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African Americans in the Battle of Lake Erie

If the U.S. Navy could control the waterways comprising much of the border between the United States and British Canada, then American forces would have ready-made avenues for invasion. Conversely, the lakes and rivers could just as easily serve as invasion corridors for the enemy-vulnerable passageways allowing the British to slash through to the soft underbelly of the United States. Whoever wielded control over the lakes possessed a powerful strategic and tactical advantage. As a result, the northern lakes arena witnessed the hardest and bloodiest fighting of the war.

The British, unhindered by the U.S. Navy, used the lakes as transportation routes for troops and supplies during the early months of the war. But the U.S. leadership recognized that warships were needed to form a protective shield along the country's northern and northwestern border, and by late 1812 a furious shipbuilding program had been inaugurated. By the summer of 1813, through new construction…

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