PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio — Dain Perry took a moment amid the pageantry and patriotism of the Battle of Lake Erie bicentennial commemoration to reflect on the lives lost 200 years ago.
The Boston man, a descendant of the brother of American hero Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, was among 450 people who boarded four ships Tuesday for wreath-laying ceremonies marking the actual anniversary of the British naval defeat in the War of 1812.
PHOTO GALLERY: Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial
“It was wonderful. I spent a lot of time in the bow trying to imagine what it was like for the people on those ships sailing out of Put-in-Bay and knowing what they were going to be facing,” Mr. Perry said.
The tiny island village of Put-in-Bay capped off a series of bicentennial events that stretched throughout the summer with solemn ceremonies recognizing the Sept. 10, 1813, battle. During the battle, 27 Americans died, and eight of the 96 wounded later succumbed to injuries. The British lost 41 lives in battle and 94 were wounded, according to the U.S. National Park Service, which operates the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial.
Four ships, including the U.S. Brig Niagara, left the docks in Put-in-Bay Tuesday morning, riding the waves until the ships and other vessels circled the battle site. There, about 4 miles northeast of West Sister Island, similar ceremonies took place on board each ship.
The somber fleet — this time consisting of a ferry boat, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, and a party cruise boat — was led by the Niagara, the ship Commodore Perry transferred to after his flagship Lawrence came under siege.
The wreaths tossed over railings into the blue-green Lake Erie waters represented the sailors who served on board the battleships.
“To see it was overwhelming,” said Elizabeth Edgerton of Shelburne, Vt., another descendant of Commodore Perry’s brother, who watched as three wreaths were thrown from the Goodtime I boat. “It just meant a lot to see those wreaths go out.”
Perry family descendants were among those who later attended a Tuesday afternoon program held on the memorial grounds in Put-in-Bay.
Representatives of the United States, Canada, and Britain were present, and officials lauded the ensuing legacy of peace among those nations.
Keynote speaker Gov. John Kasich heralded the courage of those who fought and paid tribute to the lives lost.
He repeated the words made famous on Commodore Perry’s battle flag “Don’t give up the ship,” adding that the long-ago American battle victory had something to do with destiny.
“I think America has a special destiny, and Ohio, by the way, plays an important role in the destiny of America. We’re playing a role right now, as we show many parts of the country how to pull ourselves out of a near-depression and begin to grow and generate prosperity in our state,” he said.
The various anniversary events memorialized the battle through ceremonies, a Labor Day battle re-enactment, a commemorative quarter from the U.S. Mint, and a special Battle of Lake Erie stamp, released on Tuesday.
People lined up outside the Put-in-Bay park site’s visitors center to purchase sheets of stamps. The stamps depict a painting of Commodore Perry in the small boat he used to transfer to the Niagara amid the smoke and fire of battle.
“I would venture to say today that the forgotten war is not forgotten anymore,” said Michael Reynolds, the park service’s Midwest regional director, during the bicentennial program.
For Dain Perry’s wife, Constance, the ceremonial events gave her insight into Commodore Perry, a man she’d read about in history books but whose legacy she understood better after visiting the battle site. “This brought it to life,” she said.