Put-in-Bay, which is also known as South Bass Island, has played a significant role in our nation’s history. In fact, many historians believe that America’s survival once centered on important events that occurred on Put-in-Bay. Without American victory at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, our country might not even exist today, and people wouldn’t be able to stay at the fone lodgings we have on the island. All due to the American Victory on South Bass Island.
The Second War of Independence on South Bass Island
Scholars commonly refer to the War of 1812 as the Second War of Independence. Fought between the United States (and their French allies) and the British (and their Native American counterparts), the war lasted for two years and eight months before ending in a military stalemate. What caused the war and how were the Lake Erie Islands involved? Let’s explore the conflict in depth.
Although America had declared her independence from Britain years earlier, conflict remained. Across the Atlantic back in Europe, the United Kingdom was entrenched in a war with France and Napoleon’s armies. Britain wanted to cut off supplies and support for the French any way it could, so it placed trade restrictions on the United States. Britain stationed warships just outside of major ports and refused to allow America to trade with any European countries.
In response, the United States Congress passed the 1807 Embargo Act and the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809 to allow free trade during the French-British Napoleonic Wars. In the minds of the American leaders, however, the British continued to jeopardize the health of American commerce.
Kidnapping and Indian Attacks
British aggression didn’t stop there. The United Kingdom’s Royal Navy began to capture U.S. trade ships and forced the sailors to join their cause. This was tantamount to kidnapping, slavery, and forced labor.
More than that, the British encouraged Native American Indians to attack American settlers. In essence, England operated as though the United States were at war with them when that wasn’t the case. After much provocation, American President James Madison finally obliged the British and declared war on the United Kingdom on June 18, 1812. American Victory on South Bass Island was not assured.
Canada and Detroit: Failures Leading toward South Bass Island
After declaring war on Britain, the U.S. invaded Canada (a British colony). American leadership believed that Canadians would support the Americans and view them as liberators. That was not the case. Most Canadians proved loyal to the British, and the United States suffered an embarrassing defeat. Shortly after that, Native American warrior Tecumseh (who was at odds with America based on previous skirmishes) and his Shawnee fighters joined forces with the British and captured Detroit from the Americans.
The Battle of Lake Erie: A Turning Point at Put-in-Bay
The turning point in the War of 1812 occurred on September 10, 1813 at Put-in-Bay. In the Battle of Lake Erie, Oliver Hazard Perry led nine American ships into combat. His fleet captured six British ships and 306 soldiers. South Bass Island was Perry’s base of operations, and he was able to lead the Americans to victory from the harbor.
27 American and 41 British men died in the Battle of Lake Erie. (Three officers on each side gave their lives.) The soldiers were buried at sea, and the six officers were buried on the island, in a clearing, underneath a sole willow tree. For many years, this “Lone Willow” stood as a reminder of the battle and Commodore Perry’s victory. Eventually, the famous Put-in-Bay monument was built to commemorate the battle. You can read more about the Put-in-Bay monument.
Without question, the Battle of Lake Erie was a pivotal achievement in the war. First, it stopped Britain from moving toward the central United States along the waterways. Second, it allowed American forces to regroup and re-invade Canada. Commodore Perry and General William Henry Harrison used South Bass Island to plan and coordinate their attacks. This time, U.S. troops won back Detroit and entered Canada, where they defeated a British army and Tecumseh at the Battle of Thames. Without their stations at Put-in-Bay, the United States probably would have never been able to shift the momentum in the war. American Victory on South Bass Island may have been in doubt without them.
The British Refuse to Surrender
In 1814, the British turned their efforts to the east coast. On August 24, 1814, British troops attacked Washington D.C. and burned down the Capitol and the White House. A few weeks later, Britain turned its attention to Baltimore. Over the course of three days, outnumbered American forces held off the British, who retreated. During this skirmish, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
A Final, Ironic Battle
A few months later, on January 8, 1815, the British took a different approach in their final attempt to achieve victory. They attacked New Orleans with the hope of taking control of the port. Andrew Jackson “stonewalled” the invasion and forced the British from Louisiana. The irony surrounding the Battle of New Orleans is that President Madison signed the Treaty of Ghent that ended the war before the battle took place. But, given the rate at which news traveled, neither side found out the war was over before the last battle occurred.
The Outcome? Peace and Hope
The war ended in a stalemate. American Victory on South Bass Island? Not yet. Neither side gained any ground or territories. No borders changed. What did change? The mindset between the two countries. Since the War of 1812 ended, there has been a lasting peace – a type of peace and hope that one experiences on the Lake Erie Islands. Why not book a stay at the Put-in-Bay hotels, Put-in-Bay cabins, Put-in-Bay rentals, or Put-in-Bay Condos today?