Next year starts the beginning of a three-year observance of the War of 1812 and September 10, 2013 is the bicentennial of Commodore Perry’s decisive victory over the British. Ohio was a crucial part of this American story of independence and Put-in-Bay was the focal point for the turning point in this Lake Erie (Ohio) story. While other locations, like Fort Meigs (near Perrysburg), had critical roles in the war, Put-in-Bay was the launch point for Commodore Perry’s effort to defeat the British, and the turning point in the War of 1812.
Amazingly, the War of 1812 is mostly just a brief footnote in our children’s history lessons about the Revolutionary War. But unlike the Revolution, the War of 1812 gave the US standing among our allies as a country to reckon with, to finally be able to defend ourselves and ensure and preserve the hard fought independence we gained 30 years before. The Battle of Lake Erie, sometimes over looked in some scholarly accounts of the war, was the first successful defense of our country by the US Navy and the first strategic win by the US Navy ever.
Just over the border, our Canadian friends are way ahead of us on telling this history story. And while their version is told from a different perspective it is apparent to tourists visiting there that Canada embraces the fact that the War of 1812 established their own sovereignty and the borders that now define their country. A recent trip to the northern shore of Lake Erie revealed that this history and the long term peaceful co-existence with the US are not just relevant to Canadians but to their collective tourism plans for the next several years. Re-enactments, special events, concerts and documentaries about the war are all part of the governments remembrance of the war.
But for many, this battle and the subsequent story as it relates to US History has been reduced to “Never Give Up the Ship” and “We have met the enemy and they are ours”. But we have a chance to bring this story to a much larger audience over the next few years collectively and individually. There is no reason why we can’t actively market this legacy and promote our standing among other important turning points in US History.
Last month, In the ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, Congresswoman Marci Kaptur remarked that the painting “Battle of Lake Erie” by Ohio artist William Henry Powell is emblazoned on the wall outside the doors of the Senate wing of congress. It is an ever-present reminder of this epoch event. A companion piece is in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse. These paintings remind our state and federal representatives that this battle was key to the growth and security of America. The next two years are our moment, our American legacy to share.
It started right here, 200 years ago. So we need to share this legacy of peace, and the heroic efforts of the men of our young Navy. I am hopeful that by the start of 2012 we will have a concerted and coordinated effort underway to share and promote this event and create collateral materials, books, movies, re-enactments, T shirts and posters for our summer guests to experience, share and take home with them.
We have created an alliance with our local Put-in-Bay Chamber, the National Park Service and The Perry Group to ensure that this message is coordinated and promoted. Local businesses are now ready to rally behind this idea. Tell your friends, this is a once in a life time opportunity to become involved. Be a part of the story. If you have questions or ideas give me a call. 419-285-2491 or check out our website at http://www.battleoflakeerie-bicentennial.com.