War ships fire up history buffs in Detroit

The Detroit News

September 5, 2012

  • By George Hunter
  • The Detroit News

Detroit ā€” Briton Janet Barford visited Detroit for the first time Tuesday and was surprised to see three ships converge on the city for the bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812.

Barford jokingly said she wasn’t bitter about the outcome of the war, in which the United States defeated England.

“They don’t talk about it a lot in England,” said Barford, who lives in Luton, 30 miles north of London, and came to Detroit after visiting a friend in Ontario.

The war over control of the Great Lakes and Canada isn’t discussed much on this side of the pond either, said Derek Olson, a member of the War of 1812 Commemoration Committee, which was responsible for bringing to Detroit a replica of the U.S. Brig Niagara, a tall ship he said helped win key battles on the Great Lakes.

“A lot of people don’t talk about that war, but if it hadn’t happened, you’d be standing in Canada right now,” Olson said. “We wouldn’t have Detroit.”

Also docking in Detroit on Tuesday were the U.S.S. Hurricane, a coastal patrol ship and the frigate U.S.S. De Wert.

Because Detroit played such an important role in the war, it was selected as one of 15 cities on the Great Lakes to be part of Navy Week, when the warships visit Tuesday through Sept. 10.

Tuesday’s event was the first time since 1999 the U.S. Navy has brought naval ships that large.

“It’s important to remember the War of 1812, because that was when the Navy redefined itself,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Fortenberry, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Hurricane.

The public can tour the three ships today at noon.

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