Fort Niagara was captured from the British by American forces 28 November 1812.
(Brig: t. 493; lbp. 110’; b. 30’; dph. 9’; cpl. 130; a. 20 guns)
The first Niagara was built at Presque Isle (Erie), Pa., by Adam and Noah Brown under the supervision of Sailing Master Daniel Dobbins and Captain Oliver H. Perry, and was launched early in the summer of 1813.
Niagara and the other ships of Perry’s squadron were held at Erie both by British blockade and lack of crews, until 1 August, when the British squadron retired. Taken over Erie’s protective bar by ingenious use of camels, Niagara reached deep water 5 August, and four days later her commanding officer, Captain Jesse D. Elliott, arrived with some 100 officers and men to take command. The squadron sailed in search of the British 12 August, located it in the mouth of the Detroit River, and waited for its sortie.
Battle was given 10 September, Perry in Lawrence leading the attack, and drawing concentrated fire from the British until Lawrence became an unmanageable wreck. He then transferred to Niagara who had been unable to close the enemy in the earlier stages of the action. From her deck he regrouped his squadron and came down through the enemy line, Niagara pouring broadsides into the British ships until victory was secured, and with it control of Lake Erie, freeing the upper lakes from the threat of invasion.
Niagara covered the landings at the mouth of the Detroit River which captured Malden 23 September, then covered the Army’s advance up the Detroit to Lake St. Claire as they pursued the retreating British. After wintering at Erie, she returned to patrol and convoy operations which included the capture of British ships Mink, Nancy, Perserverance, and Batteau. She wintered at Erie once more in 1814, then served as receiving ship there until sunk in Misery Bay for preservation in 1820.
Owned successively by Benjamin H. Brown of Rochester, N.Y., and Captain George Miles of Erie, Niagara was raised but found to need such extensive restoration that she was again allowed to sink. She was raised again 6 March 1913 and restored by the Perry Centennial Commission, who towed her from Buffalo to Chicago for exhibition at all the larger towns of Lakes Huron and Michigan during the commemoration of the Battle of Lake Erie. Returning to Erie 21 September 1913, she was cribbed up just out of the water, deteriorating until 1929, when restoration was begun by the Niagara Association of Erie, aided by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The project halted for lack of funds in 1934, but was finally completed in 1963 for the sesquicentennial of her great victories. Commodore Perry’s relief flagship of the Battle of Lake Erie may now be visited at the foot of State Street in Erie.