Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An 1813 O-102 Capped Bust half dollar... maybe Oliver Hazard Perry held this!

These photos are of an 1813 Capped Bust half dollar in my collection, an example of the O-102 variety, which is an R4 in rarity.  Note the subtle raised bars through and below Liberty's ear.  These are clash marks, which were caused when the obverse and reverse dies banged together harshly (clashed) at one  point or more in time, probably repetitively, because someone forgot to put a silver planchet (the "blank" that becomes the coin) in between the two dies in the hand-operated screw-down coin minting press.  The bars are from where the vertical bars on the shield (in front of the eagle on the reverse) of the reverse die clashed into the obverse die. Similarly to the 1794 large cent I posted earlier, the Capped Bust half dollars from 1807 through 1836 have a "third side", which is the edge, with its incuse lettering stating the value "FIFTY CENTS OR HALF A DOLLAR".  It is not unusual for this edge lettering on capped bust half dollars to be blundered, and some of these edge lettering errors can be highly collectible in their own right. 

1813 O-102 Capped Bust half dollar obverse

1813 O-102 Capped Bust half dollar reverse

The year 1813 was of great importance in U.S. history and particularly in Northwest Ohio, due to a pivotal naval battle during the War of 1812 which occurred in western Lake Erie about 5 miles northwest of Put-in-Bay, Ohio (on South Bass Island) on September 10, 1813.   

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton had charged Daniel Dobbins with building the American fleet on Presque Isle Bay at EriePennsylvania, and 28 year-old Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry was named chief naval officer.   Timber from near present-day Erie was used to build the ships, and the ships were outfitted and armed via an overland route from the federal arsenal in Pittsburgh.  From the start of the war to the end of July 1813,  British Royal Navy ships, which since May 5, 1813 were led by Commander Robert Heriot Barclay (operating out of Amherstburg near Detroit), had maintained control of Lake Erie, and kept the American squadron under Perry confined by blockade to Presque Isle harbor.  

Barclay had then been forced by shortage of supplies to lift the blockade for two days, allowing Perry to get his ships across the sandbar at the entrance to the harbor.  Once it was fully armed and manned, Perry's superior squadron instituted a counter-blockade of Amherstburg, and supplies of food there rapidly ran short. Finally, with supplies almost exhausted, Barclay put out to seek battle with Perry.

On September 10, 1813, Perry's command met and successfully fought against a  Barclay's task force  in the Battle of Lake Erie.  At the outset of this battle Perry declared, “If a victory is to be gained, I will gain it.”  The initial  exchange of cannon volleys were quite disastrous for the Americans and the British took an early advantage. Perry's flagship, the USS Lawrence, was so severely raked with cannon fire in the encounter that the British commander, Robert Heriot Barclay, assumed that Perry would surrender it, and sent a small boat to request that the  crippled American vessel lower its flag.  Faithful to the words of his battle flag, "DON'T GIVE UP THE SHIP" (a paraphrase of the dying words of Captain James Lawrence, Perry's friend and the ship's namesake), Perry ordered the splintered Lawrence to fire a final salvo, then ordered his men to row him about a half-mile through heavy grape- and canister- shot cannon fire and rifle fire from British marine snipers to transfer his command to the brig USS Niagara

Oliver Hazard Perry with Don't Give Up The Ship battle flag

Battle of Lake Erie, by William Henry Powell

Once aboard, Perry ordered the Niagara's commander, Captain Jesse Elliot, to bring the other schooners into close action while he steered the Niagara toward the damaged British ships.  Breaking through the British line, the American force pounded Barclay's ships at close range with carronades (cannons optimized for short range and more massive cannonball weight) until they could offer no effective resistance and surrendered. Although he had won the battle aboard the Niagara, he received the British surrender on the deck of the devastated Lawrence to allow the British to see the terrible price his men had paid. Perry's battle report to General William Henry Harrison was famously brief: "We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop."

Perry's victory was the first time in history that an entire British naval squadron had surrendered, and every captured ship was successfully returned to Presque Isle. Although the engagement was small compared to Napoleonic naval battles such as the Battle of Trafalgar, the victory had disproportionate strategic importance, opening Canada up to possible invasion, while simultaneously protecting the entire Ohio Valley. The loss of the British squadron directly led to the critical Battle of the Thames, the rout of British forces in Detroit by Harrison's army, the death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames, and the breakup of his Indian alliance. Along with the Battle of Plattsburgh, it was one of only two significant U.S. naval victories of the war.

The Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, a 352-foot doric column rising over Lake Erie located at Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, was built in 1913 and is about 5 miles southeast of the battle site.  
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial 



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