Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't Give up the Ship Story!

Recently the Associated Press reported that a team of divers, Charles Buffum, Craig Harger and Michael Fournier, believe they have discovered the wreck of the USS Revenge off the coast of Rhode Island.

The divers say they have viewed four canons, an anchor, and some other metal objects. Nothing made of wood has survived and they have not yet found a ship's bell or anything else that has a name on it that might identify the wreck, but the objects seem to be from the right time period and no other military ships were reported to have disappeared in that area.

The Revenge sunk while under the command of Oliver Hazard Perry when it hit a reef during a storm in 1811, 200 years ago this week. Perry supposedly was demoted following the event and was sent to sail on Lake Erie, a much smaller sea.

Perry became known as the "Hero of Lake Erie" during the War of 1812 when he became the first US commander to defeat a British squadron. He is also credited with the saying "I have met the enemy and they are ours" and his battle flag's motto "Don't give up the ship" is still symbolic to our Navy.

Once can visit Perry's Victory and Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay in Ohio and a painting, "Perry's Victory on Lake Erie hangs," hangs in the rotunda at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.

The local interest in this story is about a legend that ties Joseph Naper's brother to the Battle of Lake Erie. A book published in 1907 called Concerning the Van Bunschoten or Van Benschoten family in America indicates that Joseph's brother Benjamin Naper served under Perry and is in fact depicted as one of the oarsmen in the painting. An art historian, however, says that the artist, William Henry Powell, used seamen from Brooklyn as his models. Still, the gentleman with the white sidewhiskers sure looks like the only photo surviving of Joseph Naper!

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