Commodore Perry

About the Man and the Statue

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Commodore Perry:

 

Many Perrysburg residents take for granted the statue of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry standing at the foot of Louisiana Avenue. All that some people know about it, or the man, is that our town is named for him and that the old marble statue was recently duplicated in bronze. Following is a more detailed insight into the life of Perry and what his military accomplishments mean to us today.

Following his victory over the English fleet in Lake Erie during the War of 1812, Perry was a true national hero, literally adored by America. He was a 28-year-old naval officer with unusual courage.

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Perry transfers from his damaged flagship Lawrence to the Niagara

The British ships were better armed (longer-range cannons) than his and their officers were experienced veterans from other wars. Many of his sailors were backwoodsmen who had never seen a fighting ship.

When the English fleet sailed out from Fort Malden. opposite Detroit, to challenge Perry and his men not many miles east of here, he didn't hesitate. He steered his flagship right into them and at close quarters disabled their biggest ship and caused the others to surrender.

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Original 1860 Marble Statue

In the process, his own ship was destroyed and with a handful of uninjured men, he rowed to another of his ships on which he again took over. While in the rowboat, the English fired at him and put a ball through the boat. Perry tore off his uniform coat and stuffed it into the hole to keep the boat afloat.

The entire battle took a little over three hours, and 68 sailors and officers on both sides were killed, and 190 injured. It is hard to imagine the bloody horror that took place as ships just a few yards from one another fired 12- and 24-pound cannon balls, not to mention exploding shells filled with marble-size shot, into one another and across their decks.

When it was all over, Perry sent his famous message to General William Henry Harrison here at Fort Meigs: " We have met the enemy and they are ours: two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop."

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1997 Bronze Statue

The naval victory gave America control of all of the Great Lakes, and Perry then helped ferry Harrison's army from here to Canada where they defeated the British army and killed the commander of their Indian allies, Shawnee Chief Tecumseh.

And this brings us to the story of the statue...

Of all the big cities in this country, Cleveland was the first to decide to honor Perry with a public statue. This was in 1860, and Ohio-born William Walcutt of New York was retained to design and carve it. The statue was made from a block of marble that came from Carrara, Italy. It was eight feet, two inches tall and included separate complimentary statues of a young sailor and a midshipman, smaller figures that were placed either side at the foot of Perry.

At its unveiling on September 10, 1860, the 47th anniversary of the battle, some 30,000 people were present, including Perry's son and surviving veterans of the naval battle. Perry was unable to attend, having died at sea of yellow fever in 1819, age 34.

Many years later, time and weather had taken their toll on the marble statue, so two bronze replicas were made, one given to the state of Rhode Island, Perry's home state, where it stands just outside the capitol building in Providence. The original marble statue then became unneeded and in 1929 people here in Perrysburg heard that Cleveland was looking for a home for the original marble statue and asked for it.

We weren't alone in this request; Put-in-Bay, Sandusky and several others were also interested. But Perry being our namesake, we got the statue and it was shipped here by freight train.

By this time the Great Depression was beginning and Perrysburg didn't have the money to put it up. So it was put in storage and not until 1937 was enough money raised to put it up at which time there was a big celebration for the dedication of the new monument.

By 1966 the concrete around the original statue was falling apart. It was taken down and the statue of Perry alone placed on a granite pedestal, with the smaller figures moved to the courtyard of the Municipal Building. Deterioration of the statue figures continued; however, in 1996 a campaign began to get them duplicated in bronze. The original details of the statue were recreated with the help of old pictures.

On Memorial Day, 1997, after a year of fund raising, the new bronze statues were put up at the foot of Louisiana Avenue. 

The original marble statue of the Commodore has been loaned by the City of Perrysburg to the National Park Service and resides in the Perry Monument Visitor's Center at Put-in-Bay. The smaller statues of the cabin boy and the sailor are now residing in the lobby of Perrysburg's Municipal Building on West Indiana Avenue.

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