— BUFFALO — Maj. Gen. Isaac Brock died on the slopes of Queenston Heights last October. The Village of Lewiston has already been torched. And, in case you missed it, the U.S. and Canada started firing at each other on Jan. 1, 2012.
“The cannons are still loaded,” said Brian Merrett, chief executive officer of the Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council, during a press conference Wednesday at the Buffalo Museum (the former Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society). So there’s much more on the way to commemorate the war fought between 1812 and 1814.“Our cannons will still be there until the end of 2014, “Merrett said, “We intend to bring history alive for people on both sides of the peaceful border that is a result of that conflict 200 years ago.”
The 2013 re-enactments and pageantry marking 200 of peace between the two countries will include the Battle of Lake Erie (Sept. 13); the British troops burning of Buffalo to retaliate for the American soldiers torching Niagara-on-the-Lake (then Newark); the capture of Fort Niagara, Youngstown (Dec. 19); a War of 1812 encampment at Old Fort Niagara (Labor Day weekend).
Among the sidelights to the mounting list of 2013 attractions is expected to be the tall ship Lynx, a replica of an 1812 schooner, at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park at the Buffalo Waterfront. The mission of that ship is to provide education about that war. The tentative date for that visit is Sept. 13-14.
“The promise of more events during this bicentennial will generate even wider interest in war that occurred in our backyard,” said William L. Ross, chair of the Niagara County Legislature, “The success of this three-year commemoration will help us to remember the almost ‘Forgotten War’ that did so much to shape the history of the U.S. and Canada.”
Explains Erie County Historian Doug Kohler, “While the War of 1812 was a constant presence on the Niagara Frontier, no year affected the residents of our area like 1813. For two weeks that December, settlers stood to defend their villages, watched as their homes burned and gave shelter to those displaced throughout that winter.”
Michelle Blackley, communications manager for the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., noted the activities will highlight the region’s rich history and culture. The American Bus Association has named the Encampment at Old Fort Niagara among its “Top 10 Events for 2013,” Blackley said. That mass marketing and advertising effort is expected to generate a sharp increase in motorcoach tours to the Niagara area.
Two centuries after the peace treaty was signed, historians still debate the causes of the war. Among the reasons generally accepted: British restrictions on U.S. trade with France, a nation then at war with England; the British removing sailors from U.S. vessels and forcing them into the Royal Navy; and the British perception that the United States was planning to annex Canada, then considered British territory.