Two hundred years ago, the phrase, "We have met the enemy and they are ours," was penned by U.S. Navy Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry in a report notifying General William Henry Harrison that the British had been defeated at the historic Battle of Lake Erie.
To commemorate the triumph of the War of 1812, the U.S. Postal Service dedicated the War of 1812: Battle of Lake Erie Forever stamp on Sept. 10. The First-Day-of-Issue dedication ceremony took place at Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.
The War of 1812, sometimes referred to by U.S. historians as "the forgotten conflict," was a two-and-a-half-year confrontation with Great Britain that brought the United States to the verge of bankruptcy and disunion.
After boarding and taking command of the Niagara, Perry attacked and demolished the British ships Detroit and Queen Charlotte. He then penned one of the most memorable phrases of the war in a report to Gen. William Henry Harrison: "We have met the enemy and they are ours."
Perry's triumph gave the U.S. control of Lake Erie and allowed the army to recover ground lost early in the war. The British and their allies abandoned outposts on the Detroit frontier and retreated up the Thames River deeper into Upper Canada. Harrison pursued them and won the Battle of the Thames on Oct. 5, 1813, less than a month after Perry's remarkable victory.
For the stamp art, the USPS selected William Henry Powell's famous painting, "Battle of Lake Erie." The oil-on-canvas painting, completed in 1873, was commissioned by the U.S. Congress and placed at the head of the east stairway in the Senate wing of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. It depicts Perry in the small boat he used to transfer from his ruined flagship, the Lawrence, to the Niagara.
A 19th-century engraving of Perry by William G. Jackman (after John Wesley Jarvis) is shown on the reverse of the stamp pane.
Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, VA, served as art director and designer for the stamp.
The War of 1812 Battle of Lake Erie Forever stamp is available at post offices nationwide, at: usps.com/stamps and at (800) STAMP-24 (782-6724).
Kathleen Swanson is a spokeswoman for U.S. Postal Service.