Thursday, 11 August 2016

Fort Erie 2016

The photo above is a beautiful one of the US camp taken on Saturday evening by my wife. Most everyone had taken their places for the evening assault on the fort while she stayed in camp for a bit of quiet time. I think it's a great photo of a great event.

(All photographs are courtesy of my wife, Laughing Devil Photography, Phil Edwards, Tara Haves, Jared & Brandi Lean, Niagara Parks, Steve Zronik, Meagan Ashleigh Moeyaert, Lisa Brown, Brian Hutchinson, and the Incorporated Militia of Upper Canada/Jessica Servos & Paul Kelly.)

Every year on the first weekend of August, the Siege of Fort Erie is commemorated with a huge reenactment. Our group - Croghan's Company, 17th US Infantry - went down to the site in force this year. We set up camp on Friday and met old friends in the camps. The local authorities had set a ban on open fires so all cooking was done on either charcoal grills or propane stoves. The fire marshal allowed the traditional explosion of the powder magazine on Saturday evening if a fire truck was on site, which it was, much to the delight of the kids.

I've been having a tough time with heat of late and this weekend was no different. Friday was hot and humid, but the humidity came down a bit on Saturday and Sunday. I dropped our of parade in the morning exercise and battle, spent the afternoon battle "garrisoning" the fort, and sat out the Sunday afternoon battle. I did participate in the evening assault, which is always worthwhile.

On Saturday morning, in a private ceremony open to neither the public nor the bulk of the reenactors, the Royal Scots, the 1st Regiment of Foot, Light, Grenadier, and line companies, laid up their old colours and  paraded new ones. The old colours were donated to the museum of Old Fort Erie, to become part of the permanent display. Here you see the colonel handing off the regimental colour to the museum staff. 
The north bastion of the fort
Sutler's Row -- more on this later.
Major Buck's surrender takes place in the morning and the fort is handed over to the US forces who raise the Stars and Stripes for the bulk of the weekend. The Union Jack is raised on Sunday to commemorate the US forces retiring to Buffalo at the end of the siege in 1814.

The 17th's camp, cook's tent and dining fly. Nick and I are relaxing there.
Tara and Tina do some cooking on the propane stove and grill.
We ate well, thanks to these ladies and Beth, my wife.
The Crown forces camp.
You can see how dry the grass was.
Beth and Pooka
Pooka is our dog and regimental mascot. He's getting old and the heat  really tired him out.
Tara at the front gate in her new dress.
As I said, during the afternoon battle, Tyler, Kevin, and I served as garrison for the fort. Each unit took turns serving as fort sentries for about 30 minutes or so. I asked for volunteers from guys who didn't wish to march around in the afternoon's heat. It's not tough duty, but it adds to the reenactment impression.

The Garrison Company at the front gate.

Meanwhile, my daughter, Katie, was busily assisting our friend, Sue Spenser, on Sutler's Row.
She's in the green dress; Beth is in the plaid one.
We tried something that went over quite well. Late Saturday morning, a few of us did a little street theatre. A patrol of the 17th went over to Sutler's Row and "arrested" a "deserter." Our friend, Tom of the Glengarry Light Infantry, was part of the plot and served as our "deserter." He resisted arrest (as he was told to do) so Tyler tied him up as we marched him off to punishment, making as much noise as possible. The sutlers usually don't get to see things - they can't leave their stands during the battles - so they really enjoyed it and cheered "Hang him!" We found our later that the fort staff loved it as well since it got the crowd involved. We'll do more of this. Nick, Kevin, and I are plotting scenarios... heh-heh-heh. (<Evil laugh.>) Sad to say, no photos of this have come to light as yet.

Here's Tom in his uniform. (I call him "Wee Tom".) He's a real good sport and jumped on the chance to join in the fun.
Some of the battle pictures I've collected:

Fifes and drums of the Crown Forces.
The Fifes and Drums of Fort George was also in attendance.
"Advance the Colours!"
Lots of energy in this photo. The Crown sergeants insist on carrying spontoons although sources say that they carried muskets in North America. Could you imagine hauling a spontoon through the forest?
The Crown Line, including some uniformed militia (green jackets) give a volley.

The Royal Artillery cuts loose as well.

For the battle, our company was combined with Chunn's company, 17th  Infantry from Erie, PA as well as other units.
Nick is wearing the work frock of cooler linen or cotton. Lyle is next to him, and Jared, wearing his belly box is a bit down the rank.
The Saturday evening battle is always the one to see. The US defends the fort from an evening storming assault under a Colonel Drummond. In the historical battle, the powder magazine blew up, killing more than 200 of the storming party. We use a lot of fireworks for that; hence the presence of the fire truck in the US camp.

Brandi and Jared's daughter, Livie (green dress), in the firetruck
Preparing for action.
See that white-jacketed soldier on the far right of the photo? That's your humble blogger.
The 5.5 inch howitzer brought up by the Fort Meigs, OH, group fires.
There was a tremendous amount of smoke and noise.

Here's a link to a video of the howitzer firing. (This is the best I could do.)
The 22nd US, defending the terre-plein, fires a volley.
Meanwhile, on the rampart, our friend, Mark, hams it up for the camera.
Jared checks his range and sighting. US troops were taught to aim, although with a musket, that is a futile thing.
Nick and I on the rampart.
For the sake of drama and the crowd, a few small explosives are planted on the outer grassy walls of the fort and covered with loose peat moss. It looks great going up, but if you're nearby, you get covered in falling peat moss.
Some of the British line fire a volley.
Major Roy directs the fire of his British Indian Department troops.
More charges are planted out in the field to simulate the deadly bounce of the cannon balls.
US Light troops - Kentucky Rifles and Canadian Volunteers - skirmish in front of the advancing Crown troops.
The Crown Forces' Sergeant Major and troopers of the 19th Light Dragoons advance.
The RSM looks like he means business.
Many Strings (Kim) and his Mohawk war party come up to the attack.
The Crown Forces have to take a slide into the ditch.
Some climb ladders and others run around the side to enter the terre-plein.
A great action photo of Kevin firing. Taken just at the right time.
Note all the discarded paper cartridges at Andrew's feet. Our musket barrels were boiling hot at the end of the battle.
A great shot of Tyler firing his musket.
The Royal Scots Grenadiers on the terre-plein.
When it was all over, we exchanged cheers:
"Three cheers for the storming party!" "Three cheers for our republican opponents!"
The 22nd retreated to fight from the wall.
Captain Mark died a glorious death just above the ditch. "And the Academy Award goes to..."
Here are three different views of the magazine explosion, taken by three different photographers.
In the second one, Andrew of our unit appears to be ducking like the intelligent man he is. I was further down the rampart and closer to the blast. It felt the fire on my face when it went off.

In a word, spectacular! There were bigger ones a few years ago, but they shattered windows in the fort. This one did the job without damaging anything else. The ground, grass, and walls had been saturated with water for days as the fort prepared for this.

After the battle, the public could enter the fort for "lantern tours", a little excursion that pays for the event. Troops fire muskets and cannon. Crown skirmishers fire from the outside, while surgeons work on the "wounded" and general chaos ensues in the lantern light. Matthew, the youngest uniformed member of the company (Livie is younger but is not uniformed... yet.) served as a wounded soldier on the operating table and screamed up a storm.

Matthew shows off his belly wound.
Sunday morning saw a memorial service commemorating the dead of the actual battle.

Caps off or "mourn arms" during the moment of silence
Many Strings leads the tobacco ties ceremony.
Soon after the afternoon battle, we started packing up... which is no fun to take photos of, so here are some random ones.

Livie listens to Captain Ollie's String Band singing "Camptown Ladies."
"Do-dah! Do-dah!"
Livie encounters a fan for the first time.
One of the inner redoubts of the fort.
The storming party fires from the terre-plein.
Major Phil, possibly the best dressed man on the field.
Oh, I hope it's not canister!
The Crown line advances at the Sunday afternoon American sortie.
Make ready! Present! Fire! Prime and load!
Our good friend, Major Roy of the BID
Many people think he sounds like Sean Connery when he talks.
"Major Fitzgerald" (Betsy) in command of a wing of the army.
This officer usually commands the light battalion.
Colonel Rob with Major Marty a step or two behind.
They've taught me everything I know.
The rag-tag 17th, Croghan's Company. Only Jared is missing.
"Officers? We don't need any officers! We are an anarcho-syndicalist collective!" That usually gets a laugh.
If more photos surface, I'll run up another blog, but for now this last photo tells the whole tale.

I suppose you can have too much fun.


  1. The "arresting of the deserter" actually took place on Sunday, rather than Saturday.

  2. Looks like an incredible event! What a large showing of forces on both sides.

    1. That it was. 2014 was bigger but this one was great. I do wish it had been cooler.