Deep in the WildernessAcross the Bay lies Erie. In 1812, Erie was a small village of about 400 people and 100 homes. In those days, Erie was surrounded by wilderness and barely accessible by land. Everything was in short supply. Crude, often washed out roads made it difficult to transport provisions such as iron, weapons, and tools from Pittsburgh, PA and Buffalo, NY.
From Nothing to a FleetUnder the watchful eyes of the patrolling British, Daniel Dobbins, shipbuilder Noah Brown and their crew began the task of building the Lake Erie Squadron on the shores of Erie in September 1812. Their tireless efforts resulted in six American warships, including two 110-foot brigs, the Lawrence and Niagara. In March 1813, Oliver Hazard Perry took command overseeing the construction of the ships. In desperate need of sailors to man his warships, Perry scoured the countryside in search of a crew. Over 500 men eventually fought with Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie.
Five smaller vessels, converted to gunboats, joined the American squadron after Fort Erie was temporarily abandoned by the British in late May of 1813. The American squadron now numbered 11 ships at Erie, but only nine would fight in the Battle of Lake Erie.
Did you Know?Perry's crew was made of U.S. Navy seaman,
Army soldiers, Marines, free Blacks and regional state militias. Many of the men had never fought in a naval battle or had ever been aboard a ship.
Shipbuilding was backbreaking work done entirely by hand. At the outset of construction, crews used wooden nails because iron was sparse.
"This important place is destitute of defence; we have no ordnance, small arms or ammunition."Purser Samuel Hambleton, April 1813