Bicentennial of British raid remembered

By Kimberly Drelich

Publication: The Times

Published April 17. 2014

Embers fly from a bonfire as volunteers with the Old Lyme Historical Society commemorate the bi-centennial of the British raid on Connecticut River shipping in the War of 1812 with the “Light Up the Night” event at the waterfront on Ferry Road in Old Lyme on April 8. TIM COOK/THE DAY

As night fell on April 8, 1814, by Higgins Wharf in Lyme, an effort was underway. Lit by the glow of bonfires, local residents and militia peered out onto the Connecticut River to glimpse the shadow of British ships retreating.

On the other side of the valley, more citizens awaited and then fired when they spotted the escaping ships. The locals had just suffered a defeat that morning at Essex, then called Pettipaug, where the British had burned up 27 vessels two years into the War of 1812.

Last week, residents remembered the bicentennial of the British raid at Essex. Old Saybrook, Essex and Old Lyme held “Light Up the Night” re-enactments along the river.

“The shipping in the whole harbor has been destroyed,” announced a lantern-bearing messenger to the crowd of more than 75 attendees last week, after drums sounded on the dinghy dock on Ferry Road in Old Lyme, near the wharf which was part of Lyme at the time of the raid.

Attendees at the commemoration were told to listen to the “muffled sounds of oars” and strain their eyes for the silhouettes of the British ships slipping into the night. The sounds of firing canons and muskets filled the night.

During the war, the British had been blockading Long Island Sound and running ships aground along the shoreline. U.S. Commodore Stephen Decatur’s three naval ships remained bottled up in The Thames River. The British then attacked Essex in the early-morning hours of April 8, allegedly in retaliation for an attempted raid on a ship by local Americans.

The raid had a devastating effect on the ships in the harbor, and residents Tuesday learned that “vessels large and small owned by merchants up and down the valley” were destroyed.

“You can hardly name a shipping family in the valley that has not suffered great loss,” said the event’s narrator, Mark Lander, the co-chairman of the Old Lyme Historical Society. “Ships, rigs, schooners, scoots: all of them brought up to Essex for safety – or so we thought.”

As day turned to night on April 8, 1814, residents and local militia lit bonfires to detect the retreating British towing two privateers down river after the shipbuilding loss. To thwart the British, American citizens began firing at the retreating British along the Connecticut River. The British were able to escape successfully, though two sailors were wounded.

“Let us count ourselves fortunate here in Lyme,” the narrator told the crowd, that the ships in town remained unscathed by the raid that destroyed more than two dozen ships in Essex.

Town resident Matt LaConti brought his two daughters Ada, 7, and Celia, 9, to the event to be a part of local history and learn about the events that took place years ago.

“I like them to learn about history,” he said, “and we have a lot of it here.”

The Connecticut River Museum in Essex sponsored the event, along with the Old Lyme, Essex and Old Saybrook historical societies. Additional events marking the bicentennial are planned in the area.

War of 1812 Bicentennial Event May 10 at Sully

NY, Ontario events mark War of 1812 bicentennial

War of 1812 Monument triggers ’round-the-clock work schedule


War of 1812 Monument triggers ’round-the-clock work schedule

After a national competition, the government selected a design last year for the War of 1812 Monument by Toronto artist Adrienne Alison, who received an artist’s commission of $787,000.

Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger , Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Hostilities in the War of 1812 ceased nearly two centuries ago, but contractors will have to work around the clock to complete a new Parliament Hill monument to the long-ago war by this fall.

The National Capital Commission invited bids this week for construction work associated with the War of 1812 Monument, slated to go in an area south of the East Block currently used for parking. Work must begin on July 28 and be completed by Oct. 31 “without the possibility of extension,” the tender says.

During that three-month period, it specifies, work must not only be done within regular daytime hours, but also between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. weekdays and on Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays.

Not to worry, says Canadian Heritage, the sponsoring department: the project is on schedule. The ’round-the-clock work timetable is simply intended to minimize disruption on Parliament Hill — “standard practice” for construction on the Hill, it said in an email.

Though most work will proceed night and day, road closures and crane work will be restricted to overnight periods and weekends, the department said.

In addition, the contractor must consult with the NCC’s contract administrator “prior to any site disturbance to ensure that parliamentary operations are not negatively impacted.”

Things likely to cause a disturbance include “vibrations, impacts, noise, dust, fumes, road closures or unsightly conditions” — pretty much everything, in short, associated with a construction site.

The contractor must accommodate government-related activities, especially the work schedule of the House of Commons and the Senate, says the tender.

Any disturbances that prompt complaints could trigger “stop work orders,” for which the contractor would be compensated. The tender makes a cash allowance for 1,000 person-hours of stop work.

The unveiling of the memorial will cap three years of bicentennial celebrations of the War of 1812, which the government has described as a “seminal event” in Canada’s history.

It has spent upwards of $30 million to raise awareness of the war, which pitted Britain and its colonial subjects in British North America against the United States. (We won, eh.)

After a national competition, the government selected a design last year for the monument by Toronto artist Adrienne Alison, who received an artist’s commission of $787,000. Alison’s design shows a circle of seven bronze figures in dynamic poses on a central stone plinth flanked by two granite boats.

The NCC has already awarded a separate contract, worth $60,552, to HGH Granite of Dundas, Ont., for the delivery and installation of the bronze figures and granite plinths that make up the monument.

The artwork installation, which will be co-ordinated and supervised by the firm that wins the construction contract, is scheduled for October — days before the monument’s planned unveiling.


University of Delaware

A view of earthen forts constructed at Fort Point during the War of 1812.

War relics

CEOE geologists examine historic War of 1812 earthen forts for erosion clues

9:11 a.m., April 16, 2014–During the War of 1812, American troops built makeshift forts out of soil along rivers to hide artillery and provide cover in case of British attacks. These war relics remain two centuries later, exposed to the elements and slowly wearing away.

Geologists in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) are examining the earthen defensive structures both for their historical value and insights on erosional processes.

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“We’ll make a virtual archive of their shape, size and placement today, because most of them sit in estuaries where they are being eroded,” said Michael O’Neal, associate professor of geological sciences in CEOE. “They’re going rapidly.”

O’Neal will use modern technology — drones, high-definition cameras and lasers — to conduct topographic surveys and develop three-dimensional models. He and CEOE graduate student Corey Hovanec will focus on three historical sites in Maryland: Fort Stokes near Easton, Fort Point near Centreville and Fort Nonsense near Annapolis.

Two drones equipped with specialized cameras will hover approximately 40 meters (130 feet) in the air to take aerial images, providing a visual overview and accessing sightlines that might be otherwise missed, O’Neal said. The forts range in size but can cover hundreds of square meters, made up of parapets mounded high with dirt in geometric shapes and flanked by ditches.

The researchers will use ground-based laser scanners to document the contours of the forts from several vantage points at a resolution of less than 1 centimeter, and the data will be cross-referenced with precise GPS coordinates. Soil probes will help determine how much soil from the top of the mounds moved down into the ditches over time.

From a scientific perspective, the project will shed light on rates of erosion and the movement of sediment in natural settings. The forts in effect serve as a science experiment set up centuries ago.

“Two hundred years ago, people piled up dirt for me and then let it spread back out across the landscape so I could figure out how quickly it moved and what the nature of the movement was,” O’Neal said.

The research could help determine the forts’ original shapes and inform preservation efforts. Like many earthen forts that are not situated on government land, the study sites are threatened by increased development, agriculture, natural erosion along waterways and other dynamics.

With sea level rising, some furrows now extend into the water today. Proximity to waterways was strategic during the War of 1812, located at the heads of estuaries to hide cannons and protect towns like Easton during battles.

O’Neal’s project will increase understanding of the forts’ construction and use. The scientists will create online maps and informational materials to encourage tourists to visit the mounds and learn about their role in the war. The sites are potential additions to the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.

The work is supported by a grant from Star-Spangled 200 Inc., an organization commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the national anthem. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley recently presented O’Neal and others with grants for projects that support programming, education, visitor experience and capital improvements.

“The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake and the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner are important chapters in our history as a state and as a nation,” said Gov. O’Malley. “I want to thank the grant recipient organizations for their commitment to telling this story and using these funds to invest in community revitalization, tourism development and job growth in Maryland.”

Article by Teresa Messmore with some material from Star-Spangled 200 Inc.

Images courtesy of Michael O’Neal and Star-Spangled 200 Inc.

Siege of Fort Erie to highlight War of 1812 commemoration

The Buffalo News

Re-enactors, historic dances and museum exhibits to commemorate war

From left, War of 1812 re-enactors Allan Eimiller, Scoot Frank and Guy Rizzutto, all in period clothing, were  on hand Wednesday for the announcement launching the third year of War of 1812 bicentennial events. From left, War of 1812 re-enactors Allan Eimiller, Scoot Frank and Guy Rizzutto, all in period clothing, were on hand Wednesday for the announcement launching the third year of War of 1812 bicentennial events. John Hickey / Buffalo News

April 16, 2014

They stood together Wednesday behind the podium at the Buffalo History Museum, military interpreters entering their third year of celebrating the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Already, Guy Rizzuto of Grand Island and Alan Eimiller of East Aurora have participated in the Siege of Fort Erie, the Battle of Queenston Heights, the attack of Fort Niagara (twice) and two events at Buffalo History Museum.

Plus, they fired a canon at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park – not to mention rounds and rounds from their muskets.

And that’s why they were present at the museum Wednesday, dressed in their period uniforms and holding their muskets, to help call attention to a third summer of activities commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, much of it fought on the Niagara Frontier.

“If we were in a battle, this is what we would put on,” said Rizzuto, pointing to his bayonet.

The commemorative events unveiled Wednesday include the blockbuster Siege of Fort Erie to be staged Aug. 9 and 10 at Old Fort Erie. An annual event in its 28th year, the siege is North America’s largest War of 1812 re-enactment.

“Our cannons are still loaded for 2014, for the last year of the bicentennial, bringing history alive for people of both sides of the peaceful border that is a result of the conflict 200 years ago,” said Brian Merrett, chief executive officer of the Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council.

Merrett was dressed in period apparel as he made the announcement during a program at the history museum that was capped by musket firing.

Joining Merrett at the podium was Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, one of about 10 dignitaries who attended the formal announcement proceedings. The bicentennial celebration, Dyster said, has sparked his own educational journey to learn as much as he can about the war that took place on both sides of the Niagara River.

“Those of us living in the Niagara region have had an uphill battle to explain the significance of the war,” Dyster said. “No doubt it will take us to the end of the year to realize its importance.”

The slate of events expected in 2014 includes more than battle re-enactments, though some spectacular skirmishes are planned.

The Battle of Chippawa, and the Battle of Lundy’s Lane re-enacted at Chippawa, is scheduled for July 5 and 6 at the Chippawa Battlefield on Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls, Ont. Hundreds of re-enactors are expected to flood the field and bring the American victory to life at 2 p.m. July 5.

At 2 p.m. July 6, the Battle of Lundy’s Lane will be re-enacted. It was Canada’s bloodiest battle of the war.

Performing arts will also be a big part of the celebration.

“The Honouring,” featuring the Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, will celebrate First Nations warriors of the war, said Kathryn Vedder, Western New York liaison for the Bicentennial Legacy Council. The performance spotlights the Onkwehonwe families as it brings history to life at dusk June 28 and 29 at Old Fort Niagara, Fort Niagara State Park, in Youngstown.

Planned for noon Sept. 13 is a salute to “The Star Spangled Banner,” marking the 200 anniversary of the national anthem. The event, which takes place at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park, includes an ice cream social and a concert by Friends of Harmony in honor of Francis Scott Key.

A Buffalo History Museum exhibit – “By Fire and Sword: War in the Niagara Theatre, 1812-1814” – displays Peter Porter’s ceremonial sword, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s wine chest and a slew of firearms. Another museum exhibit is set to open this summer. “Centennial of the War of 1812” defines the activities of the centennial commemoration here in 1912. Both exhibits run through spring 2015.

Cleaning centuries-old weapons represented a $65,000 investment by the museum to conserve its extensive holding of artifacts relating to the War of 1812, according to Melissa Brown, executive director of the Buffalo History Museum.

“The combination of metal, wood and leather do not age well,” Brown noted.

Eimiller and Rizzuto, the military interpreters, could attest to that. The two work at Old Fort Niagara’s regularly scheduled events, answering questions, firing muskets and giving people a glimpse of what life was like 200 years ago. Their muskets have been known to fizzle at critical moments.

“The guns are kind of sketchy. Muskets are not very reliable,” said Rizzuto, retired information officer for Niagara Falls and Buffalo school systems.

“They’re ancient,” said Eimiller, who taught history at Burgard Vocational High School.

For a complete list of events, visit

Battle of Caulk’s Field bicentennial planned










FAIRLEE — An upcoming re-enactment of the Battle of Caulk’s Field will mark the day, 200 years ago, when Kent County militiamen turned back a British night attack during the War of 1812. The event will be staged on the bicentennial, Aug. 31, and on the same battlefield where the action took place.

Expect a historic re-creation of the battle, complete with cannons, horses and soldiers, along with fun-filled and associated educational activities in the county seat of Chestertown and on the battlefield. Also expect a ceremony recognizing the human sacrifice that results from war.

The Battle of Caulk’s Field took place in the night of Aug. 30 and early morning hours of Aug. 31, 1814, sandwiched in the week between the burning of Washington and the attack on Baltimore.

The field, named for Isaac Caulk, owner at the time of the battle, remains almost unchanged 200 years later. A memorial, dedicated in 1902, is close to the roadside as a reminder of the battle that took place there. Each year since 2012, on the anniversary, a ceremony has honored the fallen. Now two flags, the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes, fly there.

The ceremony planned on Aug. 31 this year again will involve British and Maryland military officials and special guests. Two new monuments will be unveiled at that time.

Planning for the battle re-enactment has been under way for more than a year through the Kent County Office of Tourism & Economic Development, in conjunction with the Star-Spangled 200 Chesapeake Campaign. The re-enactment will include nearly as many men portraying both the 21st Regiment of Maryland Militia, and British Royal Marines and sailors. There also will be dragoons and artillery, in order to make the re-enactment as historically accurate as possible. The battle, planned in the afternoon on Aug. 31, will be staged on about 35 acres of the original site, which now is owned by Tulip Forest Farm. Activities on the day of the battle re-enactment will also include encampments, exhibits, demonstrations, music, food, vendors, VIP recognition and living history.

There will be lots of history, the re-enactment comes on the heels of two archaeological surveys undertaken by the state of Maryland in the past two years. The artifacts, along with the corresponding historical review, documents more clearly the paths taken by the British in the attack and the course of the battle.

The re-enactment is supported by Star-Spangled 200 grants, which also partially funded, with cash and in-kind matches and other grants, the establishment of the Chesapeake Independent Blues, formerly the Eastern Shore Militia, a volunteer living history military interpretive unit equipped to resemble as authentically as possible the uniformed militia companies raised on Maryland’s Eastern Shore during the War of 1812. Augmented by other volunteers from across North America, the Chesapeake Independent Blues will be the core unit taking on the roles of the 21st Regiment of Maryland Militia in the re-enactment. In addition, a grant also partially funded a “Walk Through Time” array of 10 educational kiosks that will be on the battlefield on Aug. 31.

“The bicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Caulk’s Field will offer the public a rare opportunity to witness and interact with a diversity of interpretive elements representing the War of 1812, including American infantry, field artillery, and mounted dragoons defending their families and communities, British Royal Marines and seamen defending their country’s rights to Canada and command of the oceans, and private merchant ships and privateers that once sailed the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the global seas,” said Mark Dubin, a weapons safety officer for the Chesapeake Independent Blues and member of the county’s Battle of Caulk’s Field 2014 committee. “Unlike any other period site in the mid-Atlantic region, the uniquely preserved Caulk’s Field battlefield, coupled with eyewitness accounts and a recent state archeological investigation, will enable military living history interpretive units from across North America to faithfully recreate the actions that occurred on that fateful night.”

Chestertown also is involved in the battle commemoration. On Saturday, Aug. 30, there will be a parade down High Street, with dragoons leading a large cadre of the re-enactors paced by a period fife and drum unit. A 15-star flag raising and wreath laying, at the War of 1812 monument in Monument Plaza will follow.

There will be a militia camp at the 18th-century Customs House, where 1812 military camp life and military drills will be demonstrated for the public. Activities, period music and interpretive programs will be offered at the foot of High Street.

The Historical Society of Kent County is planning a display of Caulk’s Field artifacts and guest speakers, including archaeologist Julie M. Schablitsky, who led the Caulk’s Field surveys. Pride of Baltimore II, and Sultana will be on hand for tours and sails. Other activities are being considered.

The cash match portion of the Star-Spangled 200 grants is being accrued with fundraisers, in coordination with the Friends of Kent County War of 1812, the county’s original bicentennial organization.

A vacation trip raffle is in the planning stage and a limited number of tickets will be on sale, with the winner announced at the Aug. 31 battle re-enactment.

A special fundraising reception is being planned for June 28 and will take place at the Caulk’s house, where Isaac Caulk lived.

For more information, contact the Kent County Office of Tourism & Economic Development at 410-778-0416, or

Shilo-based museum opens War of 1812 exhibit

he ribbon will snip on Wednesday to officially open a dramatic new exhibit at the RCA Museum located at CFB Shilo.

The exhibit, called “1812: One War, Four Perspectives” is a travelling exhibit by the Canadian War Museum that was created to mark the ongoing bicentennial of the War of 1812.

It presents a dramatic account of the War of 1812, as seen through the eyes of Canadian, American, British and First Nations participants, for whom it had surprisingly different meanings and consequences. By comparing these perspectives, visitors will gain a richer and deeper understanding of a conflict that shaped Canada’s destiny.

The lavishly illustrated exhibit features more than 40 artifacts from the Canadian War Museum, a large-scale diorama of the Battle of the Thames, and four mannequins to create a powerful, immersive experience evocative of all four perspectives on the conflict.

Although the official opening is Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., the exhibit is already viewable by the public. It will remain on display until June 29.

The RCA Museum is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. until May 9, although closed on statutory holidays. For the summer, starting May 12, the museum will be open seven days a week.

Horrific battles of 1814 to be commemorated

History invades Niagara for bicentennial celebrations

By Kris Dube / News Editor
April 14, 2014
History invades Niagara for bicentennial celebrations

NIAGARA – The War of 1812 ended 200 years ago but the historic conflict will continue to be celebrated for the next few months.

At a ceremony on Monday morning, the War of 1812 Legacy Council announced its scheduled events for the upcoming year.

The series of celebrations will start at Fort Niagara in Youngstown, N.Y. With ‘The Honouring,’ a performance from a dance theatre that tells the story of native allies through movement, rhythm, sound and video – inside the walls of the fort at dusk. This will be held on June 28 and 29.

The second commemorative event will be the Battle of Chippawa on July 5 and 6.

The conflict will be brought back to life on what the Legacy Council calls “one of Canada’s most pristine battlefields,” with re-enactments and demonstrations throughout the weekend.

The Battle of Lundy’s Lane will take place on July 25, starting with a commemorative service at 7: 30 p.m.

Later in the evening, a participatory event will be offered from two points in Niagara Falls. Particpants will walk 2.5 kilometres through the streets and converge onto the former Battlefield School.

The Siege of Fort Erie will be re-enacted on Aug. 9 and 10 for its 28th consecutive year at the Old Fort.

There will be a battle on Saturday night where the fort is “blown up” by pyrotechnics,” said the Old Fort’s manager Heather Gorman.

Janice Thomson, chair of the Niagara Parks Commission, said the involvement of multiple groups, agencies and area municipalities is what has made the 1812 celebrations a success over the last three years.

“It’s been great to see all the community groups working together,” said Thomson.

On NPC property, many of the historic sites from the War of 1812 have been marked with plaques and signage to commemorate the various conflicts – many of them just recently added.

“It’s great to see the other spots filled in and the whole story has been told,” said Thomson.

Jarrod Cunliffe, 25, of St. Catharines, says he has been involved in the War of 1812 experience since he started working at Fort George in 2009.

Cunliffe is a Public Relations program student at Niagara College and is doing his placement with the Niagara 1812 Legacy Council.

He was dressed as one of American Brigadier General Winfield Scott’s “Grey Jackets.”

Scott and his men played important roles in the Battle of Chippawa and the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.

“So many people live their entire lives without knowing the significance of what happened around them,” says Cunliffe, adding, “They are shocked.”

-with files from Nick Fearns


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