Sunday, October 6, 2013

The War of 1812 . . . Year Two, Part 7 . . . Niagara-On-The-Lake

Most of this entry is centered around the upscale tourist town of Niagara-On-The-Lake. By the time of the War of 1812, Niagara-On-The-Lake had gone through several name changes . . . Butlersburg, West Niagara, Newark, Niagara, and finally the current incarnation. It had also been the first capital of Upper Canada. In what became known as the "Burning of Newark," US troops basically razed the town to the ground after abandoning Fort George. Well, actually more than a good many of them were Canadian troops loyal to the US under the command of Brigadier General George McClure. McClure had loosely interpreted a previous command resulting with this heinous action in the dead of winter (December 10, 1813) against a civilian population. Actions like this led to an escalation of war outrages throughout the region. All of which, up to that time, had been somewhat uncommon within the conventions of war. Ultimately, actions such as this and retaliations elsewhere in Upper Canada and Buffalo led to the burning of the White House. Most Americans are ignorant to the fact that there was a precedent: we just think that they unjustifiably burned our capitol.
Brown's Point (about 2 miles north of Queenston on the way to Niagara-On-The-Lake) . . . this should have been with the entry for Queenston Heights, but we visited the site on a different day and I forgot to add it. The stone marker states, "Here General Sir Isaac Brock called out on his way to Queenston Heights 13 October 1812, 'Push On York Volunteers.'"

Fort George . . . Niagara-On-The-Lake.
Some years before the War of 1812, the British built this fort as a counter to the American fortification Fort Niagara, which is situated opposite the river. Early in the war, Brock used the Fort George as his headquarters.  And during the Battle of Queenston Heights, the fort's artillery was engaged with Fort Niagara.

Raising the Union Jack.
Later, in May of 1813, US forces directed a large-scale amphibious assault against the fort, forcing the British to abandon it and vacate the area.  As they fled, British forces destroyed most of the buildings within the installation. US troops made extensive repairs to the fort and used it as a base of operations for another attempted invasion of Canada.

However, after being checked at Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams, the US forces ultimately withdrew back across the river to New York . . . of course, after torching Newark.

The fort was later abandoned by the British for the more strategic Fort Mississauga (see below a bit), and the only original structure dating to the War of 1812 is the powder magazine. However, what has been recreated is extensive and captures a good bit of British military life from the period.

On the day we visited there were a large number of historical interpreters portraying British Regulars and a Fife and Drum Corps.

We were able to engage in discussion with a few of the knowledgeable historical interpreters, but there were no great revelations. I think, by this time in the trip, we had come across much of the varied opinions we were likely to experience. Maybe if these conversations had occurred earlier in the trip they would have made a greater impression.

Dudeboy relishing steak and kidney pie at the Olde Angel Inn located in Niagara-On-The-Lake. The original establishment was built in 1789, but destroyed during the "Burning of Newark" (Niagara) in 1813. It was rebuilt in 1816 and is Ontario's oldest operating inn.

The McFarland House just south of Niagara-On-The-Lake . . . according to the historic plaque:
This Georgian style house was built in 1800 by John McFarland (1757-1815) and his sons, on land granted by the Crown. It is one of the oldest surviving structures in the Niagara district. During the War of 1812 it was used as a hospital by both British and American forces and a British battery, located behind the house, protected the river. In 1813, John McFarland was taken prisoner by the Americans following their capture of Fort George. When he returned in 1815, much of his property had been destroyed and the house badly damaged. The home was repaired and remained in the McFarland family for several generations.

The 1812 Rose in the gardens of the McFarland House. This is the official rose chosen to commemorate The War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebration of Upper Canada.

Fort Mississauga . . . Niagara-On-The-Lake. Access is by way of a golf course (supposedly the oldest in North America). It is amazing this thing still survives, especially given its primo location on the lake.

From the historical plaque:
This tower and earthwork are all that survive of the barracks, guardroom, and cells of Fort Mississauga. Built between 1814 and 1816 to replace Fort George as the counterpoise to the American Fort Niagara immediately opposite, it was garrisoned until 1826. Repaired and rearmed following the Rebellion of 1837, it continued to be maintained until 1854 in response to border disputes with the United States. It was manned during the tense years of the American Civil War and the Fenian scare of 1866, but by 1870 it was no longer considered of military value.
I must say I do enjoy visiting these out of the way and largely forgotten historic sites . . . of course for reasons of education, but also it enables us to visit off the beaten path non-touristy locations (which is kinda funny because at the moment I am talking about a place located in the uber-touristy Niagara-On-The-Lake). Often these are beautiful sites, like Fort Mississauga, but they also can afford the intrepid adventurer a chance to actually see places usually known only to the locals.        

Old Fort Niagara on the distant US shore (as seen from just behind Fort Mississauga). It gives one a clear indication of just how close these forts are situated. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit Old Fort Niagara on this trip. It will be part of the itinerary for the The War of 1812 . . . Year Three Trip ©  next year.

Niagara-on-the-Lake . . . Butler's Barracks. Because barracks situated closer to the American shore had been within range of bombardment during the war, new barracks were built at this location. Some of the structures that remain on the site were constructed just after the war in 1818.

Raid on Fort Schlosser . . . 1813. This historical plaque is located along the Niagara Parkway near Chippawa in the King's Bridge Park (which is situated at the confluence of Welland River and the Niagara River and a good deal south of where we had been earlier in the day). The marker states:
At daybreak on July 5, 1813, a British and Canadian force, consisting of some 35 militia and a small detachment of the 49th Regiment, embarked in this vicinity to attack Fort Schlosser. This American depot (now within Niagara Falls, New York) was situated at the southern terminus of the Lewiston Portage, and was an important military trans-shipment point. The attacking force, commanded by Lieut.-Col. Thomas Clark of the 2nd Regiment, Lincoln Militia, surprised the U.S. garrison and encountered little resistance. They captured a gunboat, two bateaux, a brass cannon and a substantial quantity of small arms and supplies. While re-embarking, they were attacked by local American militia, but suffered no casualties.
Burning of Bridgewater Mill (near Niagara Falls) . . . from nearby marker:
In the late 1790's the river flowed swiftly around these islands. The Bridgewater Mills, a water powered saw and grist mill and an iron foundry, where the first bar iron was made in Canada, were located here. The Mills were burned by the retreating American Army after the Battle of Lundy's Lane on July 26, 1814, and were not rebuilt.


Anonymous said...

Didn't you feel a bit uncomfortable being surrounded by all those Redcoats? Yuck!,,,steak and kidney pie!
Uncle Vic

Merkin J. Pus-Tart said...

"Yuck!,,,steak and kidney pie!" I think mainly he was attracted to it because he is such an anglophile. The weirdo has some kidneys on order from a local farmer! It took years to get him to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but he reads something in an M.R. James story and he is ready to go for it.