Sep. 3, 2013
ABOARD THE HALIE & MATTHEW — Shirley Gleason of Vermilion was ready for a fight Monday afternoon.
She anxiously awaited the moment when the tall ship would be in position for the re-enactment of the Battle of Lake Erie. Dressed in a patriotic shirt and a “Don’t Give Up the Ship” hat, with a smile on her face and her hands balled into fists, Gleason said she was ready to take on the British.
She was one of more than 100 people aboard the ship, which portrayed the Porcupine in Commander Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet. The re-enactment was the finale of a weekend of events commemorating the bicentennial of the U.S. fleet over the British. The victory gave command of the Great Lakes — great inland supply lines.
Gleason planned the trip months ago with her husband and her friend, who also got spots on other tall ships. She said she was lucky to be aboard the Halie and Matthew, because she would be close to the action. Gleason is fascinated with the history of the battle.
“Knowing about how important it was, the preservation of the waterways, it’s amazing to think how young these men were,” she said.
The re-enactors were given the roles of men who participated in the battle such as Thomas Justice, James W. Allen and George W. Drake. Virginia Piper of Pepper Pike was assigned the identity of Louis Gordon.
“He was 19,” she said. “He was from Warren. He survived the battle on the Porcupine, but in October, he became ill and they dropped him off in Detroit. There is a series of gaps, but I believe he was placed on another ship.
“What is also interesting is that President (James) Madison gave every man a sword. It was their prize for winning.”
She enjoyed watching the sails being raised and said the weather was absolutely beautiful.
“Actually, what I enjoyed about getting involved was it became a history lesson, researching not only my sailor but the battle itself,” she said.
At the climax of the battle, the people aboard the ship watched through binoculars and took photos with cell phones and cameras. The British flag on one of the ships was lowered. Captain Shaun Melillo cried out, “We won the battle!” And the crowd went wild.