Perry-Elliott Controversy

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PERRY-ELLIOTT CONTROVERSY. At the Battle of Lake Erie (10 September 1813), a major engagement of the War of 1812, Jesse D. Elliott, commander of the Niagara, did not move his ship to support the Lawrence, commanded by Oliver Hazard Perry, until the Lawrence was practically destroyed. This inaction led to a long running feud. In 1818, Elliott challenged Perry to a duel, and Perry pressed charges against Elliott for his conduct during the engagement. President James Monroe did not pursue the charges but the controversy raged on.

In 1839 James Fenimore Cooper was violently attacked by Perry's supporters for failing to criticize Elliott in his History of the Navy of the United States of America. Cooper not only won two libel suits, but based his Battle

of Lake Erie (1843) on the controversy surrounding the two men. Although another libel suit was also won by Cooper, his 1839 history was excluded for a time from the school libraries of New York State.


Dillon, Richard. We Have Met the Enemy: Oliver Hazard Perry, Wilderness Commodore. New York: McGraw–Hill, 1978.

Mills, James Cooke. Oliver Hazard Perry and the Battle of Lake Erie. Detroit, Mich.: J. Phelps, 1913.

Walter B.Norris/t. d.

See alsoLake Erie, Battle of ; Literature ; War of 1812 .