The U.S.S. Niagara is a historic, reconstructed ship built in 1813 to help protect the American coastline along Lake Erie during the War of 1812. It was one of nine American ships that defeated a British fleet of six ships in the Battle of Lake Erie, which took place in September 1813. The American fleet was commanded by Oliver Hazard Perry (the older brother of Matthew Calbraith Perry—"Commodore Perry"—who succeeded in the opening up of Japan in 1854). He won the battle by employing the "T" move, in which his fleet ran in a straight line perpendicular to the British fleet. The ship is now mostly a replica and contains little of the original material. It is part of the of Erie Maritime Museum as an exhibit space but it is still an active ship, designated an official sailing school vessel by the U.S. Coast Guard and it sails in the Great Lakes. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Backstory and Context
During the war, a crew of 155 manned the ship. After the war, it was sunk to help preserve it. In 1913, it was raised and rebuilt for centennial celebration of the battle. Another partial restoration was attempted in 1931, but lack of funds prevented it from being completed. As a result, it slowly began to deteriorate again and eventually was placed in a concrete cradle in the 1950s.
The Flagship Niagara League was then formed in 1981 and raised enough funds to attempt a third restoration effort in the mid-1980s. However, during this process it was discovered that much of the ship was damaged beyond repair and mush of the original ship was destroyed. A replica ship was then built which incorporated as much of the original as possible. It was launched in 1988 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie.
The Flagship Niagara League still tends to the replica Niagara and she sails the waters of the Great Lakes as an ambassador for the state of Pennsylvania as she is the official flagship of the Commonwealth. She also serves as a sailing school preserve the skills of square-rig seamanship.