Sunday, July 01, 2012
New London Harbor, Conn. – the last port of call for the U.S. Navy’s OpSail2012 – will be visited by fleet of more than a dozen tall ships on Friday afternoon.
Marking the War of 1812 bicentennial, OpSail2012CT coincides with “The Rockets Red Glare,” an exhibit of the 16-star, 16-stripe Stonington Battle Flag at Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London. The flag flew over the successful defenders of Stonington, Conn., during a four-day bomb, mortar and rocket attack by British warships in August 1814.
“In a way, it’s Connecticut’s Star Spangled Banner,” said Edward D. Baker, executive director of the New London County Historical Society. “It’s an important relic for all Americans, not just the people of Stonington.”
The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain from June 18, 1812, to Feb. 18, 1815, and was sparked by conflicting maritime policies and competing western expansion along the Canadian frontier.
The four-day OpSail 2012CT, which honors the 200th anniversary of that war and the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner, will bring an armada tall and modern ships to southeastern Connecticut. OpSail2012 began in New Orleans in April and concludes with the New London visit.
The tall ships scheduled to participate include the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle; Freedom Schooner Amistad from Mystic, Conn.; New Horizons from Boston; The Wolf from Key West, Florida; and Brazil’s Cisne Branco.
IF YOU GO
- Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; July 8, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and July 9, 9 a.m. to noon
- Niantic Bay and New London Harbor, Conn.
- Free admission for ships visitation
For more info:
- Online at
In addition, there will be a 610-foot Navy troop transport vessel and four 108-foot training vessels from the U.S. Naval Academy in a parade of ships along with the tall ships.
The four-day event also will feature food festivals, live music, family activities, sailboat races and a fireworks display over New London Harbor on Saturday night preceded by a Coast Guard Band concert. There also will be a governor’s ball with tickets priced at $75 per person.
The public is invited to visit the ships at State Pier, City Pier and Fort Trumbull State Park, all in New London. There is no admission charge for the fireworks or to visit the tall ships.
OpSail2012CT begins with a welcome ceremony at 3 p.m. on Friday, on Main Street in East Lyme. The tall ships anchor for the night in Niantic.
On Saturday, the Parade of Sail will depart from Niantic to New London Harbor where the tall ships and sailing cadets will converge for an historic extravaganza to celebrate not only the war’s bicentennial and the national anthem but also the rich history of New London, Groton, Stonington and Essex, where naval engagements took place during the war.
In June 1814, the British burned 27 ships in the process of being built or repaired and fitted at Pettipaugh, now Essex.
From Aug. 9-12, 1814, British fleets attacked Stonington. Led by Sir Thomas Hardy, they destroyed many buildings but caused few casualties. In one of few victories for the American militia, the defenders of Stonington succeeded in keeping British marines from landing. “It was one of the few success stories of American militia during the War of 1812,” Baker said.
Visitors to Stonington today can visit Canon Square and see the two canons used to repel the British.
New London was never attacked because it was too well defended by three major American warships and thousands of men, Baker noted.
The war was a turning point for Connecticut, he explained, because its major industries – the manufacture of guns, swords and canons – “took off during the war” since because of an embargo, there was not the option to import them from Britain. “So Connecticut began making its own manufactured goods.”
The War of 1812 restored unrestricted maritime commerce and spurred American manufacturing, both important to Connecticut and other New
England states. Connecticut residents and people throughout the nation celebrated victories, inspiring patriotism and helping to create an American identity.
After the war ended, the people of New London had a “peace ball” and invited the officers from the British ships that had been blockading the town for two years.
Baker is looking forward to OpSail 2012CT, saying it will be an opportunity for people “to get in touch with this often-overlooked piece of history,” Connecticut’s role in the War of 1812.
According to John S. Johnson, chair of OpSail 2012CT, the concept for the event originated in 1960 with President John F. Kennedy who wanted to bring together the sailing nations of the world to promote sailing, camaraderie and friendship. The first event of this kind took place in 1964 for the World’s Fair in New York City.
Other such gatherings took place in 1976 for the celebration of the American bicentennial, in 1986 for the opening of the refurbished Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, in 1992 for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America and in 2000 for the new millennium.
Johnson expects 750,000 to 1 million visitors to participate in the Connecticut celebration.
“This is Connecticut’s pride,” he said. “It’s a celebration of our participation in that War (of 1812). We played a huge role in it. We sure are sharing our pride.”
The hours of the Connecticut extravaganza are:
Friday, July 6, 3 to 5 p.m., Niantic Bay, East Lyme
Saturday, July 7, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fort Trumbull State Park, New London
Sunday, July 8, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fort Trumbull State Park, New London
Monday, July 9, 9 a.m. to noon, Fort Trumbull State Park, New London