An Erie Flag
Nestled away in the Galena History Museum in Galena, Il is this wonderful gem. Though most of the artifacts and exhibits have to do with General Grant the War of 1812 is represented. The flag in the picture above survived the Battle of Lake Erie.
In 1812 US and British forces vied for control of the Great Lakes as the war raged on. The origins of the conflict lay in the murkiness of maritime rights and unresolved issues stemming from the Revolution. With Great Britain thousands of miles away, Canada became the main target of the US Army. With a long shared border made mostly at the time of lakes and rivers, the naval battles almost overshadowed the land battles.
In September 1813 the American Navy struck at the British on Lake Erie. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry commanded, in his flagship the Lawerence, led the American fleet of 9 ships against a British squadron of 6 ships. Though outnumbered, the British outclassed the Americans in weaponry and training. For almost 4 hours the fleets engaged in a closely contested battle. The Lawerence took the brunt of the British fire, eventually leading Perry to abandon ship, but not before taking the flag with him. Raising that same flag on the Niagra, Perry took it as his flagship.
Perry doubled down and caused the British squadron to surrender. The victory was complete. In one of the more famous dispatches of the war, Perry exclaimed, “We have met the enemy and they are ours…” The British were forced to surrender Detroit and with it control of the Great Lakes.
At some point during the war Hezekiah Gear, a Galena resident was given the flag as an honor for his service during the war. Hezekiah brought it home with him when his service ended. From Lake Erie to Galena this flag certainly has a tale to tell.