Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Fort Erie 2014

Sunday evening, my family and I returned from the 200th anniversary event of the siege of Fort Erie in Fort Erie, ON. It was quite an event. It was hot as blazes. It saw about 6000 spectators from a number of countries. (I'm sure I heard Dutch, Polish or Slovak, and Hindi among others.) It hosted over 1000 reenactors, uniformed and civilian, from Canada, the USA, and even a fellow from the UK! The cannon line was out of this world.
It was an honour to be part of it.

(Before I do any further, let me acknowledge the photographers whose work I'll be sharing - my wife, Beth, my good friend, Andy, Laughing Devil Photography, The local Niagara newspaper, Deb Lewis-Brown, Cathy Green-Redekop, Elizabeth Raymond, Joel Dombrowski, and others. If I missed crediting your photographs, I offer a sincere apology and I'll edit the text to add your name - just let me know!)
We arrived on Friday, August 8, and set up camp. The camp set-up had been changed, but we had a nice shady spot for our cook's tent and our 6 wedge tents. Some of our crew stayed in motels, including a couple who had their first weekend away from their infant daughter - who was staying with the grandparents. (They got through it all right and I'm sure their daughter is utterly, totally spoiled by now.)

Jared and Brandi relax on Friday evening.

Katie works on her new moccasins.

A good place to relax as the evening cooled.

Tyler was in charge of the fire building.

The 17th Infantry (Croghan's Company) cook tent and two flies.

A view of the American forces camp looking toward the fort.
Saturday morning saw some drill and what is referred to as Major Buck's Surrender. The Crown forces held the fort but surrendered it to the US forces in the spring/early summer of 1814. American forces held it until November of 1814 when they withdrew to Buffalo/Black Rock, NY after destroying the fort.

The US forces arrayed by "companies" at morning muster

Croghan's company, 17th Infantry in the centre of the photo.
We joined with Chunn's Company of the 17th from Erie, PA as the second section.
First Sgt. Bolla set us up well and Captain Best commanded. I was second sergeant.

We were quizzed about our white hunting frocks, but they were the uniform of the 17th at one point in the war.
In the winter of 1812-13, the white summer/recruit uniforms were in rags and the local ladies around
Fort Meigs, OH made up 1500 frocks for the 17th and the two other regiments there.

Some of the units were made up of mixed groups as smaller groups were put together.

Here we see Asquith's Rifles of the Maryland Militia (green frocks trimmed red) and Kentucky
Volunteers (dark blue trimmed red) who are a huge group festooned with knives.

Captain Best commanding the 17th. The guys from Erie are right in front of him.

The "Music" of the 1st Regiment of Volunteers - fife and drums

Preparing for safety inspection
From the left - your author, Lyle, Andy, Nick, Kevin, Rob, and Tyler

Attention to orders! Brigade adjutant, Major Phil reads the orders of the day
including the schedule for guarding the fort.
Unfortunately, I had to drop out of parade before the surrender because of the heat. The surgeon came over and gave me a cup of ice water, bless him! He carried a bucket of that heavenly stuff for most of the day and he and his mate did sterling service.
During the afternoon battle, which is supposed to simulate both Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, Andy, Nick, and I took it upon ourselves to garrison the fort. The fort is closed to visitors during the battle because cannons are fired from the ramparts. All we did was stand in front of the main gate, answer questions, and ask folks to come back later.
Here's Nick on guard duty. Andy is just behind him. I guess I was camera-shy.
Nick actually closed the main gate almost all the way during our guard duty.
The REAL fun is the evening's battle which commemorate a night attack by the Crown forces on the fort. In the actual battle, the powder magazine was hit by a howitzer shell and exploded, killing and burying hundreds of the attacking troops.

Croghan's Company joined with the 16th to defend the upper bastion and fire as fast as they could!

That's me drinking water from my canteen. And it REALLY is water.

The Crown forces on the attack pass the artillery's casualties.

A few moments before the previous photo, the guns were still firing.
The British troops advanced IN COLUMN which is impressive. Our gunners were jokingly wishing for canister!

A Jumbotron and TV camera over near the British camp. Those on the US side of the field
had to rely on their unaided eyeballs.

The column advances.

Cushing's company, 2nd Artillery (from Fort Meigs, OH) work their guns and take casualties.

The surviving crew ran to the safety lines and escaped into the 21st Century!

Up come the scaling ladders.

Covering fire for the ladder parties. Although there are large airbags in the ditch, one fellow fell off
and seriously bruised his face. I thought he was made up for the lantern tours that came later.

The ladder parties push forward.

Our surgeon's mate, Matthew, looks on with great interest. His dad, Lyle, is a member of our unit
and Matthew, who's 12, had a blast serving as runner for officers and as the surgeon's mate.

Up they come!
My wife's video of the magazine explosion

My new friend, Ray, and myself in the bastion. Ray's impression is a sergeant of the Corps of Bombardiers, Sappers, and Miners, the enlisted men who worked with the Corp of Engineers who were all officers. He said I was the only one to recognise him as a Bombardier!
It speaks for itself.
The next day, while walking with my friend, Raiffe to get a musket repaired, he pointed out to me chunks of wood flooring that had been added to the magazine explosion. We each kept one as a souvenir. The pyrotechnicians cover the explosives with peat moss to make a huge plume, but somebody - we don't know who - added a large number of these chunks to the blast. They were all over the field as far as 80 metres from the bastion. Thank God no one was hurt!

Sunday morning saw a memorial service for the dead of the battle which included a speech, a thank-you, and a First Nations' tobacco tie ceremony. I took Pooka, our beagle, and went up to watch. We ended up holding down the safety tape for the US forces to pass through.
For the afternoon battle - the American sally during the siege - Andy and I "worked the line", that is standing with the spectators in kit, answering questions, and keeping them safe. The battle was intense and it was tremendously hot! The surgeon was on hand with his ice bucket and assistant.

Matthew as a runner checking his 6 while a US Rifles officer stands at attention.

A mixed unit of the 25th and 16th followed by Rifles and the 17th.

Major Phil and the 11th give fire,

The British return the compliment.

Cushing's Company, 2nd Artillery (Fort Meigs) moving their two 6-pounders en briccole,
that is, moving them by ropes.

Our Kevin (in white) saves a "wounded" Captain Larry with the help of the 11th's first Sergeant, Chris.
The troops were ordered to recover the wounded. Although Captain Larry said he was quite comfortable
where he was, he had to move and Kevin made the pick-up only to be shot down by a volley. Sergeant Chris came out and they completed the retrieval!

A blast from Cushings'!
The artillery consisted of three 6's, a 4, three 3's, and two 2's.
The 6-pounders are the real thing and make a tremendous noise.

The fort owns a 22-pound siege gun which they fired a few times on Sunday afternoon.
A seismic event!

And a few more photos to round out the story.

These events take a lot out of a guy, y'know?

A stand of arms

Kevin and Tina in camp

Private Pooka in uniform. Katie has his leash and is in her Leni-Lenape gear.

Mohawk wikis and a Metis tent

Felicity on her first camping event in her finest

The ladies and youth of the camp...
Felicity, Katie and Pooka, Brandi, Naomi, Tina, and Connor

The Crown Fifes and Drums on parade

The Volunteers turn out

Colonel Rob doing his colonel thing under a tree... in the shade... RHIP.
British volley
The US sergeant major. He has a real, true job on the field. He is our safety officer and I thank him for that!
"For what we are about to receive..."
This marching line deserved a larger photo. My son is the last guy in blue next to the group in grey
The surgeon with his bucket of ice water. Bless him!
White Turtle (Aaron) just LOOKS like he's taking on the entire US Army alone.
Andy on the redoubt in his hunting frock and new shako.
The riflemen of the 95th firing prone, which is not an easy task!
The British line with colours is always impressive.
The US defenders volley during the night battle.

If you think this photo of the British assault column is impressive, you should've seen the thing in person!
The US forces parade out with Colonel Rob in the lead and Lieutenant Fitzgerald (aka Betsy) to his left.

There may have to be a second volume to this blog. Stay tuned... as they say.

1 comment:

  1. Yes...an amazing weekend! I don't suppose I'll ever get to see such a battle again as the Saturday night one, it was heart thumping and the spirits from the past were there watching over us all. A huge thanks to all those who came together for this one great event.