Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Fort Erie 2015

Ah! One of my favourite reenactments! The Siege of Fort Erie, reenacted for the past 30 years in early August on the site of the actual battle and all around the reconstructed fort. (It was destroyed in 1814 and rebuilt during the Great Depression.) Beth, Katie, and I (along with our dog, Pooka) journeyed to the place on Friday and set up housekeeping at about mid-day. Kevin and his children and Tina joined us in the early evening and Andy and Nick came in for Saturday. (They both had other commitments for Sunday.) Katie was working hard, since our friend, Sue of Spenser's Mercantile, needed her help all weekend. She said it was a tiring thing but worth it in a number of ways.
Now here's the odd thing: I took no photographs during the whole thing! All the photos I'm using are courtesy of Laughing Devil Photography, Old Fort Erie, Deb Lewis Brown, Steve Zronik, Thomas Walters, and my wife, Beth.
We attempt to be historical in our camping and I think we do pretty well. We set up in the "cook's line" at the back of the camp since we have a wall tent. We cook our meals over the open fire and Beth does a great job. Friday was roast chicken and corn on the cob, Saturday lunch - grilled cheese sandwiches, Saturday dinner - marinated steak, roast potatoes and green beans. Breakfasts were oatmeal and some sausage. We treated ourselves to a snack-bar lunch on Sunday.

Looking down the company street toward the major's marquee

The cook fire with LOTS of cast iron.
Not the easiest to clean but well worth the trouble.

Cook tent, Croghan's Company, 17th US Infantry, Army of the Northwest.

Somebody else's camp furniture

Tents of the 2nd Artillery

A wide view of the US camp
The event begins on Saturday morning with "Major Buck's surrender", which is a brief firing demonstration followed by the fort changing hands and the raising of the American flag over the fort. I was serving as "second sergeant" for the 17th Infantry - a position as vital as water wings on a battle cruiser - and I was "file closer" for the company. When the battalion when from line to closed column in our drill, I pulled out of parade and made myself useful in other ways. It was worthwhile since my feet were killing me from early on in the day.

Troops of the Royal Scots (I think) and riflemen of the 60th of Foot defend the fort on Saturday morning.
As the battalion lines up for the demand of surrender, a lone figure marches off to special duty.
I was NOT deserting. I decided my best move was to  handle the entry/exit for the battalion.
At one point, I said "I have one job, and,,,"
Although it wasn't too hot that weekend, I wore my white linen summer roundabout since heat and I don't get along.

The next exercise was an afternoon battle that is supposed to be the battles of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane. Andy and I became the Garrison Company and took charge of the main gate of the fort for the duration of the battle. The various units take turns garrisoning the fort, but it's usually vacant except for artillery crews.

The US infantry advances with the 17th in the lead. Nick is in the white smock with Kevin to his right and First Sergeant Ed to his left. Major Marty, 2nd Artillery, give orders.

Another view of the advance, this time with the drummer.

The firing line keeps up a lively fire.
Major Phil leads the charge of the Canadian Volunteers.
This unit was made up of Canadians fighting on the US side, serving as guides and fighters in the "war of outposts" all along the Niagara Frontier in the War of 1812

The British Indian Department, the 19th Light Dragoons, and the 60th of Foot, all serving as light infantry skirmishers, exchange fire with the US troops. 
The medical staff work with the wounded. Henry and Nate actually did bandage up one fellow who cut himself, but their major duty and wonderful contribution is carrying a bucket of ice water, which can be heaven on earth on a hot day.

Another view of Major Phil and his Canadian volunteers.
Their uniforms were a calculated insult to the British, with the green hatband of the United Irishmen and the white cockade of the Jacobites.

The 17th turns over guard duty to the Garrison Company just before the battle. Andy is the shorter fellow with his back to the camera. I'm in white on the opposite side. Captain Ollie with his broken leg stands aside as Chunn's Company, 17th US and the 1st US Volunteers leave the fort.
Saturday's evening battle is always something to see. It starts just about dusk with an artillery duel, with sporadic skirmishing fire, then a full out assault on the fort by the Crown forces (British, Canadian, and First Nations/Mohawk). We took our position on the fort curtain wall near the redoubt along with the 16th Infantry. There were a few twists this year. Instead of all the redcoats dying in the terre-plein, they put up ladders and came up the wall right against where I was stationed. After firing off about a dozen shots (I'm quite slow), I helped the assault troops keep their balance as they came over the wall. It's always a great show, and pictures tell a thousand words.

Worth a thousand words, indeed!

Big Jim oversees the 6 pounder in the fort's redoubt.
The gun packs quite a punch.

The gun of the 2nd Artillery from Fort Meigs, Ohio - stopping the vent

The Michigan Legionary Corps artillery gets off a shot.

The Kentucky Volunteer Rifles and the 19th Infantry skirmish in front of the fort.

The guns at the low wall above the ditch

The Fort George Guard fires a volley.
This outfit is part of the interpretive staff of the Fort and they drill like a machine.
Prior to the attack, the 22nd Infantry, some Canadian Volunteers, and members of the 1st Rifles and a uniformed militia unit stack arms. It's not hard, but it's tricky

The skirmishers retire and slide into the ditch to join up to the fort's defenders.

The assault troops slide into the ditch and bounce up to climb the wall onto the terre- plein.

Your humble blogger takes aim...
... and fires!
Cap'n Ollie took the photos and was gracious enough to share them with me.
Note the fine form, the nice flash, the mis-tied sergeant's sash.

The assault troops climb the ladder from the terre-plein to the redoubt.
Since some of the guys are close to my age (or older), I tried to help as many as I could over the wall.

The "magazine" goes up! At this point, all the Crown troops on the terre-plein keeled over dead.
In Drummond's night assault, the powder magazine blew up and killed about 900 of the attackers.
Some say it was a howitzer shell that did it; others say an American officer of Engineers blew it up.
In any event, it makes quite a display for the spectators.
Following the evening battle, there are candle-light tours of the fort with reenactors all over the place - shooting, being wounded, helping the surgeon, being worked on by the surgeon, lying dead, engaged in shell shock. This is how the event is paid for. Some folks complained that it was not "kid-friendly" since it was rather gory and a bit shocking. I think it shows that this was not a Boy Scout camping jamboree; it was war and it was in your back-yard. (Enough opinionizing.)
Sunday morning, there is a memorial service for all the fallen of the battle. Both armies attend and speeches are made. This year, a cabinet minister spoke and, truth to tell, he got it! He spoke for 4-5 minutes, thanking all the volunteers and reenactors and memorialising the men of both sides who fought at the fort. Then some of the First Nations reenactors, many of whom are people of the First Nations, did a tobacco tie ceremony to remember the dead. It was quite moving.

Many Strings and Hunter lead the ceremony.
Sunday afternoon saw a sortie by the US forces to try to damage the British siege works. I took care of the safety tape and did some education/discussion/commentary for the spectators on the one side.

The Brigade Adjutant and Sergeant Major enter the field.

The Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles, a Canadian regular unit, seen here in their proper Rifle Regiment type
uniforms but with muskets. This was a hard fighting unit that saw lots of action in the war.

"They must be reg'lers,sir. They're all in the shade."
Smart soldiers know where the shade, the water, and the beer are. 

Our battalion surgeon follows the action, alert for the wounded and the thirsty.

The US Regulars begin their withdrawal at the end of the sortie.

The Tennessee Rangers and the Canadian Volunteers follow up, while the US Marine contingent covers them.

The British and their Mohawk allies advance on the US skirmishers.

Sergeant Colin of the Tennessee Rangers is taken prisoner by a sergeant of the 19th Light Dragoons, but...

...White Turtle takes no prisoners!
Colin and Aaron/White Turtle are brothers so one cutting the other's throat was bound to happen sometime.
When the US forces need more muskets, the British Indian Department often takes the field as the Tennessee Rangers.

The Crown colour party.
British Sergeants carried spontoons in Europe,but often laid them aside to carry a musket in North America.
US sergeants carried muskets.

The Mohawk warriors advance to the edge of the shade.

White Turtle and Hunter look for targets in blue.
Colin is still dead behind them. Note as well that he "died" in the shade.

A "wounded" reenactor from Asquith's Rifles, Maryland Militia surveys quite a few downed Canadian Volunteers.

The Crown forces advance to meet the sortie.
After the end of the sortie battle, we all started to pack up and get ready to go to our homes. Reenactors came from Ontario, Quebec, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, and probably a few other places whose license plates I missed. It was good to see some old friends and make some new ones. There are a few reenactments left in the season, but this one is the biggest.
Personally, I think I need new boots.

Now a few other photos to give the sense of the weekend.

Captain Ollie of the 22nd Infantry and his broken leg.
He showed up and did all he could, game trooper that he is.

Our good friend Kevin in a fine photo.

A sergeant of the 19th Light Dragoons skirmishing.

Major Marty, 2nd Artillery, taking the pause that refreshes.

Lieutenant Tammie, Cushing's Company, 2nd Artillery (Married to the guy above)
If a woman is reenacting a soldier, it's "he." "Sir" if the impression is an officer.

A nice detail of the US drummer's drum

Many Strings cuts loose with a war whoop and a musket shot.

The Fifes and Drums of the Crown Forces.
After every action or field exercise, the fifes and drums play a lament for the dead. It's proper, appropriate, and well done.
The US line fires a volley.

Matt and Many Strings at the memorial service.

My beautiful daughter Katie, at her weekend job.
She gets her looks from her mother.
Last but not least, Private Pooka of Croghan's Company, 17th Infantry.
He's a happy dog and a good camper. His tail is never still if he's awake, so Beth did her best to take this photo.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. It was a wonderful weekend, just a shame it goes so fast...until next time.

  3. Now that I'm back in Canada, may have to invest in a musket and some 1812 clothing to be a Royal Nova Scotia militiaman

  4. Missed it thanks to the elections. :(

    Good to see the XIXth was represented.