PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A diving team says it discovered the remains of the USS Revenge, a ship commanded by U.S. Navy hero Oliver Hazard Perry and wrecked off Rhode Island in 1811.
Perry is known for defeating the British in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie off the shores of Ohio, Michigan and Ontario in the War of 1812 and for the line "We have met the enemy and they are ours." His battle flag bore the phrase "Don't give up the ship," and to this day is a symbol of the Navy.
Divers Charles Buffum, a brewery owner from Stonington, Conn., and Craig Harger, a carbon dioxide salesman from Colchester, Conn., say the wreck changed the course of history because Perry likely would not have been sent to Lake Erie otherwise. Sunday is the 200th anniversary of the wreck.
Buffum said he has been interested in finding the remains of the Revenge ever since his mother several years ago gave him the book Shipwrecks on the Shores of Westerly. The book includes Perry's account of the wreck, which happened when it hit a reef in a storm in heavy fog off Watch Hill in Westerly as Perry was bringing the ship from Newport to New London, Conn.
"I always thought to myself we ought to go out and have a look and just see if there's anything left," Buffum said.
Buffum and Harger, along with a third man, Mike Fournier, made their first discovery in August 2005 and kept it secret as they continued to explore the area and make new discoveries. Since then, they have found four 42-inch-long cannons, an anchor, canister shot, and other metal objects that they say they're 99 percent sure were from the Revenge.
As for whether the wreck of the Revenge changed the course of history, David Skaggs, a professor emeritus of history at Bowling Green State University, said Perry might not put it that way. Skaggs has written two books on Perry.
While Harger and Buffum say Perry was effectively demoted by being sent to the Great Lakes rather than getting another high seas command, Skaggs said the Great Lakes commission still gave Perry great prestige.