2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15 

Psalm 32 

Galatians 2: 11-21 

Luke 7: 36-50 

“Don’t Give Up the Ship” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

Throughout America’s history there have been a number of  decisive battles that if even one were lost America would have  ceased to exist. In most of these battles the odds were against us,  and in others through the grace of God the odds were surprisingly  in our favor. The fact that we won all those battles, some by the  skin of our teeth, is proof that God has blessed this nation and  looks out for us. One such battle is the Battle of Lake Erie. 

Before 1812, in an effort to cripple Napoleon, Great Britain  set its sights on America’s economy. They sent their Navy to  blockade our ports to prevent us from trading with Europe, again  all as an effort to cripple the French military forces. America, still a  young country trying to get up on its feet would not have any of  the King’s devious tactics. So President Madison and congress  declared war on Britain. When war broke out there were two  fronts, the Atlantic front and the Canadian front. As some forces  focused on the British Blockade located on the Atlantic front,  America shifted her aim towards the British military in Canada. 

As soon as war broke out though, unfortunately, the British  military swiftly took Detroit and established naval supremacy over  Lake Erie. When it came to naval capabilities on the lakes, the United States was sorely behind, for most of our fleet was on the 

Atlantic front. So until July 1813, the harbors on and near the lake  were in a frenzy building as many ships they could in order to  create a fleet for the north. As for the man power for said ships,  many navy soldiers were pulled across America to supplement  the northern front, to include 150 men from Newport, Rhode  Island; of those 150 men we have Commodore Perry and his  personal clerk Chaplain Thomas Breese. 

From August 1812 to July 1813, the British Navy blockaded  the harbors in Lake Erie, preventing American ships from being  completed and hindering squadrons from forming. But despite all  of this, due to a conveniently placed sandbar one squadron under  Oliver Perry was formed. Now due to the blockade, said squadron  was incapable of entering the waters of Lake Erie, that is until July  1813, for during that month, while British supplies was dwindling,  the weather of the Lake turned into a fierce storm that shattered  the confidence of the English seamen. So out of safety from the  ship destroying gales, the Enemy abandoned their blockade,  which gave Commodore Perry the perfect opportunity to lead his  squadron of ships from Erie, Pennsylvania to the predetermined  and highly strategic location of Put-In-Bay. This was an act of  God. If it wasn’t for His interference, America would have been unable to send a single squadron to Lake Erie. 

But before Perry left Erie to South Bass, a friend of his died,  Naval Captain James Lawrence. On the Atlantic front, Lawrence  was shot down and his final order to his crew was this, “Don’t give  up the ship. Fight her till she sinks.” Sadly his crew disobeyed and  surrendered the ship, but the command Lawrence gave became a  motto that is dear to the hearts of Navy men and has variants 

echoed throughout the military: Never surrender, don’t give up the  mission, die fighting, never quit. And when it comes to ships, it is  better that your ship sinks, taking down an enemy ship along the  way, than it is to surrender said ship thus adding another ship to  the enemy’s arsenal. Out of despair for his friend, Perry had his  flag ship named the USS Lawrence, and his flag made with  Lawrence’s final command on it, “Don’t give up the ship!” 

We fast forward to September 10th, 1813. Perry is in Put-In Bay with 9 vessels at the ready. At 5 in the morning, Commodore  Barclay of England sails with a squadron of 6 vessels to overtake  the anchored American vessels. Now why 6 vessels? Did Barclay  not know that America had 9 stationed? Well because of  equipment issues and a personnel shortage, Barclay was only  able to send 6 vessels, but even though he was out-gunned he  still believed he was going to win. Why? One, the wind was in his  favor. Two, his slightly smaller ships were faster than the hulky  over-gunned American vessels. Three, the cannons on their ships  were far more superior with a reach that vastly outstripped the  shoddy American cannons. Whereas America had quantity,  Britain had quality. But again through the grace of God, the  American forces noticed the enemy was setting sail, and prepared  for the battle ahead. Before noon, all nine American vessels were  ready, and met the long range bombardment of the British  cannons. That is when Perry did the unthinkable. When met with  superior fire, what type of sane man would dare charge into the  naval no-man’s land just to land a couple hits on enemy forces?  Perry of course, that crazy man, for he ordered the two biggest  ships, which included his own, the USS Lawrence and the USS  Niagara, to charge towards the 6 enemy vessels and lay down 

overwhelming fire. The commander of the Niagara disobeyed and  stayed behind, thus it was 1 vs 6, the USS Lawrence vs all 6  British ships. And the Lawrence wrecked surprising absolute  havoc among the British forces. What really caught the British by  surprise was the unfortunate rate that their superior officers fell.  Again it must have been an act of God that one single ship was  capable of taking down a surprising number of high ranking  officers which crippled their military integrity and discipline. 

But this surprise was short lived for it was 1 v 6, and the  USS Lawrence was quickly turned into Swiss cheese. Yet true to  its namesake, Perry and his men did not abandon the USS  Lawrence until the last gun was inoperable and the ship was  sinking. After that Perry, miraculously was able to escape the ship  unscathed, got on a boat that was swiftly rowed to the USS  Niagara, released the coward commander who abandoned him,  took charge of the vessel with his flag flying high, “Never give up  the ship”, and led his entire squadron in battle to defeat the  enemy. This is when the tides turned, for the enemy  miscalculated. Believing that Perry was fleeing the battle, the  British forces turned towards reorganizing command and  recovering their now entangled ships. But not only was Perry not  fleeing, but the winds, which previously favored England,  suddenly did a 180 and was now favoring Perry. This allowed  Perry to swiftly overtake and decimate the British squadron. 

The end result, Perry lost one ship but gained six for all six  surrendered. This battle took roughly three hours, and like that the  naval superiority flipped from Britain to America. 

On that day America lost 24 seamen and 3 officers; Britain  lost 38 seamen and 3 officers. Because Barclay surrendered, all  of Barclays men and Perry’s too were capable of holding a funeral  together for the next two following days. Perry’s Chaplain Thomas  Breese, using the common book of prayer, led both forces in  worship as they as one mourned the loss of their fellow brethren.  The seamen had a burial at sea on September 11, 1813. The next  day, the officers, all six, were buried together on Put-In-Bay under  a lone willow tree. I believe it was Chaplain Thomas’ resolve, his  desire to serve both forces, to have compassion upon the  captured British soldiers by honoring their fallen, that ultimate led  to the 200 plus years of peaceful relationship between Canada  and America after the War of 1812. 

But who is this Chaplain Thomas Breese, who seems to be  in Perry’s shadow? You see, Thomas Breese is more than a dear  friend of Perry. They grew up together in Newport, Rhode Island.  They went to the same church. They were baptized by the same  pastor. They both grew up in naval families. Perry became  Breese’ mentor and patron at an early age. Breese was Perry’s  personal clerk. He went with Perry to Erie, Pennsylvania.  Chaplain Breese joined Perry’s squadron and became Perry’s  personal chaplain and the chaplain to whatever ship Perry was  captain of. 

When the squadron was being formed, Breese was with  Perry. When Perry named his flag ship the USS Lawrence with  the motto, “Don’t Give Up the Ship”, Breese was with him. When  the mighty gales opened a route for Perry from Erie to South  Bass, Chaplain Breese was with him. When Perry had the USS 

Lawrence charge into battle Breese was on the ship. Breese even  personally manned the last working cannon as the ship started to  sink. When Perry miraculously escaped the ship unscathed on a  row boat Breese was with Perry on that very boat laying down  fire. And when Perry took charge of the USS Niagara and won the  battle thus changing the tides of war finally in favor of America,  Breese was with him on that ship. Breese was also as Chaplain  the one who led the funeral for both American and British Navy  men. And today, Chaplain Thomas Breese and Commodore Perry  are buried in the same cemetery, their church’s cemetery. 

Behind every great man who accomplished true good, there  is a God-fearing religious leader; and Breese was always with  Perry, supporting him, counseling him, praying for him. Breese is  not the source of these miracles, God is. What I am alluding is  this, while Perry was doing great things, we know for a fact that  Perry was a god-fearing man who trusted in the miracles of God  to help lead him in battle for with him was always his friend and  chaplain, Chaplain Thomas Breese. And that is something worthy  of praise. 

Let us pray, 

Dear Heavenly Father, in likeness to the relationship  between Commodore Perry and Chaplain Breese, we ask that  you help lead the church in supplying good leaders of the faith  who can instruct and guide and will pray for those who at your  


blessing govern and protect the people. In your most holy name  we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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