Historical Collections of the Great Lakes
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Oliver Hazard Perry Collection - GLMS 21
This collection was donated to the Center for Archival Collections in 1974 by Mrs. Frazier Reams, Sr. The collection is composed of copies of the official communications from the records of Captain Perry in the Department of the Navy from 1799-1819. The collection consists of correspondence, which also is on microfilm, and miscellaneous memorabilia mostly pertaining to the Battle of Lake Erie (September 1813).
Property and literary rights have been dedicated to the public and duplication is permitted for the purpose of preservation and scholarly research. The register was completed by Kenneth Minkema in October 1981and updated by Jordan Wesler in February 2009.
Oliver Hazard Perry was born in the town of Rocky Brook, near Newport, Rhode Island, in 1785. He learned navigation at Newport and joined the navy in 1799 at the age of fourteen. He first saw service in the West Indies under his father's command and then was stationed in the Mediterranean during the war with Tripoli (1802-1806). From 1807 to 1809, as a lieutenant, he commanded the building of gunboats at Newport.
When the War of 1812 broke out, Perry immediately requested to be called into active service. Eventually, Commodore Isaac Chauncey charged him with the fitting and running of the Lake Erie squadron, and Perry assumed command of this squadron early in 1813. Perry's famous victory over the British fleet, commanded by Robert Barclay, not only gave the American Navy "a signal victory" and control of the Lake it also made Perry a hero.
In 1816, Perry was given charge of the JAVA and toured the Mediterranean. In 1819, he was given command of a small fleet with which he cruised to Buenos Aires on a diplomatic mission. After concluding negotiations there, Perry contracted yellow fever and died within a few days. His body was later interred at Newport.
This collection consists of correspondence to Perry from various officers in the U. S. Naval Department (1799-1819) and, more significantly, from Perry to the Naval Department (1806-1819). Of special interest are communications related to the building of the Erie Squadron (1811-1813) and letters from various cruises upon which Perry embarked.
Content of the letters covers a wide range of topics: commissions, recommendations, officers lists, requisition and transfer requests, logistic concerns, strategy, personnel related material (e.g., courts martial), sailing orders, and private letters. One can trace Perry's movements by virtue of the correspondence's origins; tracing his career from Newport, Rhode Island, to being commissioned and given his first command, and on to various ships of war (USS REVENGE, ARIEL, JAVA, etc.) and ports of call (Newport, New York, Washington, etc.)
The miscellaneous material pertains mostly to the Battle of Lake Erie. For the nautical researcher, there is a souvenir program commemorating the raising and refitting of the USS NIAGARA which had lain on the bottom of Lake Erie for some eighty years.
The pamphlets written by Usher Parsons relate his remembrances of the Battle of Lake Erie. Also included is a pamphlet relating the little-known scandal concerning Perry and Captain Jesse Elliot, commander of the USS NIAGARA.
Includes both incoming and outgoing letters of Perry, mostly with the Department of the Navy.
1834, 1852, 1855, 1862, 1913
Includes first-person discourses of the Battle of Lake Erie, a sworn statement of a teamster, and a discussion of the difference between Captain Perry and Captain Jesse Elliot
Miscellaneous reprinted scenes of the Battle of Lake Erie, book jackets, envelopes.
- Letter 1-30: Commissions and orders from Naval Department to Perry at Newport, Rhode Island, April 1779-October 1811.
- Letter 31-70: Commissions and orders from Naval Department to Perry at Newport, Rhode Island, October 1811- August 1813.
- Letter 71-102: Commissions and orders from Naval Department to Perry at Newport, Rhode Island, September 1813- July 1814.
- Letter 103-135: Commissions and orders from Naval Department to Perry at Newport, Rhode Island, July 1814-December 1815.
- Letter 416-451: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from New York, and USS JAVA, October 1815-December 1815.
- Letter 452-483: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from USS JAVA, January 1816- November 1817.
- Letter 484-511: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from USS Java, April 1817- October 1817.
- Letter 512-544: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from Newport, February 1818- June 1819
- Letter 545-586: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from USS JAVA, Scattered dates, 1812-1817
- Letter 587-605: Letters from Perry to Naval Department USS LAWRENCE, July 1813- December 1813
- Letter 606-641: Commission tests, and USS JAVA correspondence, June 1804- December 1815
- Letter 642-673: Naval Department correspondence, December 1813-August 1819
- Letter 132-159: Commissions and orders from Naval Department to Perry at Newport and Rhode Island, January 1816-June 1819
- Letter 160-205: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from Newport, and New York, July 1806-May 1812
- Letter 206-246: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from Newport, May 1812-September 1813
- Letter 247-288: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from Newport and USS ARIEL, September 1812-May 1814
- Letter 289-339: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from Newport, Boston, and USS JAVA, January 1814-September 1818
- Letter 340-383: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from New York, January 1815-June 1815
- Letter 384-415: Letters from Perry to Naval Department from USS JAVA and Newport, June 1815- September 1815
- "A Review of a pamphlet purporting to be documents in relation to the differences which subsisted between the late Commodore Oliver H. Perry and Captain Jesse D. Elliot." 1834
- "Usher Parsons' Discourse delivered before the Rhode Island Historical Society on the Battle of Lake Erie." February 16, 1852
- "Brief sketches of the Officers who were in the Battle of Lake Erie" by Usher Parsons, 1862
- Sworn statement of a teamster employed in building the Lake Erie fleet in May 1813. 1855
- Perry's Victory Centennial Souvenir The Niagara Keepsake, 1913
- Miscellaneous reprinted scenes of the Battle of Lake Erie and Oliver H. Perry, including book jackets and sesquicentennial envelopes
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