It was symbolic, but impressive none the less. On Thursday, August 30, the commander of the Brig Niagara, a direct descendent of Oliver Hazard Perry, was lowered onto a longboat with the “Don’t Give Up The Ship” flag draped over his shoulders (as has been depicted by historians) and was rowed by several Niagara crew members to board the USS DeWert, an Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigate docked in Cleveland Harbor.
It was an historic transfer of command from the direct descendants of the commander of the US Navy Fleet in the September 1813 Battle of Lake Erie to the commander of a modern US Navy ship. This event was the official opening of a number of ceremonies and activities that will commemorate the bi-centennial of the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813 that took place about 10 miles north of Port Clinton.
The guest speakers for the event included Commander Joseph C. Thomas, the Commanding Officer of the USS DeWert; Rear Admiral Gregory Nosal, Commander Carrier Strike Group Two, Vice Admiral Charles W. Martoglio, Deputy Commander U.S. European Command, US Coast Guard Admiral Mike Parks and David Zavagno, Chairman of The Perry Group Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Committee.
In the battle, Perry was forced to transfer his flag through a hail of enemy fire from his flagship, Lawrence, to the other brig in his command, Niagara. That singular event has been depicted in many pieces of artwork, including the mural in the stairwell at the Ottawa County Courthouse as well as in a painting that hangs on the wall in the Victory Bar at The Island House.
A committee, headed up by former Port Clinton Mayor Debbie Hymore-Tester, is meeting to plan the City’s activities to welcome one of 16 Tall Ships from all over the Great Lakes for the celebration over Labor Day weekend in 2013.