Quotable Quotes

"We have met the enemy and they are ours..."

Oliver Hazard Perry's immortal dispatch to Major General William Henry Harrison after the Battle of Lake Erie, 10 September 1813, "We have met the enemy and they are ours - two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop." The victory secured the Great Lakes region for the United States and ended the threat of invasion from that quarter. [William S. Dudley, ed., The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. vol.2 (Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, 1992): 553.]

"Don't give up the ship!"

Tradition has it that Captain James Lawrence said these heroic words after being mortally wounded in the engagement between his ship, the U.S. frigate Chesapeake, and HMS Shannon on 1 June 1813. As the wounded Lawrence was carried below, he ordered "Tell the men to fire faster! Don't give up the ship!"

Although Chesapeake was forced to surrender, Captain Lawrence's words lived on as a rallying cry during the war. Oliver Hazard Perry honored his dead friend Lawrence when he had the motto sewn onto the private battle flag flown during the Battle of Lake Erie, 10 September 1813. [William S. Dudley, ed., The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. vol.2 (Washington, DC.: US Government Printing Office, 1992): 559]

“The Almighty has been pleased to Grant us a signal victory on Lake champlain in the capture of one Frigate, one Brig and two sloops of war of the enemy.”

Captain Thomas Macdonough’s single sentence report to the Secretary of the Navy on the day of the Battle of Lake Champlain, 11 September 1814.

"…the whole history of the struggle on the ocean is, as regards the Americans, only the record of individual cruises and fights. The material results were not very great, at least in their effect on Great Britain, whose enormous navy did not feel in the slightest degree the loss of a few frigates and sloops. But morally the result was of inestimable benefit to the United States. The victories kept up the spirits of the people, cast down by the defeats on land; practically decided in favor of the Americans the chief question in dispute - Great Britain's right of search and impressment - and gave the navy, and thereby the country, a world-wide reputation. I doubt if ever before a nation gained so much honor by a few single-ship duels."

Theodore Roosevelt, The Naval War of 1812. G.P. Putnam's Sons; New York, New York; 1882: Reprinted; Naval Institute Press; Annapolis, Maryland; 1987

"The prestige of our navy was at its height. It had fully recovered the acclaim of the Truxton and Preble years, and had indeed gone far beyond that. For the first time, the American navy did not have to face the burning question of whether it should continue to exist. This, at least, had been settled for the foreseeable future. Never mind that the War of 1812 seemed to have settled little else; it had, in fact, settled a great deal. Indecisive in all other ways, the War of 1812 was the greatest single factor in preparing the United States Navy for the destiny that awaited it."

Captain Edward Beach USN-Ret., The United States Navy: 200 Years. Henry Holt and Company; New York, New York; 1986.

"The importance of the War of 1812 extends to our time… Many sacrifices were made by sailors and marines, fighting for a cause whose outcome was often in doubt. The results were worthy of the effort. The United States emerged from the war with a renewed sense of sovereignty and self-confidence. There is no doubt the U.S. Navy contributed mightily to this outcome."

Admiral James D. Watkins, USN, 22nd Chief of Naval Operations, Dedication to The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary history Vol. 1 edited by William S. Dudley.

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