Tall ships take over Lake Erie - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Tall ships take over Lake Erie

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It's history that happened in our own backyard, 200 years ago. It was September 10, 1813, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry hoisted the flag with his battle slogan."Don't give up the ship" and led 557 men against the British on Lake Erie. When his ship the U.S. S. Lawrence was crippled, Perry took the flag and the remaining crew through a hail of shots to the Brig Niagara. Amazingly, they reached the ship unscathed. The Niagara broke the British lines,and one by one,the opposing ships surrendered. In the wake of the victory, Perry famously reported to General William Henry Harrison, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." The battle was the first ever US Naval victory over the Royal Navy, a turning point in the war and the reason we are all Americans today.

And this weekend thousands have packed into places like Put-In-Bay and Port Clinton for the battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial. The huge celebration has drawn people and tall ships from all over North America. They held an opening ceremony in Port Clinton this morning.

There are 17 different tall ships that have sailed in for the bicentennial. Over the weekend they'll be docked in nine different Canadian and American ports including Port Clinton. Monday they will hit the open waters of Lake Erie to re-enact one of the most critical battles in American history.

The waters of Lake Erie are filled with sailing tributes to American history this weekend. People lined up in Port Clinton to climb aboard two of the tall ships that are here for the bicentennial celebration. Bonnie Panattoni says she is eager to learn about the battle,"I thought this would be a good time to learn some of our important history which I didn't take in back in high school, I am having a great time!"

Bonnie's history lesson required a cross country trip, she came all the way from California, "This was something I was really looking forward to. I planned for the last year to be back here at this particular time so I could see all these amazing ships. It's incredible"

Kathy Mason is a history professor at the University of Findlay. Today she brought students and faculty on what she calls a living history field trip, "So many Americans don't realize the significance of the War of 1812 in our history, but for most Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century, they saw it as a formative event for our nation. We once and for all declared our independence from our former mother country, England ."

The Brig Niagara is the ship that Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry sailed to victory. A replica of the flagship is docked at Put-In-Bay. It will of course be the focal point of the battle re-enactment on Monday.

The two tall ships docked in Port Clinton for the weekend are Canadian vessels and of course we were fighting against the Canadians in the Battle of Lake Erie, but we've of course come a long way since then. Colin Burt is the Captain of the Toronto based tall ship Pathfinder, "Captain you have a bit of a different take on the outcome of the war of 1812? We won it. You did? Well I guess that depends on who you ask!"

The Pathfinder will play the role of one of the tall ships that was part of the battle. Captain Burt says it's hard to imagine what life was like for the men on board those ships 200 years ago, "We sail with our sister ship a lot, so we are constantly chasing one another, but I can't imagine what it would be like if they were trying to shoot us!"

The ships will fire on each other during the re-enactment but they will of course be blanks. The tall ships will all stay docked at the various ports through Sunday. They will be at Put-In-Bay harbor on Monday and that morning they'll sail to the original battle site for the re-enactment.

If you can't get to Put-In-Bay for the festivities, The Toledo Museum of Art is also offering a special exhibition on the historic battle. Now through November 10th,you can check out prints, sculptures, artifacts, letters and music celebrating the naval victory. The display also features a portrait of Perry done by one of the most famous portrait artists of all time, Gilbert Stuart. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

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