Hidden Heroes: Identify Blacks in the Battle of Lake Erie
Marker dedicated to Blacks who fought in the Battle of Lake Eire at Erie Maritime Museum at Erie, Pennsylvania
June 18, 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The memorable event of the War of 1812 was Francis Scott Key writing The Star Spangled Banner.
September 10, 2013 will be the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie which took place during the War of 1812. The Battle of Lake Erie was one of the most famous battles in U.S. naval history. It was the first time in world history that an entire British fleet was captured. Commander of the battle, Oliver Hazard Perry’s flag was, “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”
Of the approximately 560-600 men who participated in the Battle of Lake Erie, estimates are from ten to twenty-five percent of the men were Black. However, because naval records did not indicate race, historians have only identified eleven men by name.
In 1990 a coalition of organizations including: the National Park Service, the National Archives, the Genealogical Society of Utah, the Federation of Genealogical Societies and Howard University identified the names of Blacks who served in the Civil War Navy. These names were then added to the National Park Service's “Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System,” now on the web.
Hidden Heroes is a similar project-a nonprofit effort to identify those unnamed Blacks who served in the Battle of Lake Erie. This project will correct another lost chapter in American and African American History. The names of these heroes will go on the Internet for free public access. This will enable historians to correct history and descendants to learn of their ancestor’s heroic deeds.
Project Director - Tony Burroughs, FUGA
Tony Burroughs is CEO of the Center for Black Genealogy and an internationally known genealogist who taught genealogy at Chicago State University for fifteen years. He is the author of the best selling Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree (Simon & Schuster). His works have also been published by Random House, Oxford University Press, and the National Genealogical Society.
He has traced seven family lines seven generations and one line eight generations and has qualified for ten lineage society certificates. His research on the index to the U.S. Census led to discovering the original instructions and correcting a forty year error by the National Archives.
Burroughs serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Genealogical Society and Kwame Nkruma Academy. Former board positions include: the Association of Professional Genealogists, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies and President of the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society of Chicago.
He received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Genealogical Society, the Irma Kingsley Johnson Distinguished Service Award from the Chicago Friends of the Amistad Research Center, Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association and a fellowship from the Black Metropolis Research Consortium.
Burroughs’ seventh generation ancestor, Charles Smothers, fought in the Battle of Lake Erie. Smothers was not one of the eleven men historians had identified as African American.
After a seventeen year search Burroughs found evidence proving his sixth generation ancestor, Oliver Perry Smothers, a Civil War veteran, was the son of Charles Smothers. Charles said he served on Commodore Perry’s flag ship, the Brig Niagara, and he named his son after Commodore Oliver Hazzard Perry. This evidence qualified Burroughs to be admitted to the General Society of the War of 1812, which came on August 8, 2012.
Ed Moore - Retired Vice-Admiral, Moore was a three-star admiral and the highest ranking African American in the Navy when he retired in 2001
Captain Bill Pinkney - Master of the Freedom Schooner, AMISTAD, a reproduction of the 19th century slave ship Le Amistad and first Black man to sail solo around the world
Michael N. Henderson- Lieutenant Commander, USN, Retired, Past President - Button Gwinnett Chapter, Georgia Society, Sons of the American Revolution, member General Society of the War of 1812
Trevor K. Plante, Chief of Reference, National Archives
Scott Forsyth – Retired archivist, National Archives, Great Lakes Region
Joseph Reidy - Associate Provost & Professor of History, Howard University
Samuel W. Black – President, Association of African American Museums & Director of African American Programs at the Senator John Heinz History Center
Dr. Iva E. Carruthers - President, Kwame Nkrumah Academy Board of Trustees; Professor Emeritus and former Chairperson of the Sociology Department, Northeastern Illinois University
Pat Van Skiak – Manager, Genealogy and Local History Collection at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Kathleen Bethel – African American Studies Librarian at Northwestern University
Cristal Simmons – Epidemiologist and former president Afro-American Genealogical & Historical Society of Chicago, Inc.
Family Search – Genealogy Division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Fold3 – Military Records Division of Ancestry.com
Allen County Public Library-Fort Wayne, Indiana