United States Naval Officer. A member of an illustrious naval family, his father, Christopher Raymond Perry, 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 C. Perry went to sea at age 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 the postwar he became known as the "Father of the Steam Navy" for his efforts to convert the Navy to steam engines. He will always be remembered for his proposal for diplomat missions to Japan to open its borders to western nations. He sailed to Japan twice, the first was unsuccessful due to the small force which accompanied the venture but a return eight months later with an imposing number of ships and men convinced the Japanese to relent and establish diplomatic ties and trade. After returning home to his wife and ten children in New York City, he died a few years later having served for nearly 50 years in the navy. Although he asked to be buried in Newport, Rhode Island, his body could not be transported due to bad weather so it was interred in the family plot of his wife's family, the Sidells at Saint Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery. Finally in 1864, eight years after his death, his remains were transferred to Newport. The stone vault which was the original burial place still remains in the churchyard with an engraved plaque which has often been mistaken for his final burial place. 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.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield
Jane Slidell Perry