It was the year the War of 1812 got bloody. And decisive.
And Niagara is going to commemorate it with class.
For its final year of events, the Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council will offer four signature events, all on their 200th anniversary. All where they actually happened. These four pivotal battles formed the War of 1812’s end game, and they were steeped in casualties.
As Legacy Council CEO Brian Merrett describes it, these were “vicious, bloody” fights between two formidable opponents who had gotten bigger and better as the war raged on.
“You had two pretty tough armies going at it in the 1814 campaign,” he said during a media conference Monday.
More than the first two years of the bicentennial, there will be a “reverence” to this year’s proceedings, with ceremonies to honour the dead.
Following a performance by Kaha:Wi Dance Theatre at Old Fort Niagara in Youngston, NY, June 28 and 29, the local festivities get started with The Battle of Chippawa July 5 and 6. Re-enactments will take place on one of Canada’s most perfectly preserved battlefields along the Niagara Parkway.
Aside from commemorative posts, it looks “just like the battlefield did that day,” says Niagara Parks Commission chairwoman Janice Thomson.
“When you go to the ceremony, it’s just amazing,” she says. “You feel what it felt like (200 years ago). The way the wind rustles through the trees…you really feel this was a really important place for Canada.”
A huge re-enactment follows to mark The Battle of Lundy’s Lane July 25, which will take place at night to replicate the chaotic twilight battle that claimed hundreds of lives on both sides.
“It will help you understand what this horrendous night was about,” says event organizer Clark Bernat of the Niagara Falls History Museum.
The Siege of Fort Erie follows Aug. 9 and 10, and – for the first time ever – a re-enactment will be held to mark the The Battle of Cook’s Mills Oct. 18 and 19. A new park was dedicated last year to mark the site of the war’s final battle, near Welland.
On Christmas Eve, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed in Belgium to end the war, though news didn’t reach North America until the new year.
Bicentennial events helped Fort George and other Niagara-on-the-Lake sites attract more than 100,000 visitors in 2012, says Parks Canada, breaking the previous record of 70,000.
The full list of this year’s events can be found at www.discover1812.com