The Battle of Lake Erie By J. Perry Newell (Corel Professional Photos CD-ROM) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Originally built as the armed schooner Porcupine for the U.S. Navy, the vessel later known as Caroline played a key role in maintaining America’s independence in the war of 1812. This 60-ton, two-masted wood schooner was a veteran of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet in the War of 1812.

Porcupine saw plenty of action during the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813 – one of the most decisive battles of the war.

Oliver Hazard Perry - (public domain)

Oliver Hazard Perry – (public domain)

On September 10, 1813, Perry went looking for a fight and engaged the British Navy’s Great Lakes fleet at Put In Bay. Porcupine was one of nine vessels that met the British fleet for a three hour battle.

When Perry’s flagship Lawrence was damaged beyond hope, he transferred his flag to the Niagara, making the crossing in an open boat under heavy enemy fire.

Outmaneuvering the British, the American’s won the day and captured the British fleet.

Porcupine went on to serve in several other campaigns until the Treaty of Ghent was signed in December 1814, ending the war.

In 1816, Porcupine was commissioned by the U. S. government as a survey vessel under the newly formed U. S. Coastal Survey Office – working the border waters between the US and Canada under the command of war hero Stephen Champlin.

In 1819, Porcupine was assigned to the Revenue Cutter Service at Detroit. Then, in 1825, the vessel was sold by the government, and five years later renamed Caroline.

Caroline had several owners over the years, including Ferry & Sons of Grand Haven, Michigan, and was used in their extensive lumber trade until she became unseaworthy.

The once-proud ship was sailed for the last time into Spring Lake and abandoned in the 1843. Soon after, she sank at the foot of 4th Street near the Johnston Brothers Boiler Works.

Porcupine - 1901 in Charles G. Bolthouse's back yardThe vessel was raised in 1901 by Charles G. Bulthouse of Ferrysburg and pieces of it were sent to Detroit and Put In Bay for the Centennial of the 1813 battle, while other pieces ended up at museums in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Lansing.

1812 centennial programToday, as boaters wind their way through Spring Lake, it is doubtful they realize that pieces of one of the vessels responsible for securing America’s freedom during the war of 1812 may still lie beneath them.