Sunday’s Salute #37 ~ Master Commandant Matthew Perry

Matthew Calbraith Perry is my paternal 6th cousin 4 times removed, He was born on April 10, 1794, in Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island. He is the 4th of 8 children born to Captain Christopher Raymond Perry (1761-1818) and Sarah Wallace Alexander (1768-1819).

His father served in the Continental and United States Navies. Matthew and his four brothers were naval officers and two of his three sisters married naval officers. Matthew went to sea on January 16, 1809, at age of 15, under the command of his older brother, Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the battle of Lake Erie and the brilliant victory at Put in Bay, Ohio. During the Mexican War, he commanded a large American naval force. In July 1847 he attacked Tabasco personally, leading a 1,173-man landing force ashore and attacking the city of San Juan Bautista from land defeating the Mexican forces and taking the city. In the postwar he became known as the “Father of the Steam Navy” for his efforts to convert the Navy to steam engines. He married Jane Slidell (1797-1879) on December 30, 1814. They had 10 children, 5 sons, and 5 daughters.

He will always be remembered for his proposal for diplomat missions to Japan to open its borders to the western nations. He sailed to Japan twice, the first was unsuccessful due to the small force which accompanied the venture but a return trip eight months later with an imposing number of ships. The men convinced the Japanese to relent and establish diplomatic ties and trade. After returning home to his wife and children in New York City, he died a few years later having served for nearly 50 years in the navy. He died on March 4, 1858, at the age of 63.

On the 100th anniversary of the trade agreement, a Japanese delegation attempting to honor Perry held an elaborate ceremony at the vacant tomb. To clear up the mystery of his correct burial place, the tomb was opened shortly afterwards and it was found to be empty but the movers had left the copy of the removal order authorizing the transfer years before to the family plot in Rhode Island.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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