monument” located over this sacred place, this spot to remember that fateful day, September 10, 1813.

The Battle of Lake Erie buoy joins a similar commemorative buoy placed in the approximate spot where Francis Scott Key penned the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” near Fort McHenry, where the Battle of Baltimore took place in September of 1814.

As editor Marge Neal of the Maryland paper Dundalk Patch noted, “The Francis Scott Key Memorial Buoy” may not aid boaters in a navigational sense, but the red, white and blue buoy, does serve to remind boaters of the historical significance of the spot, marked by the floating monument, where Key penned the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812.”

On September 8, 2012, The Battle of Lake Erie Buoy, will be taken to a site about 10 miles from Put-in-Bay, where we will observe, along with the US, British and Canadian Naval representatives the199th Anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie with a commemoration Ceremony. The placement of the buoy along with a series of presentations at Perry’s Monument Visitor Center later that afternoon keynoted by US Navy Rear Admiral Joseph Horn, Jr. and concluding with the Toledo Symphony and the “Lights of Peace” Harbor Illumination will mark a momentous start to the 2013 Battle of Lake Erie Celebration.

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