Alexander Slidell Mackenzie.

The life of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. (Volume 1) online

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University of California.

C 1 R C U /, A TI N G B R A A r ( // .

in -two wee^f ; or a week before the end of the term.

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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1840, by

In the Clerk s Office of the Southern District of New- York.


THE following work was undertaken at the re
quest of Doctor Grant Champlin Perry, the eldest
son of Commodore Perry, who, perceiving in the
Naval History of Mr. J. F. Cooper an attempt to
diminish that admiration with which the people of
the United States have been accustomed to regard
the memory of Perry, with a view of raising the
standing of his second in command in the battle
on Lake Erie, was desirous that a full account
should be published of his father s life and services.
This request having been willingly assented to, he
accordingly forwarded to the writer the papers of
his father, consisting almost entirely of public cor
respondence and log-books of various cruises, of
which, however, the series was incomplete, and a
vast mass of documents relating to the battle of
Lake Erie, the whole forming rather materials for
writing the history of that event than the life of
Commodore Perry. The writer has had no ac
cess, either directly or through extracts, to Perry s
correspondence with his immediate family, which


would have afforded not only great assistance in
carrying on the thread of the narrative, but also a
better insight than could be otherwise obtained
into his thoughts, his feelings, and affections.
While reverencing the motive which led to this
sacred treasuring from the public eye of all that
remains of such a husband and father, he cannot
but regret, as his biographer, the want of access to
such valuable sources of information.

Compelled to seek materials when he had be
lieved that his only task would be to make use of
those which, through a long series of years, had
been collected, the writer addressed himself forth
with to the living friends and companions of Com
modore Perry, and to others who could lend him
assistance in his undertaking. He has been kind
ly and generously aided by most of those to whom
he applied. To the sister of Commodore Perry,
nearest his own age, he is indebted for materials
used in detailing the incidents of his early life,
and her own words have occasionally been incor
porated in the narrative. To Lieutenant A. A.
Harwood, of the Navy, a resident of the neigh
bourhood in which Commodore Perry was born,
he is under great obligations for anecdotes of the
commodore s early life, obtained among the com
panions of his youth, and for a description of the
family homestead. From Commander Stephen
Champlin and Mr. Thomas Brownell he has re-


ceived personal explanations on various minor
points relating to the Lake Erie squadron, con
cerning which the printed and written documents
were obscure or silent. To Doctor Usher Par
sons, of Providence, the only medical officer in the
Lake Erie squadron who was able to peform duty
during and immediately after the battle, and who
was subsequently surgeon of the Java when under
Perry s command, the writer has to acknowledge
himself under great obligations for a variety of
facts communicated in a series of interesting notes,
and just and intelligent opinions with regard to
the character, manners, and acquirements of Perry.
He has also to acknowledge the valuable commu
nication he has received from the Honourable
John Chambers, of Kentucky, an aiddecamp of
General Harrison during the campaign of 1813,
containing several interesting anecdotes of Perry,
which, with little change of the language in which
thev were communicated, will be found incorpo
rated in the narrative. In addition to the various
facts illustrative of the battle of Lake Erie, and
of Captain Elliott s course towards Commodore
Perry, subsequent to his succeeding him in the
command, obtained from the highly intelligent and
interesting letters of Samuel Hambleton, Esq., pur
ser of the Lawrence, to Commodore Perry, Mr.
Hambleton has kindly placed at the writer s dis
posal all the letters of Commodore Perry to him-


self, during a long period of friendly correspond
ence ; and has, moreover, obligingly favoured him
with extracts from his journal when on Lake Erie,
and readily answered the various questions ad
dressed to him. From bis intelligent friend, C.
0. Handy, Esq., secretary of Commodore Perry
when on board the Java, and subsequently purser
of the John Adams on his last cruise, the writer
has received the heartiest assistance and valua
ble critical aid in the prosecution of his underta

The writer has made occasional use of the val
uable life of Perry published in 1821, by the Hon
ourable John M. Niles ; also of the masterly and
beautiful sketch on the same subject, from the pen
of Mr. Washington Irving, in the Analectic Mag
azine, and of various other works tending to throw
a light on the subject ; he has also carefully con
sulted Niles s Register, and a few contemporary
newspapers. With few exceptions, however, the
present life is entirely written from original docu
ments and materials collected expressly for the pur
pose, and the utmost care has been taken in the
verification of the facts. With regard to the tone
of the book, it has been unavoidably rendered
more controversial than the taste of the writer
would have dictated ; but the assaults made by
Captain Elliott against the character of Commo
dore Perry have been so notorious, and the aj-


tempts of Mr. Cooper to dignify this gentleman at
Commodore Perry s expense so obvious, that the
life of Perry would have been incomplete had the
writer failed to make use of the ample materials
before him to set the question between these two
officers effectually at rest.
Tarrytown, October 19, 1840.






Introduction. Ancestors of Perry. Emigra
tion of Edmund Perry. He settles in Ply
mouth. Driven away by Religious Persecu
tion. Removes to Narragansett. Account of
Perry s Father. He serves through the Rev
olutionary War. Is captured. Confined on
board the Jersey. Is released. Recaptured.
Escapes. Conclusion of War. Becomes
Master of a Merchantman. Marries. Birth
of Oliver Hazard Perry. Anecdotes of his "
Boyhood. Is sent to School. His various
Teachers. His Family settles in Newport.
Becomes a Pupil of Mr. Eraser. Suffers
from his Irascibility. Firmness of Mrs. Per
ry. He improves in his Studies. Is taught
Navigation. Proves an apt Scholar. Forms
a taste for Reading. French Aggressions on
our Commerce. Measures for its Protection.
Creation of a Navy. Oliver s Father ap
pointed Post-captain. Builds the General
Greene. Oliver left in charge of the Family.
Conceives the idea of entering the Navy.

Gives reasons for his choice 13





Oliver enters as a Midshipman mi board the Gen
eral Greene. Cruise to the West Indies.
Return to Newport. Second Cruise to the
West Indies. Skip ordered to St. Domingo.
Co-operation with Toussaint. Blockade
and Capture of Jaquemel. Cruise round the
Island. Part of Crew taken out by CommO
dore Talbot. Ship ordered to the Missis
sippi Rencounter with a British line-of-
battle Ship. Spirited conduct of Captain
Perry. Return to Newport. Peace with
France. Reduction of the Navy. Captain
Perry left out. Oliver retained. Tripolitan
War. Early operations. Oliver embarks in
the Adams. She sails for the Mediterranean.
Employed in Blockading. Gives Convoy
up the Mediterranean. Visits Spain and
Italy. Arrives off Tripoli. Boat Expedi
tion. Blockade. Attempted Negotiation.
Squadron returns to Gibraltar. Perry re
turns home. His Occupations and CJiaracter 39


Prosecution of Tripolitan War under Preble.
Perry 1 s anxiety to take part in it. Equipment
of four Frigates. Perry ordered to the Con.
stellation. Joins her at Washington. Min
gles in Society. Sails for the Mediterranean.



Treble superseded. The War loses its
chivalrous Character. Expedition of General
Eaton. Its partial Success. Perry trans
ferred to the Nautilus. Commodore Rodg-
ers succeeds to the Command. Concludes
Peace. Visits Tunis. Confirms the friend
ship of that Power. The Nautilus visits Al
giers. A change of Administration in that
Regency. Visit to Gibraltar. Perry re
moved to the Constitution. His Character as
an Officer. Returns home in the Essex.
Description of him by a Shipmate .... 62


Perry resumes his Studies at Newport. Falls
in Love. Is employed in building Gunboats.
Is engaged to be Married. Sails for New-
York with Flotilla. Employed in Protection
of the Harbour. Attack of the Leopard on
the Chesapeake. Perry s Feelings on the oc
casion. British Spoliations on our Commerce.
Our inability to protect it. Perry ordered
to build more Gunboats. Appointed to com
mand the Revenge. Attached to Commodore
Rodgers^s Squadron. Ordered to Washing
ton to refa. Sails for Charleston. Cruises
on Southern Coast. Encounter with a British
Sloop. Expects an Engagement. Prepares
to board. Pacific Termination. Returns
to Charleston. Proceeds to New- York.


Receives Instructions from Commodore Rodg-

ers. Is ordered to Newport. Engaged in
a Survey of the Sound. Shipwreck of the
Revenge. Ineffectual efforts to save her.
Crew saved. Court of Inquiry. Perry hon
ourably acquitted. Furloughed. Married . 76


State of our relations with Belligerants. Na
poleon repeals his predatory Decrees. Con
tinued Hostility of England. War against
our Commerce. Impressment of our Seamen.
War with England. Perry applies for
Sea-service. Appointed to command New
port Flotilla. Zeal with which he -enters on
the service. His Discipline. Style -of Cor
respondence. Exercise of his Flotilla.
Capture of the Guerriere. .T Lieutenant Mor
ris posted. Dissatisfaction of the Service.
Perry approves of it.-*His Conduct towards
Mr. Morris. Loss of Lieutenant Blodgett.
Renewed application for Sea-service. Of
fers his Service^ to Commodore Chaunceyfor
the Lakes. .Capture of the Macedonian.
Proposed Increase of the Navy. Suggests
the expediency of building a Frigate in Rhode
Island. Lieutenant Allen appointed to the
Argus. Perry remonstrates. Claims the
Command. His Delicacy to Allen. Perry
designated to command on Lake Erie . . .103







Perry ordered to the Lakes. Sends off Crews
of Flotilla. Visits his Parents. Goes ta
Albany. Joins Commodore Chauncey. Pro
ceeds to SacketCs Harbour. Rumoured At
tack from the Enemy. Perry detained on
Lake Ontario. Ordered to Erie. His Jour-
ne y t Rumour of an Attack on Erie. Ar
rival at that Place. Condition of the Squad
ron. Difficulties of Equipment. Perry vis
its Pittsburgh. Returns to Erie. Visits
Niagara. Storming of Fort George. Per-
mfs Account of it. Perry ordered to Black
Rock. Flotilla manned by Soldiers. Labour
of ascending Rapids. Arrival at Buffalo.
Passing the British Squadron. Arrival at
Erie. Preparation of the Squadron. Want
of Men. Ordered to co-operate with General
Harrison. Urgent Letters from Government
and the General. Letter of entreaty to the
Commodore for Men. Invites him to assume
the Command on Erie. Contemplated Attack
of the Enemy on Erie. Perry receives small
Re-enforcements. Determines to sail in pur
suit of the Enemy 126


Rise of Naval Armaments on Erie. Character
of the Lake. Nature of Harbours. Erie
well chosen for Building our Squadron.


Difficulty of Crossing the Bar. Judicious

Preparations. Labour of getting the Law
rence over. Enemy appear off the Harbour.

Disappear. Our Squadron on the open
Lake. Prepare for Battle. Sail in Pur
suit. Return to Erie. Arrival of Re-en
forcements. Letter from Commodore Chaun-

cey. Perry considers it insulting. Ten
ders Resignation of his Command. Commo
dore Chauncey promises Marines. Reserves
them for his own Ship. Squadron sails for
Sandusky. Visit from General Harrison.
Perry goes off Maiden. Offers Battle.
Anchors in Put-in Bay. Illness of Perry.
Receives Re-enforcements. Recovers. Vis
its Maiden and Sandusky .-^-Reproachful Let
ter from Secretary. Perry s Defence . . 169


Intelligence of the Enemy >s Intention to Sail.
Relative Force of Squadrons. Perry returns
to Put-in Bay. Last Instructions for Battle.
Enemy appears in Sight, standing for our
Squadron. Perry sails. Shift of Wind.
Enemy to Leeward. Clearing for Action.
Hoisting Battle-flag. Cheers along the Line.

Action commences. Destructive Fire on
the Lawrence in hearing down. Supported by
Scorpion, Ariel, and Caledonia. Niagara
draws to Windward. Desperate Resistance

rZ "


of the Lawrence. She is reduced to a Wreck.
Perry shifts to the Niagara. Perils of his
Passage. Sympathy of the Lawrence s Crew.
He reaches the Niagara in Safety. Sur
render of the Lawrence. Death of Brooks.
The Niagara breaks the Enemy s Line. En-
gages ~botli Sides. British Squadron attempts
to Wear. Detroit and Queen Charlotte get
foul. Terrible raking Fire. British Sur
render. Appearance of both Squadrons.
Character of the Victory. Official Letters.
Burial of Seamen. Return to Put-in Bay.
Burial of Officers 211


National Consequences of the Victory. Official
Report. Perplexities of Commodore Perry.
Favourable Notice of Captain Elliott. Un
favourable Rumours concerning Mm. Perry s
Efforts to suppress them. Gives him a Cer
tificate. His Motives. Informs General
Brooks of his Son s Death. Preparations
for transporting the Army to Canada. An
ecdote of Perry s Benevolence. Removal of
the Army to Put-in Bay ; to Middle Sister ;
to Maiden. Ascent of Detroit River. Perry
volunteers as Aid to General Harrison. Rap
turously received by the Army. Exciting
Pursuit. Enemy overtaken. Battle of the
Thames. Charge of mounted Kentuckians.



Death of Tecumseh. Capture of the British
Army. Anecdote of Perry s Horsemanship.
Affords Protection to the Moravian Mis
sionaries. Benevolence to Afflicted Woman.
Captain Elliott s Complaints against Perry 266



Introduction. Ancestors of Perry. Emigration of
Edmund Perry. He settles in Plymouth. Driv
en away by Religious Persecution. Removes to
Narragansett. Account of Perry s Father. He
serves through the Revolutionary War. Is cap
tured. Confined on board the Jersey. Is released.
Recaptured. Escapes. Conclusion of War.
Becomes Master of a Merchantman. Mar
ries. Birth of Oliver Hazard Perry. Anec
dotes of his Boyhood. Is sent to School. His
various Teachers. His Family settles in New
port. Becomes a Pupil of Mr. Fraser. Suffers
from his Irascibility. Firmness of Mrs. Perry.
He improves in his Studies. Is taught Naviga
tion. Proves an apt Scholar. Forms a taste for
Reading. French Aggressions on our Commerce.
Measures for its Protection. Creation of a
Navy. Oliver s Father appointed Post-captain.
Builds the General Greene. Oliver left in charge
of the Family. Conceives the idea of entering the
Navy. Gives reasons for his choice.

AMONG the noblest of a nation s possessions is
the memory of her great men. In the lowest state


of degradation to which a nation may be reduced
by her own degenerate profligacy, or by external
causes which she cannot control, the memory of
her mighty dead serves to solace her regrets, and
to stimulate the noblest of the living to imitate
their example ; to vindicate the fame and charac
ter of their country, and, haply, to restore its liber
ties. Greece, in the midst of all the humiliation
to which she was reduced by her own degeneracy,
or by the resistless energy and numbers of barba
rian conquerors, urged on by religious fanaticism,
could still exult in the recollection of her past his
tory, despise her conquerors, glory in her national
ity, and find, in the memory of her Leonidas, Epam-
inondas, and Alcibiades, inspiration to fire the
minds and nerve the arms of a Marco Botzaris
and a Canaris.

Should America be also fated to know her sea
son of decay, to sink under misfortune, and behold
the extinction of her liberties, she may yet exult
in the cherished memory of her patriots of other
times, and find, in the inspiration of their example,
worthy imitators of a Washington, a Franklin, a
Warren, a Decatur, and a Perry. Her sages may
well compare, for wisdom and virtue, with the
wisest and most patriotic of other lands. Brief as
is her history, and few as happily have been her
wars, no country has produced heroes of a truer
stamp. Among these, he whom we have last


Darned lingers in the memory, surrounded with all
the attributes that can adorn or give lustre to suc
cessful valour : with modesty, kindness, courtesy,
chivalrous self-devotion, lively sympathies, and a
generous humanity. To place the memory of
Perry before his countrymen in a more complete
and enduring form, to show him in his real char
acter, to depict his virtues without concealing his
faults, is the object of the following narrative.

Edmund Perry, the paternal ancestor of Oliver
Hazard Perry in the fifth generation, and the
first who emigrated to this country, was born in
Devonshire, in England, about the year 1630. He
was a gentleman of education and of considerable
literary attainments. Being an influential member
of the Society of Friends, and one of its public
speakers, he became the subject of the persecution
so rife during the domination of Cromwell, espe
cially against the Quakers, who, tampering with
the army and preaching universal peace, seduced
the military zealots from their duty, and bade fair
thus to put an end to the dominion of the saints.
This led to the emigration of Edmund Perry to
Plymouth, in Massachusetts, about thirty years
subsequent to the foundation of that colony.

The persecution, however, which had driven
him from England, raged with equal inveteracy
in the colony in which he had taken refuge,
though founded by those who had fled, like him-


self, in search of religious liberty. In order to be
able to worship God according to the dictates of
his conscience, he was compelled to remove far
ther from the haunts of civilized man ; and at
length, with others of his persuasion, found a rest
ing-place in South Kingston, on the waters of
Narragansett Bay, where they form their junction
with Long Island Sound and the Atlantic, encir
cling the beautiful promontory which is also called
by the name of Narragansett.

A more tolerant spirit existed in the colony of
Rhode Island than its neighbour of Massachusetts
Bay, by the persecuted of which it was chiefly
settled. At any rate, there were none but Indians
to disturb the emigrant in the possession of an es
tate which had been amicably acquired by pur
chase, and which continued in possession of the
family at the birth of the subject of this narrative.
The treatment of the Indians in this settlement was
kind and conciliatory. Their descendants still
continue to exist there in a civilized state ; and it
may be here mentioned as a remarkable fact, that
one of them fell on Lake Erie on board the Law

Freeman Perry, great-grandson of Edmund Per
ry, and grandfather of Oliver Hazard Perry, was
born on the second of February, 1732, and at the
age of twenty-four married the daughter of Oliver
Hazard, a descendant of one of the original Qua-


ker settlers of Narragansett, whose brother held the
station of lieutenant-governor of the colony. Oli
ver Hazard was a gentleman of large property,
elegant manners, and cultivated tastes. The state
of society in Rhode Island in those times not a lit
tle resembled that of Virginia. The cultivation
of the soil was then performed by slaves, and com
merce had introduced wealth, with its consequent
luxuries and refinements. Freeman Perry was
educated to the legal profession, in which he ac
quired distinction, filling, in a creditable manner,
various offices of trust, such as member of the co
lonial Assembly, and judge of the court of Common

The third son of this gentleman, called Chris
topher Raymond, father of the subject of this biog
raphy, was born on the fourth of December, 1761.
Notwithstanding his early age when the revolution
broke out, he was engaged throughout nearly the
whole of the war in fighting the battles of his
country, both by sea and land. After serving for
a time in a corps of volunteers raised in Narragan
sett, called the Kingston Reds, he entered before
the mast in a privateer commanded by a Captain
Reed, and, on the termination of the cruise, made
a second in the Mifflin, commanded by George
Wait Babcock. In the course of this last cruise
he was captured and taken into New- York, where
he was confined for three months on board the


Jersey prison-ship, subject to many miseries, occa
sioned by the disproportioned numbers that were
crowded together in a small space, the loathsome
filth in which they existed, the unwholesomeness
and insufficiency of the food, and all the studied
barbarities by which Britons sought to punish their
fellow-subjects of the New World for cherishing
the love of freedom, and defending the liberties
which were part of their birthright as descendants
of Englishmen. Near the Wallabout, in Brooklyn,
is a monument, erected over the remains of ten
thousand Americans, victims of the systematic cru
elty of British prison-ships.

Christopher Raymond Perry was among the
small number of those who escaped to recount the
horrible story of British captivity on board the
Jersey. He came forth, however, the emaciated
victim of the contagion which reigned within that
abode of horror. But his zeal in behalf of liberty,
and his resentment against England, were only
quickened into fresh intensity by the treatment
which he had received. So soon as his health
was restored, he entered on board the U. S. ship
Trumbull, commanded by Captain James Nichol
son, and was on board that ship during her memo
rable combat with the Watt, a British letter of
marque of greatly superior force. After an action
of two hours and a half, during which the Trum
bull had thirty-nine men killed and wounded, the


English ship almost entirely ceased firing, and
gave indications of an intention to surrender. Un
fortunately, at this conjuncture, the topmasts of the
Trumbull, which were badly wounded by the en
emy s lofty firing, went over the side, when the
latter, having lost no fewer than ninety-two men
in killed and wounded, was happy to escape.
This action was considered one of the severest of
the. Revolution.

Subsequently to this cruise, young Perry entered
on board a privateer, bound on a cruise on the en
emy s own coast He was, however, again cap
tured, and confined in prison in Ireland during
eighteen months, at the end of which time he ef
fected his escape ; and, having passed in a British
vessel to the island of St. Thomas in the charac
ter of a British seaman, took passage from thence
to Charleston, where he arrived after the conclu
sion of the war in 1783.

Perry continued to devote himself to the profes
sion of the sea, and made a voyage to Ireland as
mate of a merchantman. Among the passengers
on the return voyage to the port of Philadelphia
was a lady, born in Ireland, but of Scotch extrac
tion, by the name of Sarah Alexander. The ac
quaintance thus begun on the ocean subsequently
ripened into a strong attachment, and a year after,
being in October, 1784, Christopher Raymond
having risen to command, though as yet only


twenty-three years of age, he found himself in a
situation to marry ; and, having previously had
the fortune to win the consent of Miss Alexander,
they were married in Philadelphia. They forth
with removed to South Kingston, where the young
and uncommonly handsome couple was received
with joyous celebrations by Perry s extensive fam
ily circle, and particularly by his maternal grand
father, the venerable Oliver Hazard, whose cour
teous and graceful demeanour impressed the bride
most favourably as to the associates among whom

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Online LibraryAlexander Slidell MackenzieThe life of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 19)