Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, born at Rocky Point, South Kingston, R.I., 20 August 1785, was appointed Midshipman 7 April 1799 and served in revenue cutter General Green during the Naval War with France. He fought in frigates Adams and Constellation during the Barbary Wars. In the War of 1812, Perry constructed and commanded a fleet of American warships on Lake Erie. When his flagship Lawrence was shattered and sinking in the Battle of Lake Erie, Perry fired her last effective gun, took his battle flag, and rowed across shot-splashed waters to Niagara where he fought on to victory, and reported, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." The victory gave the United States control of Lake Erie and enabled Perry and General Harrison to take a large part of Canadian territory which helped American Commissioners at Ghent to negotiate a treaty favorable to the United States. When peace was restored, Perry commanded frigate Java in the Mediterranean. In May 1819 he went to Venezuela to seek help in protecting American ships off the northern coast of South America, waters then plagued by pirates. After sailing to the Spanish Main in John Adams, he ascended the Orinoco River in Nonsuch. At Angostura, Perry succeeded in negotiating a favorable treaty, but contracted fever and died 23 August 1819.
(Brig: 280 tons; length 105 feet; beam 25 feet 6 inches; dept of hold 12 feet 3 inches; draft 13 feet 2 inches, complement 67; armament 2 32-pounders, 6 32-pounder carronades)
The first Perry was launched in May 1843 by the Norfolk Navy Yard; and commissioned 13 October 1843, Comdr. Samuel F. Du Pont in command.
The new brig departed Norfolk 3 December 1843, called at Rio de Janeiro, and proceeded via Capetown and the Straits of Sunda to Macao, arriving 27 August 1844. There she embarked Caleb Cushing, the first American Commissioner to China, and sailed via Hong Kong for the coast of Mexico, arriving Mazatlan 4 November. Four days later she debarked Cushing at San Blas for an overland journey to Vera Cruz to catch a ship home.
Perry then sailed via Honolulu for the Society Islands and the Marquesas where she helped win respect and fair dealing for American whalers. She departed Tahiti 16 April 1845; visited Valparaiso, Chile; sailed “round the Horn”, reached Norfolk 17 September; and decommissioned on the 25th.
Perry recommissioned 16 May 1846, three days after war was declared on Mexico, and four days later sailed for the Gulf of Mexico to blockade Mexican ports. However, between Cuba and the coast of Florida, she was dismasted in a hurricane and returned to Philadelphia for repairs 4 December 1846.
Perry got under way from Philadelphia 16 May 1847 to join the Brazil Squadron protecting American interests between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. Informed that suspected slavers were bound for the coast of Africa under false papers, she seized American bark Ann D. Richardson off Rio de Janeiro 16 December. Two days later, she took American brig Independence. Investigation proved that both ships had been engaged in the slave trade and were sent to New York under prize crews. Perry returned from the Brazil Squadron to Norfolk 10 July 1849 and decommissioned there four days later.
Perry recommissioned 17 November 1849 and sailed for the west coast of Africa to help suppress the slave trade. But for a period in ordinary in New York, 26 December 1851 to 27 April 1852, the brig continued this duty until returning to Norfolk 14 July 1854 and decommissioning on the 20th.
With the exception of a month in commission, 20 March to 27 April 1855, Perry remained in ordinary at Norfolk until recommissioning 21 January 1858. She departed Hampton Roads 15 February to serve in the expedition, commanded by Flag Officer William B. Shubrick, protesting an unprovoked attack on Waterwitch 1 February 1855. The task force arrived at Asuncion, Paraguay 29 January 1859 and quickly won James B. Bowlin, the American Special Commissioner, a respectful hearing. Sea power here achieved what four years of diplomacy had failed to obtain: an apology, an indemnity for the family of an American sailor killed in the fight, and a commercial treaty advantageous to the United States. The brig returned to New York 5 June 1860 and decommissioned ten days later.
Perry remained inactive until the outbreak of the Civil War, recommissioning 23 April. She headed south the same day escorting three transports carrying some 3,000 troops to Annapolis where they landed on the 25th to reinforce the 7th Infantry Regiment then moving South to reinforce the Nation’s threatened capital. She then returned to New York to prepare for duty as a blockader and steamed into Hampton Roads 18 May to join the newly established Atlantic Blockading Squadron. A week later she stood out from Fort Monroe and headed south for Fernandina, Fla. On the last day of May, she captured Confederate blockade runner Hannah M.
Johnson about 15 miles southeast of Cape Lookout, N.C. The brig took Confederate privateer Savannah 3 June, and subsequently turned two British ships away from the Southern coast before reaching her blockade station off the mouth of the St. Mary’s river on the 11th.
With water running low and needing repairs, Perry sailed north 8 July, reaching Washington the 21st, eve of the Union defeat in the first Battle of Bull Run. When word of the disaster reached the Washington Navy Yard, the brig moved into the Potomac where her guns could command the approaches to Alexandria against a possible Confederate advance against the Federal capital. A score of sailors from Perry landed to help man the batteries at Fort Ellsworth. She continued to serve in the Potomac Flotilla for the rest of the year and captured sloops Blooming Youth and Ellen Jane.
Late in December, Perry sailed for Aspinwall, Colombia, where she arrived 14 May 1862. The brig headed home 13 November, and decommissioned at New York 3 January 1863 for repairs.
Perry recommissioned 28 February and a month later took station off New Inlet, N.C. On 31 March she captured schooner Sue, and on 1 May she took schooner Alma attempting to slip into Beaufort laden with salt and herring from Bermuda. She sailed North 13 August.
Following repairs at Boston, the brig joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron at Port Royal, S. C. 15 November. After serving off Murrell’s Inlet, N.C. until 15 December and off Charleston during the siege, she sailed 28 January 1864 to blockade station off Fernandina, Fla., where she remained until the end of the Civil War. Perry decommissioned at Philadelphia 29 April and was sold at public auction there 10 August 1865.
09 November 2004