TIMES STAFF WRITER
SACKETS HARBOR — There were no air conditioning units or ice machines in the early 19th century. So, despite temperatures that soared into the mid-90s on Saturday, United States and British soldier re-enactors, in full regalia down to their wool uniforms, tried to keep as historically accurate as possible for the village’s War of 1812 weekend.
Many of the men and women in period canvas tents have been bringing history to life for years, and know how to deal with the heat and humidity that summer brings.
“Stay in the shade, drink lots of water and think happy thoughts,” said Ted L. Schofield, Chaumont, a re-enactor of the U.S. Navy’s Brigade Oneida and state militia. “You have to know your limits,too.”
Fellow militia re-enactor Steve Johnson, Jamestown, agreed.
“When we can’t be in the shade, we burn,” he said.
Acting as the U.S. forces’ commander was Craig D. Russell, Morrisville, who stood under a canvas overhang, drinking “ale” from a tin stein. His men were scheduled to fight at 3 p.m. Saturday. He promised he would make sure the demonstrations would be entertaining for the public beyond all else, even beyond historical accuracy.
“If I find (the British) are waiting to react to us, I’ll give them something to react to,” he said. “The British want to win, and we want to win. We’ll give you a good show.”
Just being able to see re-enactors in garb and with all their gear was exciting enough for some visitors.
“My grandson loves it,” said Kay M. Hewitt, Syracuse. “He’s into…”
“Guns!” finished Noah R. Wicks, her 6-year-old grandson. “I love the Army. My dad was in it.”
Another couple from farther away makes a point to see as many living history events as they can.
“We are full-time RVers and history buffs, and we have not been to any re-enactments for the War of 1812,” said Rainwater J. Bryant. “It was an opportunity we could not resist.”
“It’s a beautiful little town,” said Greg W. Bryant. “We’re on our way to cooler environments, though.”
The two, originally from Mississippi, sold all their possessions to travel the country.
Past the battlefield on the S-curve of Ontario Street, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at 1 p.m. for a proposed memorial for the nearly 50 British and Canadian Crown Forces soldiers killed in the Second Battle of Sackets Harbor in 1813 and buried in an unknown location in the area. Lt. Colonel Rob Duda, a commanding officer of the Canadian Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders and representing the Canadian National Defense Force, read the known names of the interred soldiers before the groundbreaking.
According to Sackets Harbor battlefield site manager Constance B. Barone, the monument will be a large piece of cut Barre granite with engravings.
Officials attending the ceremony Saturday included F. Anthony Keating, civilian aide to the secretary of the Army; Col. Walter E. Piatt, deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division, and Col. Howard G. Coombs, commander of 33 Canadian Brigade Group.
“Our nation should be cautious about glorifying war, but we should always be sure to remember who fought on this ground,” Col. Piatt said.
The re-enactment continues on the battlefield today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.