It’s been called America’s second war for independence. It’s also regarded as one of America’s forgotten wars. It gave us the legend of Old Ironsides, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Andrew Jackson.
The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is being commemorated in sites throughout the United States – including northern Ohio around Lake Erie.
When ships come sailing into the port of Toledo on Aug. 23 for Navy Week, they will include modern sailing ships and the brig Niagara, a ship that turned the tide of the War of 1812 – and of U.S. history.
The British Navy was the sailing arm of the world’s greatest superpower in 1812. One of the theaters of operations in the War of 1812 was throughout the Great Lakes, valued as supply lines for the United States and England. On Sept. 10, 1813, U.S. forces, commanded by Oliver Hazard Perry, engaged the British in the Battle of Lake Erie near Put-in-Bay. Perry’s flagship was the brig Lawrence, but he had to evacuate it and sailed his colors on the Niagara. The United States won the battle, prompting Perry to tell commanding General William Henry Harrison, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
The Niagara was scuttled by the U.S. Navy in Misery Bay, in Lake Erie near Erie, Pa., when treaties after the War of 1812 made naval ships to sail the Great Lakes no longer necessary. Over the years, it had been renovated and reconstructed several times, and is now owned and operated by the Erie Maritime Museum in Erie, Pa.
The ships will be in Toledo until August 27, when they will set sail for Cleveland, spending Labor Day weekend there – coinciding with the air show at Burke Lakefront Airport. On Aug.ust 30, descendants of Oliver Perry will present Rear Adm. Greg Nosal with a “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag – the same flag that flew from the mast of the Niagara. The ceremony will include a longboat reproduced to War of 1812 specifications.
Events scheduled with the ships' visit include naval and Coast Guard band performances, dive and rescue team demonstrations and, of course, tours of the ships.
Many important battles took place in what is now Northwest Ohio in 1813, and plans are being made to commemorate the bicentennial of all of them next year, including the siege at Fort Meigs, in what is now Perrysburg, in May; the siege at Fort Stephenson, a fort on the Sandusky River on the site now occupied by the Birchard Public Library in Fremont, in August, and the Battle of Lake Erie at Put-in-Bay in September.