Co-winner of the North American Society for Oceanic History's 2007 John Lyman Book Award for Biography and Autobiography
Hailed for his decisive victory over a Royal Navy squadron on Lake Erie in September 1813 and best known for his after-action report proclamation "We have met the enemy and they are ours," Oliver Hazard Perry was one the early U.S. Navy's most famous heroes. In this modern, scholarly reassessment of the man and his career, Professor David Skaggs emphasizes Perry's place in naval history as an embodiment of the code of honor, an exemplar of combat courage, and a symbol of patriotism to his fellow officers and the American public. It is the first biography of Perry to be published in more than a quarter of a century and the first to offer an even-handed analysis of his career.
After completing a thorough examination of primary sources, Skaggs traces Perry's development from a midshipman to commodore where he personified the best in seamanship, calmness in times of stress, and diplomatic skills. But this work is not a hagiographic treatment, for it offers a candid analysis of Perry's character flaws, particularly his short temper and his sometimes ineffective command and control procedures during the battle of Lake Erie. Skaggs also explains how Perry's short but dramatic naval career epitomized the emerging naval professionalism of the young republic, and he demonstrates how the Hero of Lake Erie fits into the most recent scholarship concerning the role of post-revolutionary generation in the development of American national identity. Finally, Skaggs explores in greater detail than anyone before the controversy over the conduct of his Lake Erie second, Jesse Duncan Elliott, that raged on for over a quarter century after Perry's death in 1819.
David Curtis Skaggs, professor emeritus of history at Bowling Green State University, is the author and editor of thirteen books including A Signal Victory: The Lake Erie Campaign, 1812-1813 and Thomas Macdonough: Master of Command in the Early U.S. Navy, both published by the Naval Institute Press.
~Praise for Oliver Hazard Perry~
“For the general public and some scholars, this will be a pleasing read since it mixes praise and criticism and includes ‘inside’ information about Perry’s life and struggles.”
— Journal of Military History, October 2012
"David Skaggs is the historian outstandingly qualified to write this biography of Oliver Hazard Perry. Honor, Courage, and Patriotism in the Early U.S. Navy fulfills that promise splendidly. This will be the biography of Perry for our time and for many years to come—a compelling tale of leadership, battle, heroism, human frailty, and post-battle intrigue."
—Christopher McKee, author of A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S .Naval Officer Corps, 1794–1815
"This fine new study of the life of Oliver Hazard Perry, the American commander who won the most important naval engagement of the War of 1812, will be the definitive biography for the foreseeable future. Deeply researched, carefully reasoned, and well written, this is a book that can be consulted with profit by professional historian and general reader alike."
—Donald E. Graves, author of Field of Glory: The Battle of Crysler's Farm, 1813
"We have long needed a modern biography of Perry, and David Curtis Skaggs's book nicely fills the bill. Skaggs's treatment of Perry's service during the War of 1812, and of the Wilderness Commodore's feud with Jesse Duncan Elliot afterwards, is particularly strong."
—Donald Hickey, author of The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict and Don't Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812