1785–1819, American naval officer, b. South Kingstown, R.I.; brother of Matthew Calbraith Perry. Appointed a midshipman in 1799, he served in the Tripolitan War, was promoted to lieutenant (1807), and from 1807 to 1809 was engaged in building gunboats. In the War of 1812 he was commissioned to build, equip, and crew a fleet at Erie, Pa.
On Sept. 10, 1813, Perry's fleet left Put-in-Bay, Ohio, and met a slightly inferior British force. In the subsequent battle, the battle of Lake Erie, Perry's flagship, the Lawrence, was reduced to ruins, but he transferred his flag to the Niagara and shortly forced the British to surrender. His report of the battle sent to Gen. William H. Harrison—“We have met the enemy and they are ours”—has become famous. The victory, which made Perry a national hero, gave the United States control of Lake Erie and helped pave the way for Harrison's victory in the battle of the Thames, in which Perry participated (see Thames, battle of the).
After the war he served as a captain in the Mediterranean. Later, on a mission to Venezuela, he contracted yellow fever, died, and was buried in Trinidad. His body was later brought to Newport, R.I., where a monument was erected to him. A monument to Perry and international peace memorial at Put-in-Bay, built 1912–15, became a national monument in 1936 and has been a national memorial since 1972.