As first lieutenant on Commodore Perry's flagship Lawrence, Yarnall played a critical role in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. During fierce fighting, Yarnall suffered severe facial wounds - his scalp was torn, nose pierced by shrapnel, and face covered in blood and debris. Yet he refused to leave his post. With the Lawrence disabled, Perry consulted Yarnall before transferring to another ship to continue the battle. Yarnall then took command of the battered Lawrence as Perry went on to defeat the British fleet.
Despite grievous injuries, Yarnall stayed at his station on the Lawrence as it was heavily damaged, with most of the crew killed or wounded. His brave persistence was essential in allowing Perry to strategically shift ships and ultimately secure victory. Yarnall later escorted wounded American sailors to safety. His steadfast service aboard the Lawrence was instrumental to America's historic first-ever capture of a full British naval squadron. The Battle of Lake Erie victory gave the United States control of the Great Lakes region.
John Joliffe Yarnall was born in Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1786. As a lieutenant, he served bravely under Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie, despite suffering severe facial wounds. For his valor, Yarnall was awarded a gold medal by Congress, though it was given posthumously to his family after his death at sea in 1815.
The U.S. Navy later honored Yarnall by naming two destroyers after him. The USS Yarnall destroyer #143 served from 1918-1940 before being given to Britain's Royal Navy during WWII. The second USS Yarnall destroyer #DD-541 was launched in 1943 and fought against Japan in WWII and Korea. Though his life was short, Wheeling native John Joliffe Yarnall was a war hero who was celebrated long after his death through prestigious military awards and naval ships bearing his name. (https://tinyurl.com/43uy2zrz) (https://tinyurl.com/y43jdcvx)