Reliving the War of 1812


By Jeff Bolichowski, The Standard

Friday, August 10, 2012

Two centuries later, the red coats, the muskets and the tall hats are coming back.

The War of 1812 will leap back to life this weekend as re-enactors relive the Siege of Fort Erie over two days of events. But the revisiting of the bloody battle is just one of the events set to be recreated as Niagara celebrates the war’s bicentennial.

There’s another big one coming down the pipe: In October, re-enactors will piece together the Battle of Queenston Heights, where General Sir Isaac Brock fell.

“It’s almost the closest we can get to actually being there,” said Nathaniel Metherel, the site supervisor at Brock’s Monument on the Heights who also sits on the battle re-enactment committee.

“You get a sense of scale. You get the sense of that real aspect of it.”

First up, though, is the grand re-enactment at Fort Erie, the bloody 1814 siege that saw British troops under Lt.-Gen. Sir Gordon Drummond attempt to take back the American-occupied fort.

It is the largest annual re-enactment in North America, said Jim Hill, heritage operations manager for the Niagara Parks Commission. He said it usually draws about 800 re-enactors, many of them flooding into Niagara from the U.S.

It’s as big as it is because it hits a lot of factors, he said.

“The appearance of the fort itself is pretty close to the way it would’ve looked in August of 1814,” he said, adding its closeness to the U.S. border helps draws re-enactors from there, too.

The fort is so close to its original look, he said, re-enactors can camp where the Americans did during the actual fight. The British will have to camp a bit closer.

The event, Hill said, will also feature dramatic candlelight tours that will give visitors a chance to see the battle up close.

“We say to people, ‘we take away the yellow tape,’” he said.

Queenston Heights is still a way off, but Metherel said about 500 to 600 re-enactors have already signed up.

He said some re-enactors will even march to the Heights from Fort George, as actual British troops did in 1812.

He expects a Brock re-enactor could show up in some form, though in reality Brock was killed very early in the battle. He said nothing is set in stone, though.

“This one is what we call a golden re-enactment,” he said, because it’ll follow the actual battle by time. It will try to match events not only to the day, but to the hour at which they took place 200 years before.

“I think the appeal is because it’s a significant date, and we’re 200 years (from) that day.” he said. “It certainly has more significance when it’s the actual day.”

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