Oliver Hazard Perry papers  1796-1969 (bulk 1812-1819)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Oliver Hazard Perry papers (4 linear feet) contain Perry's naval and personal papers, as well as material related to members of the Perry family. The collection documents Perry's naval activities during the War of 1812, including his victory at Lake Erie and the ensuing controversy surrounding the conflict; his service in the Mediterranean; his final mission to Venezuela; and the reaction to his death. Also present are letters to and from Perry's father, Captain Christopher Raymond Perry (1761-1818); his brother, Commander Mathew Calbraith Perry (1794-1858); his wife Elizabeth C. Mason Perry (1791-1858); and various other relatives, as well as genealogical records.

The Correspondence and Documents series comprises the bulk of the collection and contains the personal and professional letters of Oliver Hazard Perry and his family.

A group of 35 letters, covering 1795 to 1800, relate to Christopher R. Perry's naval service in the West Indies. These include 11 letters between Perry, on board the U.S.S. General Greene , and Toussaint L'Ouverture, in which they discuss the role of America's navy in the region. Also of note from the series is a letter from John Adams to Christopher Perry concerning the discharge of a Quaker from the navy (May 8, 1799), and a letter from Freeman Perry to Christopher Perry describing the finding of Mammoth bones and tusks in Piggin Swamp, South Carolina, and near Wilmington, North Carolina (October 24, 1795).

The collection contains a few letters documenting Perry's life before the War of 1812. These include two letters to his mother Sarah Perry, in which he discussed his professional and social activities (December 15, [1800], and June 14, 1804), and nine letters from officials in the Navy Department concerning his command of the ship Revenge (1809-1810) and other military responsibilities.

The collection contains approximately 200 items related to Perry's participation in the War of 1812, much of it documenting the naval war on Lake Ontario and Perry's victory on Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. Perry communicated closely with Navy Department officials and fellow officers on the Great Lakes offensive, including William Bainbridge, Isaac Chauncey, Benjamin Crowninshield?, Samuel Hambleton, William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Homans, David Porter, and John Rodgers.

Items of interest:

  • February 19, 1813: William Rogers to Perry mentioning news from the North West that William Henry Harrison's army was attacked by English and Indians
  • September 10, 1813: Perry's commission as Captain of the United States Navy, signed by President James Madison
  • September 15, 1813: Perry to his wife describing the aftermath of the battle and his present emotional state
  • September 27, 1813: S.L. Waldo to Elizabeth Perry concerning Washington Irving's request for the Gilbert Stuart's portrait of Oliver H. Perry needed for making engravings
  • July 3, 1815: William Henry Harrison to Perry providing his account of the Battle of Lake Erie

The collection contains approximately 200 letters dealing with Perry's Mediterranean duty and his mission to Venezuela (1816-1819). These document Perry's captaining of the ship Java and the administration of the Mediterranean Squadron at sea, including orders from Isaac Chauncey, William Montgomery Crane, and from leadership in Washington. Much of the 1817-1818 material concerns the scandal surrounding the Battle of Lake Erie. Many letter-writers in these years provided detailed recollections of the battle. Perry's 1819 assignment to Venezuela and his sudden death from yellow fever are also well represented. Perry family members received accounts of his final days, as well as an outpouring of condolences from friends and naval officials, many of which contained remembrances of Perry. Several 1826 letters relate to efforts to transport Perry's body from Trinidad to Newport, Rhode Island.

Items of note:

  • February 17, 1816: Perry's description of Malaga, Spain
  • February 22-March 1, 1816: Perry's Mediterranean journal that describes his experiences, such as seeing a Spanish woman dance the "volario"
  • September 10, 1816: Crew of the Java to Perry requesting time off and money for shore leave at the Port of Messina
  • July 11, 1817: William Henry Harrison to Perry concerning the Battle of Lake Erie controversy
  • May 20, 1819: Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to Perry with instructions concerning the slave trade
  • August 24, 1819: Mordecai Morgan to Matthew C. Perry giving an account of Perry's final hours
  • September 24, 1819: Two letters from Charles O. Handy of the John Adams to Elizabeth Perry and Matthew C. Perry, informing them of Perry's death
  • October 27, 1819: John N. Hambleton's list of Perry's effects at his death
  • November 13, 1819: Elizabeth Perry to her mother-in-law Sarah Perry lamenting the death of her husband
  • October 17, 1826: Samuel Southard to Elizabeth Perry concerning bringing Perry's remains to Rhode Island

After Perry's death, the series contains letters concerning other members of his family, primarily Perry's brother Matthew C. Perry, his wife Elizabeth Perry, his son Oliver Hazard Perry, Jr., and his grandson, Oliver Hazard Perry, Jr. Many of these letters relate to the ongoing controversy surrounding the Battle of Lake Erie. Mathew C. Perry petitioned many of Perry's colleagues to contribute their viewpoints on the conflict. He also received letters from Perry's family and friends containing anecdotes and reminiscences of Perry, including childhood memories from his sister Sarah W. Perry. Also of interest are Matthew Perry's communications with Alexander Slidell Mackenzie about his controversial biography of Perry; letters concerning celebrations of Perry's accomplishments at Lake Erie, including the 1860 celebration at Cleveland, Ohio; and Elizabeth Perry's letters with government officials concerning her pension. Many of the Oliver Hazard Perry, Jr., items deal with his naval service.

The following are notable items that postdate Perry's death:

  • July 28, 1828: Mr. Davis to Benjamin Hazard offering the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Oliver Hazard Perry (finished by Stuart's daughter) for sale
  • July 11, 1830: Oliver Hazard Perry, Jr.'s, commission as lieutenant in the navy signed by President Martin Van Buren
  • September 5, 1839: William Henry Harrison to Christopher Grant Perry concerning the Battle of Lake Erie controversy
  • November 18, 1839, February 19 and March 27, 1840: Sarah W. Perry to Matthew C. Perry discussing her struggles with deafness and memories of Oliver H. Perry as a boy
  • March 30, 1847: Christopher Perry's commission as first lieutenant of the 4th Regiment of United States Infantry, signed by President James K. Polk

The series contains 54 undated items. Below are a few undated items of interest:

  • Undated: William Crane to Melancthon T. Wooley containing an evaluation of the prize ships taken at the Battle of Lake Erie
  • Undated: Department of State to Oliver Hazard Perry giving instructions on his mission to Venezuela
  • Undated: Charles O. Handy's funeral oration for Oliver Hazard Perry
  • Undated: William Henry Harrison -- copied letter concerning the Battle of Thames River
  • Undated: Lake Erie battle material including a diagram of the conflict and 16 crew and prisoner lists
  • Undated: Matthew C. Perry's account of the Battle of Lake Erie

For additional letters, see the Bound Material series, which contains a letter book comprised of 85 letters from 1813.

The Naval Accounts and Receipts series (14 items) covers 1813 to 1821, and is comprised of Navy Department accounts from Oliver H. Perry's service in the War of 1812 and in the Mediterranean Squadron, and Christopher R. Perry's naval career. Of note are accounts documenting the construction and outfitting of the Independence and Chippewa , as well as accounts written in Rhode Island in 1815.

The Perry Family Estate and Business Papers series spans 1800 to 1878 with the bulk of the items covering 1857 to 1878. These document various family members' financial activities and business endeavors, such as the Perry, Wendell, Fay & Company and the Middlesex Company. The series also contains material related to the wills of Perry family members, land surveys from 1828 and 1865, and 17 personal receipts of Oliver Hazard Perry and Christopher Raymond Perry (1813-1817).

The Commemorations and Monument series contains letters and documents related to monuments celebrating Perry in Rhode Island (1841), and Cleveland (1860), and the 1913 Battle of Lake Erie Centennial Celebration in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The Miscellaneous Writings series consists of manuscript speech notes, poems, letter fragments, and letter covers. Present are seven poems, including several by Elizabeth Perry, and one recipe for "Daube" (roasted meat).

The Ephemera series contains two pressed flowers, 25 Oliver H. Perry name cards, a Miss A.F. Gould name card, a Captain Perry U.S.S. Java signature, a ticket for the World's Columbian Exposition (October 9, 1893), a stereoview of a painting of "Perry's Victory," and four postcards of Perry's portrait painted by Gilbert Stuart.

The Perry Family Genealogical Material series comprises 19th and 20th century investigations into Perry ancestral history. Included are a number of resources, such as a 63-page draft of Perry genealogy, a description of seven generations of the Perry family, and items entitled "Index of Persons and Places," "Notes on the Huguenot Ancestors," "Notes on the Otis Line of Ancestors," and "Notes on Elizabeth Scallay of Boston," along with two bound "Records of my Ancestry." One of these volumes contains genealogy for the Perry family and 69 related surnames, including the Hazard line that went back to the Mayflower; the second documents the Haggitts and 33 other family lines. Each volume includes notations on ancestors who participated in the colonial wars, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812.

The Pamphlets series is comprised of eight pamphlets, most of which concern commemorations for Perry:

The Typescripts series contains typed transcriptions of many of the items in the Letters and Documents series.

The Newspapers and Clippings series is comprised of entire newspapers and clippings containing material related to Perry, Perry memorials and remembrances, and the Perry family (1819-1913). Newspapers include The Daily Cleveland Herald, the Newport, Rhode Island Herald of the Times, The Newport Daily News, The Boston Globe, The Boston Courier, The Newport Mercury, The Virginia Patriot, The New York Herald, and others. Of note are the 1819 papers that provide contemporary accounts and eulogies of Perry's death.

The Bound Material series is comprised of 8 volumes:

The Troop Landing and Artillery Instructions and Letter Book (101 pages) contains 35 pages of naval instructions and 66 pages of copies of outgoing letters. The instructions (pages 1-35) cover the following topics: Slow Matches, Priming Fuses, Portfires, Quick Matches (English Method), Fire Sticks, To drive of Ram Sky Rockets &c., Proportion of Mallets, Charges for Sky Rockets &c., Sky Rockets in General, Composition for Rocket Stars, Sky Rocket Moulds, Mixing Compositions, and Questions and Answers Related to Naval Gunnery. The index for the instructions is on page 177. The letter book (pages 86-152) is comprised of 85 letters spanning March to June 28, 1813, along with two letters from November 29, 1813. Present are Perry's outgoing letters while stationed on Lake Erie during the lead up to the Battle of Lake Erie later that summer.

He provided assessments of the American navy and updates on his activities to various naval officers, including:

  • Commodore Isaac Chauncey
  • Navy Agent Oliver Ormsby
  • Lieutenant John Pettigrew
  • Sailing Master Daniel Dobbins
  • John Vincent
  • Doctor J. W. Roberts
  • Secretary of the Navy William Jones
  • Major General David Mead
  • William H. Winder
  • Captain Abraham R. Woolley
  • David Porter
  • George Harrison
  • Sailing Master William Taylor
  • John Earl, John Brooks
  • Lieutenant Daniel Turner
  • Purser James Hamilton
  • Lieutenant Thomas Holdress
  • Judge Holmes
  • Colonel Russell Hill
  • Samuel Cooper Hixon
  • Noah Brown
  • Dewitt Clinton

The Order Book (29 pages) contains the general orders, sent by Perry and other officers stationed on Lake Erie. The orders cover the preparation for and execution of the Battle of Lake Erie, July--October 1813. Topics discussed include provisioning the navy, delivering orders, discipline, and battle instructions.

The collection contains two indexes to Letter Books (letter books not present). The first index covers from 1814 to 1815, and the second from 1815-1816. Each index is organized alphabetically and contains the name and date of the recipient, and a brief summary of the letter's contents.

The Oliver H. Perry Account Book (60 pages) documents Perry's naval expenses while in the Mediterranean from February 1816 to November 1818. The majority of the expenses were food, wine, supplies, and the payment of loans. Perry purchased goods from Malaga, Port Mahon, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Messina, Gibraltar, Malta, Naples, and Palermo.

The Oliver H. Perry Notebook "Notes of Last Cruise" (61 pages) contains 39 pages of diary entries and notes relating to Perry's diplomatic mission to Venezuela in 1819, and 22 pages of famous quotes and additional notes kept by Perry, primarily related to morality and human nature.

The Modern History Academic Notebook (51 pages) is a manuscript study book of lists and tables of information on American and British government, and on classical history and Biblical history. The front cover explains: "A.K. Terry's bought of W[illiam] S. Gilbert." The notebook was completed between 1821 and the summer of 1822, and purchased by Terry in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1824.

The Oliver H. Perry, Jr., Yachting Journal and loose papers, (97 pages and 4 loose items) contain entries describing Perry's yachting adventures around Long Island. The notebook covers from July to September 1905, and the loose pages contain notes from 1902, 1904, and 1910. Perry described daily activities both on the ship and on shore.

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