American victory at the Battle of Lake Erie led to the first unqualified defeat of a British naval squadron, on this day in history, 10 September 1813. American Captain Oliver Hazard Perry led a squadron of nine ships against six ships of the British Royal Navy under Robert Barclay.
Although the battle lasted only a few hours, it was hotly contested. Perry’s flagship Lawrence was demolished into uselessness because of the heavy fire it sustained. Three-fourths of its crew were killed, but Perry managed to transfer to Niagara and sail directly into the British line, firing broadsides and forcing the British to surrender. At the battle’s end the British had lost 41 killed and 94 wounded while the Americans had lost 27 killed and 96 wounded.
Despite having won the battle on the Niagara, Perry received the British surrender on the deck of the recaptured Lawrence, forcing the British to see the terrible price his men had paid. After the battle, Perry sent a famous dispatch to U.S. General William Henry Harrison that read, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”
The strategic importance of the Battle of Lake Erie was quite disproportionate to its actual size and number of participants. American victory allowed them to control Lake Erie for the remainder of the war, which in turn allowed them to recapture Detroit.