This collection is made up of the letters of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819); Perry's father Captain Christopher Raymond Perry (1761-1818); his brother Commander Matthew Calbraith Perry (1794-1858); his wife Elizabeth C. Mason Perry; his son Oliver Hazard Perry, Jr. (1815-1878); and his grandson Oliver Hazard Perry (1883-1933).
Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819) was born in Rock Brook, Rhode Island, to Sarah Wallace Alexander and Christopher Raymond Perry (1761-1818). He entered the US Navy at age 14, serving under his father in the West Indies and in the Quasi War with France. During the First Barbary War and the Tripolitan War, Perry served on board the Adams , Constitution , and Constellation .
In 1804, Commodore John Rodgers gave him command of the schooner Nautilus , aboard which he participated in the capture of Derna. He became a lieutenant in 1807 and assumed command of the schooner Revenge in 1809. At the outbreak of the War of 1812 he took charge of the naval force on Lake Erie under the leadership of Commodore Isaac Chauncey. In March 1813, O. H. Perry began the construction of a fleet at his headquarters at Presque Isle (Erie), Pennsylvania. Perry then engaged the British fleet under the command of Robert H. Barclay on September 10, winning the battle decisively. The Battle of Lake Erie made Perry a national hero, although he was soon involved in the controversy over the role Captain Jesse D. Elliott played in the conflict. For the remainder of the war, Perry worked closely with General William Henry Harrison, participating in the recovery of Detroit and in the Battle of the Thames.
From 1816 to 1817, Perry commanded the frigate Java as part of the Mediterranean Squadron. He quarreled with the Java 's Marine Captain, John Heath, and after a violent altercation both men were court-martialed. In 1819, President James Monroe sent Perry on a diplomatic mission to Venezuela to put an end to piracy against American merchant ships. His negotiations with Simón Bolívar were a success, but during the return voyage Perry died of yellow fever. Initially buried at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Perry's remains were reinterred in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1826.
Oliver Hazard Perry married Elizabeth Champlin Mason (1791-1858) in 1811, with whom he had five children, including Oliver Hazard Perry, Jr. (1815-1878).