Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry

With the bicentennial of the War of 1812 just around the corner (on June 1, 1812 the United States declared war on Great Britain), it’s a good time to read up on the war. In my search for books about Ohio’s role in the War of 1812, I came across a delightful travel memoir by Craig J. Heimbuch — Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry: Travels in the Footsteps of the Commodore Who Saved America, (Cincinnati: Clerisy Press, 2010).

Acting on a lifelong fascination that began as a youngster visiting the Perry International Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay, Heimbuch set out to learn all he could about the young naval commander who won the Battle of Lake Erie during the summer of 1813. Stirred by Perry’s brief report of victory – “We have met the enemy and they are ours” – Heimbuch wanted “to see if I could call upon Perry’s … spirit and do something brave.”

Doing something brave involved mimicking Perry’s “swagger,” at least in part. After a year of research, trip-planning, and pinching pennies, Heimbuch took off “to chase Oliver Hazard Perry to the ends of the earth – or all the way around Lake Erie, whichever worked better with my schedule.”

Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry is as much about the writer’s aspirations as about his inspiring hero. During the course of his journey, Heimbuch visited historical sites, boarded a replica of the Niagara, and contemplated his literary ambitions. Heimbuch has written an excellent history for non-historians, outlining the war on the western frontier in layman’s terms.

Craig Heimbuch is an award-winning journalist who lives and writes in Cincinnati. He is currently the editor-in-chief of ManoftheHouse.com, an on-line magazine “for the man who wears a dozen hats and worries about losing his hair.” Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry makes me hope that he finds time to write second travel memoir about another Ohio hero. Perhaps Mad Anthony Wayne?