Siege at Old Fort Erie

I’m a die-hard history lover.

This is one of those things that I can totally blame on my family. When I was a kid, my parents would shuttle my sister and I all over the place to visit historic homes and sites. Often, we’d watch TV shows together about history. You could find books about historic figures and events scattered all over the house. Even our dinner conversation sometimes revolved around it – and goodness, you couldn’t get my Dad going about the Tudor era. Believe it or not, he was one of the few Henry VIII fans I have ever heard of. In short, my family made history seem so utterly fascinating, and it was hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm.

Those childhood experiences instilled a lifelong passion in both my sister and I. She turned her love of history into a career. And me? Aside from gobbling up history books and shows like crazy, I’ve dabbled a bit in reenacting for the War of 1812.

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My reenacting days were short-lived, though. I love the idea of it, being totally immersed in how one might have lived in the past. But the practicality of spending my weekends camping 1812-style didn’t work for me. Camping and I do not mix even in the modern day.

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Luckily, there are lots of people who enjoy camping à la 1812, with all that comes with it. These dedicated folks spend their spare time researching carefully, preparing to portray a particular person from a particular time period. I am constantly amazed by their devotion and attention to historic detail.

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So last weekend, Ken and I attended part of the Siege at Old Fort Erie.

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We arrived just as the British were getting ready to head to the battlefield.

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They were interpreting three of the battles from 1814 over that weekend. We saw the one representing the Battle at Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane. After the Americans had captured Fort Erie, they marched north and defeated the British at the Battle of Chippawa on July 5th, 1814. The two armies fought again at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, which was a vicious nighttime battle that happened on July 25th.

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It’s always interesting to watch the battle formations. These reenactors practice and drill pretty much year round, all in preparation for these events.

But the cannons. Wow. I don’t think I have ever heard anything so loud in my life.

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I was surprised at that, actually. I’ve attended lots of reenactments over the years, and the cannons have never seemed as loud as they were that day. It must have been just where I was standing.

It makes you think though.

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I find that reenactments DO make me think. Seeing a firsthand demonstration of a battle makes me understand just a teeny, teeny, fraction of what it might’ve been like to live through that. It’s no longer names and dates regurgitated in a book. History comes alive.

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At the end of the battle, there was a remembrance played, and a moment of silence for all those who have died in battle.

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As the soldiers left the field, we made our way to the camp.

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Notice the silver tea service in the photo above? I was in the Officers’ section. Naturally, a gentleman needed his silver tea service in battle camp.

And other comforts, of course.

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Carpets, dining room tables, trunks, fancy candlesticks. One had to maintain the style one was accustomed to.

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But the rest of the camp looked pretty content too.

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There was a large market section, filled with all the things a reenactor could possibly need.

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As usual, a marketplace is a great spot to catch up with friends.

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By this time, we were ready to take a tour of the Fort itself.

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Our tour guide was wonderful. He is one of the archaeologists who work on the site, and shared so much information with us. What made our tour even more interesting is that some of the reenactors were stationed in the Fort, which really made you feel like you’d traveled back in time.

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Stepping inside the rooms at the Fort, this is the Officers’ Mess

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And an Officer’s bedroom. The bed doesn’t look that comfortable to me, but apparently it is an original from the era.

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Here’s the Commissary

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And the Surgeon’s area. Egads. Be very thankful for modern medicine.

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Now, the kitchen. There are some fascinating stories about the kitchen.

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Look closely at the photo of it below, and notice what’s in the bottom left hand corner.

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Do you see the blurry light-coloured outline? If you see it in person, it looks like the outline of an 1812-era female. This was taken by a professional photographer several years ago at the Fort. Not a ghost hunter type, a skeptic. Someone who was not hoping to capture something like this.

It’s kind of neat though, huh?

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Even though we had a very full afternoon at the reenactment, there was even more going on over the weekend.

I wish we had been able to stay for the night events. On the Saturday evening, they reenacted a night assault on the Fort. After that, there was a lantern post battle tour, which sounded really interesting. Each of the reenactors were to be portraying what might have been happening just right after the battle. I think I would’ve steered clear of the Surgeon’s area though. He would have been a busy man.

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So, I’ll definitely plan on the night tour for next year.

The Siege at Old Fort Erie is an annual event, and if you’re a history lover, it’s one I really recommend.