Friday, July 26, 2013

The War of 1812 . . . Year Two, Part 2 . . . Crysler's Farm

The remaining entries pertaining to this trip will all be in Ontario. Our first few entries are from the Lake Ontario Theater of Operation.  In this and the next entry we are just west of Cornwall, Ontario near Morrisburg.  

A sign commemorating the Skirmish at Hoople Creek.  The true site, like Crysler's Farm, has been mostly lost to the St. Lawrence Seaway.  On November 10, 1813 troops under the command of Winfield Scott (who was acting as an advance force of Wilkinson with Jacob Brown) forced the retreat of British troops posted at the Hoople Bridge. However, the action bought time for the British to prepare for the Battle of Crysler's Farm.

The Battle of Crysler's Farm (November 11, 1813) . . . a shameful end to a shameful campaign. The goal of the US St. Lawrence Campaign was ultimately the capture of Montreal. While a force under the command of Major General Wade Hampton was to advance from Lake Champlain, a division of some 8000 troops under Major General James Wilkinson were to advance from the St. Lawrence. Unfortunately for the US, Wade Hampton's forces were stopped cold at the Battle of Chateauguay (we will hopefully visit this site on next year's trip).    

While Brown and Scott had some success in the advance, Wilkinson was constantly being threatened at the rear by a British force led by Colonel Joseph Morrison.  This force of about 900 included British and Canadian regulars, militia, and Iroquois.  With Wilkinson indisposed due to illness, command of the about 2500 men fell to Brigadier General John Boyd.

A view of the actual battlefield.  Most of it and the "lost villages" of Canada lie beneath what is now the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Apparently, much of the dirt for the mounded earth where the monument is located was extracted from the actual battlefield site.

More than a few historians credit the highly disciplined action of the British regulars with thwarting the US forces . . . read, inexperienced US forces panicked when confronted by the cool and calm resolve of a superiorly trained military.  Well, we learned quick.  In a future installment, it will be noted that at the Battle of Chippawa, the British commander supposedly exclaimed, "Those are regulars, by God!"

 Canadians portraying Kentuckians . . .

The crowd gathered to watch the reenactment (huddled under the trees seeking shade.  It was as hot up there as it was back in Kentucky).  Well, actually what was presented the day we visited was a tactical demonstration, rather than recreation of the Battle of Crysler's Farm. It was odd to hear the comments of the crowd referring to us as the baddies . . . even if we deserved it. I heard one mother tell her confused small daughter, "those are the bad guys." At least the announcer referred to the US forces as the "away team."  The British were the "good guys."

It was said there were about 450 reenactors that participated in the event.  

In the end, US forces running low on ammunition began to falter and lose heart. Boyd ordered a retreat and the next morning Wilkinson learned that Hampton would not be continuing his advance (his army being in full retreat!).  Low supplies, a dejected army and no support gave Wilkinson the excuse to abandon the plans for Montreal.

Of the 2500 or so troops the US had engaged, there were 102 killed, 237 wounded, and 120 captured. The casualties for the British were 31 killed, 148 wounded, and 13 missing.  This is out of a total of about 900.

 Old sawbones has been busy . . . 

I must say the man who portrayed the surgeon was the best I have seen at any historical reenactment/living history event. I must warn you dear reader to avert your eyes from the next few pictures if you are easily queasy, because he was able to achieve a high degree of realism in his depiction.

And he was very informative.  Still, Dudeboy said the whole presentation "was so realistic that I almost puked."  

Of course, a comment was made that "if the patient had been an American, he would have screamed." All of which delighted the approving crowd.

Here "old sawbones" is trimming up a bit of the bone. 

After the reenactment, we visited with the group of Canadians portraying Kentucky Militia. It might seem odd at first, but one has to realize that if you want reenactments you are gonna need bodies for both sides. We run into the same problem, at least in our area, with the Civil War reenacting.  For whatever reason, few people want to portray the Union.  This is why you see such discrepancies at so many battle reenactments.    

We talked with a few members of this group, and in particular we enjoyed talking with the commander in charge of the Kentucky militia (not pictured).  Throughout our travels we tried as much as possible to engage with people to get their viewpoints of the war. The commander said that by portraying Kentucky militia it has allowed him to gain a better and broader understanding of the war.  In fact, he said the American justifications for the war were somewhat understandable.  On a similar point, in talking with Canadians about the war, it seems to me that most are far more flexible in their conclusions about the causes, results, and blame than what I have encountered in the states.  However, Dr. J noted that most of who we conversed with were very knowledgeable about the war and common thought would probably run parallel to the standard view.  

The view from our campsite at the Woodlands Campground, which is part of the Parks of the St. Lawrence.

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