A scene from the bicentennial reenactment of the battle at Crysler farm in 1813, at Upper Canada Village.
By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – Rows of muskets pointed at rival soldiers weren’t shooting real bullets, but the smoke that resonated gave an authentic glimpse into the War of 1812 and one of the most crucial battles in Canada’s history.
Hundreds of volunteer actors stormed the fields of Upper Canada Village during a reenactment of the 1813 battle at Crysler farm, a triumph that is considered the “battle that saved Canada.”
“Letting people see the battle come to life really brings it home for them,” said Alicia Wanless, manager of the St. Lawrence War of 1812 Bicentennial Alliance. “It’s important we keep the memory of the battle and its importance alive.”
Nearly 700 volunteer actors registered to the reenactment and an even larger crowd followed their every historical move. Volunteers portrayed soldiers, band and infantry units, period merchants and artisans; gunboats, artillery demonstrations and two tall ships, to name a few, were also on display.
As cannons blasted and battle cries rang out, British and aboriginal forces alongside Canadian militia shot back at the American forces. In time, the American soldiers would cease-fire and come to a draw with their battlefield opponents.
Donning regency fashion, Greg Heppenstall, 66, from Ottawa, came to the event laced with patriotic pride.
“I’m trying to connect to the period,” said Heppenstall. “Showing the flag, you can say.”
Seeing so many youths at the event made him hopeful for the future, since he worries kids know more about iPads now, then the roots of their own country.
For Will Presley (16) of Finch, historical reenactments are a must.
“I like the feeling that we were able to overcome and stand on our two feet,” said Presley.
Another aspect that interests him, are all the weapons used during the battle.
“A lot of them are antiques and you get to see and touch them,” said Presley.
For young Devin, who asked to keep his last name private, visiting Canada all the way from Australia was a true blast from the past. With a novelty musket in hand and red jacket on, he relished the opportunity to join his Canadian family members in a tribute of a nation-defining battle.
“It was amazing,” he said.
Check out our slideshow of the event on the Seaway News homepage.