Monday, 15 October 2012

Queenston Heights... you shoulda been there!

1000 uniformed reenactors...
15,000 spectators...
Canadian Forces honour guard for the lieutenant governour, members of Parliament, representatives of the Six Nations peoples, and other dignitaries...
A free dinner...

This, along with other things, was the reenactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights. The special thing about this was the reenactment took place on the site of the battle 200 years to the day after the actual battle. Special honour was given to General Sir Isaac Brock, British military commander and governour of what was then Upper Canada and is now Ontario, more or less. General Brock died in the battle and is buried at the monument there. To be honest, the actual battle site is too crowded for a reenactment, but so was the soccer-esque field it took place on.
In the reenactment, there were SO many Crown troops that they had to take turns taking the field. The US troops were "recycled" at least once for each unit. It should be noted that a huge cheer went up when the reenactors of the Six Nations warriors took the field. The speakers at the ceremony at the monument said -rightly- that the small number of warriors saved the day for the Crown.
People came from far and wide. On the US side, I met reenactors from Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and South Carolina! the crowd was so huge that many people could not take photographs since people were lined up 5 and 6 deep and only the first two rows could see.
Me? I had a great seat. My left knee (recently and tentatively diagnosed with a torn meniscus) decided to not enjoy the event so I stood behind the lines and guarded some "Baggage." (A bag of cans of pop, snacks, and other sundries the officer didn't want to lose.) I took photos with my little camera, which was overwhelmed by the distance and smoke. I edited some of the photos and now I'll pass them on... as well as a few I  may have stolen from various sources... with the best of intentions, of course!

The reinforced 17th US Infantry awaits orders to enter the field. This is my outfit. Some other folks were folded into the unit, including some of the "Pittsburgh Blues."

The 22nd US waiting as well.

A mixed group of regulars from various units and some New York militia.
The gentleman in the white linen jacket came up from North Carolina!

One of the best known officers on the field. I don't have permission to use her name, but she knows who she is,
as do many of the reenactors. She's one of the most knowledgable people around on the subject of the US forces
in the conflict. She serves often as an officer of light infanty. I guarded her baggage.

The 17th on the firing line. The 17th US has two reenacting groups holding the name -
one from Erie, PA and the other from Ontario.
Lots and lots of British regulars and Canadian militia (white brassards on civilian clothes)
... and THIS is just the beginning! The vanguard, as it were.

Skirmishers exchange fire. My son is in this unit, but he's down the line somewhere.

Colonel MacDonnell is carried from the field. General Brock got the same treatment a short while before. MacDonnell took command of the Crown forces when Brock was killed and he died leading a charge in the same manner as Brock.
{Lousy picture quality, I know but you get the idea.}

Here are the US skirmisher that "shot" Brock! My son is kneeling just to the standing NCO's left. He's in a fatigue cap.
When "Brock" advanced leading the charge, this combined group was loaded and fired.
Rob wants a t-shirt - "I shot Brock."

The Six  Nations warriors take the field... to a mighty cheer from the crowd.
They literally had to break through the crowd to get into the field.

The skirmishers of the 16th, 17th, 19th, and 21st Infantry and Volunteers troop off the field to be "recycled."
My son -in his fatigue cap- is visable just to the left of the volunteer in the light brown shirt.

The US firing line

More (and blurred) Six Nations Warriors and troops from the British Indian Department

See all that white stuff on the ground? Spent cartridge papers! Lots of powder was used. Then the fireworks went off!
Sparks rained down on my son's unit and everybody scrambled to cover their musket muzzles. They were all loaded and one spark down a barrel would have been a nasty and dangerous surprise! The brown humps to the left of the photo are covering ground charges. Very atmospheric, they make noise and propel peat moss onto anyone around.

Asquith's Rifles, a Maryland Militia unit (actually up from Maryland) exchange fire with the Natives.
Plain shakos, green hunting shirts with red fringe make for a colourful outfit.

The Rifles close up, with another injured man using his camera to good advantage.

The First Nations' warriors - always a colourful and noisy bunch.
Our good friend, Many Strings, is to the right of the tree, loading.
The 17th countermarchs to the "recycling area." Andy, Nick, and Justin are in the back row - Justin has the corporal's epilettes.

More and more British. My son is "dead" out on the field somewhere. Thank God our casualties can get up.

... and the looting begins. The First Nations warriors often "loot" the fallen for the sake of "colour." One rifleman from Maryland said "A native woman came up and she took my shoes and my knife and my rifle!"
I always say "At least, buy me dinner first!" (By the way, the woman returned all those things.)

Didn't I tell you there were lots of British?

The light infantry covers the beginning of the US retreat. Mark (shako without plate) and Steven (green pants) are kneeling and hoping the ground charges don't go off!

The battle begins to wind down. A pyrotechnician - in 21st Century work clothes - watches.
There's still a few charges to go off.

This was an amazing and historic event. The politicians speeches at the monument ceremony may have gone too long... but they were politicians! The dinner was decent -chicken breast in a sweet sauce, boiled and buttered potatoes, corn, a roll, and a small apple pie - and the price was right! (FREE! Se gratis sit; ilud mihi est! "If it's free, it's for me!") As the Bicentennial goes on, I expect there will be more big events. Fort Erie should be massive this year and next. Then there's Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, the Battle of the Themes, Fort York... If you can, go to see one. Look around for me; I'm hoping my knee will be in better shape by then.


  1. Great photos, thanks for sharing.


  2. You had some great views from your photos. I agree that it was a wonderful event. I learned a lot just from listening to the many volunteers who are passionate about history. I shot an HD video of the activities on October 13th at Queenston Heights. You are welcome to share it from:

    Peter Mykusz

    1. Thank you, Mr. Mykusz. I will do that.! Thanks as well for the compliments on my photos. I just had a little pocket camera and I was in the right place at the right time. What I didn't realize was that I was quite visible to the crowds (and the CBC cameras). I'll have to be more "discreet" next time.