I would guess that most of you have heard Oliver Hazard Perry’s words, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”
Am I right? I mean it’s a pretty well known phrase. Do you know what the circumstances were that surrounded the phrase though? Did you know that it was the result of prayer that led Captain Perry to victory that day?
Let’s take a closer look and find out!
In the early 1800s, Great Britain had grown to be the largest empire ever seen in history. They controlled colonies and land all around the world. At the same time, Napoleon was quickly rising to power. France began invading surrounding countries, and looking to become a world super power. Eventually, these two empires would clash in a fierce naval battle.
The British navy won the victory, making them the most powerful navy in the world. No-one dared come against them for fear of the sheer might and strength that they retained. They were, up to that point, completely undefeated. This seemingly invincible power, quickly went to the heads of Great Britain’s leaders. If Napoleon’s mighty empire could not defeat them, then there was nothing to fear from a small, young nation like America. They sent warships to ravage the American seas. The British navy began harassing our ships, kidnapping our sailors, and forcing them into the Royal Navy—never to be seen by their families again.
I just have to add that it is a bit of a contradiction here, because at the same time, officers in the Royal Navy considered themselves to be men of honor and gentlemen. Kidnapping the sailors of a nation you are at peace with, and forcing them into slavery in your navy is anything but honorable in my humble opinion.
America quickly tired of sending her sons off to sea only to have them be taken by another country and pressed into service. Attempts at negotiations were vain, only resulting in worse harassment of our ships. Enough was enough. On June 18th, President James Madison declared war on Great Britain. Thus began the War of 1812.
Jump forward about a year, and America is desperately fighting for her life. Great Britain was somehow managing to stay one step ahead of us. We had crossed the largest, mightiest power on earth, and they were determined to bring us to our knees. Well, they accomplished that—just not in the way they wanted. Great Britain saw themselves as being the power that America would answer and bow to. We bowed alright, but not to Great Britain. President Madison declared a nation wide day of prayer and fasting to “…render the Sovereign of the Universe public homage.” We would bow only to our God.
Americans began praying with intensity for God’s hand to move on our behalf. The naval battles were brutal as each nation fought for control of the Great Lakes. American Captain Oliver Hazard Perry blocked off a vital section of Lake Erie with his small fleet of ships in order to keep the British from getting supplies. Before long, he and his fleet were confronted with a British war fleet. Captain Perry’s ships were not a match for the massive war ships of the Royal Navy. The American’s flag ship was hit immediately, splintering it to pieces. The British waited for the surrender they were sure would follow.
The twenty-eight year old Captain Perry answered instead with a daring, bold move. He had to act or the entire American fleet would be crushed. He ordered his ship full speed ahead. Just at the time he gave the command, the wind, which had previously been against them, turned and pushed them forward toward the enemy. Captain Perry and his crew blasted away with everything they had. By the time the smoke cleared and they had finished, the entire British squadron, was rendered useless and they surrendered.
That day, following the battle, Captain Perry told his men, “The prayers of my wife are answered.” Back home, Captain Perry’s young wife had been praying that God would protect them and give them victory. Even while the battle raged and Captain Perry gave the command to attack, prayers were going up all around our nation—and God heard! It was the first time in world history that an entire British naval squadron had been destroyed all at once.
Captain Perry continued to write, “It has pleased the Almighty to give the arms of the United States a single victory over their enemies on this lake.”
Once again, The Timeless Anchor was moving as a direct result of people praying. Prayer and fasting was heard and answered in mighty ways!
What do you think of this miracle that took place in our history? Let me know!