Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Burning of Dover Mills --- a bicentennial celebration

On or about May 16-17, 1814, a force of about 750 US soldiers and sailors descended upon the area around what is now Port Dover, ON with the intention of burning the local grist mill. This action was a part of the constant cross-lake raiding done in the War of 1812 although since Lake Erie was pretty much controlled by the US Navy, the majority of the raiding was done by the American forces. The force in question landed on the beach and camped there. The next day, they engaged a mixed force from the Norfolk County Militia and the 19th Light Dragoons. The Crown forces were small because British and Canadian forces were stretched thin across the shores of the lakes and most of the front line troops - regulars, fencibles, or Incorporated militia - were heavily engaged against larger invasion expeditions. In any event, the US forces chased off the defenders, burned the mill, and returned to their bases across Lake Erie.

This being the bicentennial year of that raid, the town of Port Dover hosts a small reenactment. Since it was chilly and a little wet with rain threatening, the reenactment was a small one with a small but appreciative crowd. The staff of the Port Dover Museum set up a reenactment on the beach including some reenactors actually landing from boats on (or more likely near) the shore. The breeze make things tricky and the amphibious section found themselves wadding ashore through hip deep swells. A second group of reenactors representing more US troops walked down to the beach and entered through the crowd in front of a beach-front tavern/restaurant.

It was a small event, but it seemed that everyone had a fun time. There was a pig roast on the beach later in the afternoon, but the crew I came down with decided not to stay for it. As it was, we were home in time for dinner.

(Most of the photos are courtesy of Laughing Devil Photography, Tom Mavin's wife, and Michelle McKenny, among others. Thank you to all.)

US Rangers (aka the British Indian Department) get ready to set sail in HMS Ferret which served as a US  Navy ship for the day. She was accompanied by HMS Pandora in putting raiders ashore.

Well-armed sailors of the US Navy's Lake Erie squadron.

The Pandora manoeuvring to get close to shore. Our man, Lyle sits amidships waiting to land.

The regulars are landed!

The Ferret lands its troops. This happened before the Pandora arrived.

Here you can see just how far some those folks had to go as they came to land.

The defenders' cannon cuts loose. It was aimed out into the lake with blank ammunition.
A noisemaker, but a BIG one!

The 19th Light Dragoons and the Norfolk Militia with an "adviser" from the Royal Scots grenadier company prepare a spirited defence.

The Militia, defending their town (and a really great ice cream stand on the wharf behind them) trade volleys with the invading US Rangers.

Nick, one of our company's members, turned out as Norfolk Militia (civilian clothes with a white arm-band.)
Nick portray a number of people, including Colonel Talbot who was instrumental in the settling of this end of Ontario.

The captain commanding the 19th Light Dragoons reloads his carbine.
A  nicely uniformed bunch who toasted "the hunt" in fine style before the skirmish.
(With apple juice and real style!)

Captain Roy - in command of the Rangers.

Our friend, Raiffe, portraying Major Abraham Markle who served as a scout at the actual battle.
A gentleman in the best sense of the word and a well dressed one.

The regulars of the 17th Infantry - with our toes in the lake - prepare to shoot a volley.
It was a good day for shooting. We fired some grand volleys with few misfires.
From left - your humble correspondant, Lyle (loading), Kevin (visiting from the Royal Scots), "Artillery Gunner" from the Canadian Volunteers, Kevin B., Rob, and Jared.
... and the Pandora in the background.

The Militia march back to the museum singing "The British Grenadiers."
The young man without a cap in the middle was one of a group of Venture Sea Scouts who joined us on the beach.
As Nick sings lustily, our friend Aaron - who usually turns out as a Mohawk warrior - does his turn in the militia.

The 17th Infantry, Croghan's Company passed the militia at one point and serenaded them with "Yankee Doodle."
My goodness! We're actually all in step! Including Matthew, our runner, in the rear rank.

A good little event, once it got going. There will be more to come in this busy summer. Stoney Creek, Chippewa/Lundy's Lane, Fort Erie. My family and I have actually been invited to turn out at Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto for an American War of Independence event. (Now where's my hunting frock?)

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