National Geographic : 1964 Nov
Flagship Disabled, Oliver Hazard Perry Transfers His Colors to Niagara During the unpopular War of 1812, scorn fully dubbed "Mr. Madison's War," Master Commandant Perry went to Erie, Pennsyl vania, to organize a fleet that could chal lenge British control of Lake Erie. On Sep tember 10, 1813, his nine vessels engaged the enemy. After a two-hour clash, Perry had to abandon his battered flagship, the Lawrence, ironically named for James Lawrence, the dying naval officer who had said, "Don't give up the ship." Aboard Niagara, Perry boldly attacked the British ships, raking them with such fire that the squadron sur rendered. Perry then sent to Maj. Gen. Wil liam Henry Harrison his famous dispatch, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." The battle gave the United States control of Lake Erie and enabled Perry and Harrison to drive British troops from Detroit. Half-burned White House still stands after pillage by the British. A storm on the night of August 24, 1814, put out the flames. Roof and interior were lost, but the walls have largely survived to this day. James Hoban, the original architect, reconstructed the mansion, but the Madisons, who left be fore the British arrived, never moved back. During the looting a British soldier car ried away a walnut medicine chest. A Cana dian descendant returned it to the White House in 1939 as a gesture of good will. 674 ENGRAVINGSBY A. LAWSON(TOP) AFTERTHOMAS BIRCH, COURTESYFREDERICKS. HICKS; AND WILLIAM STRICKLAND,LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ) N.G.S .