If there had been as many people, in 1813, able to take up arms as there were people gathered to watch a recreation of the Chrysler’s Farm Battle in 2013, well, no Americans would have dared to invade this nation.
Upper Canada Village Saturday, July 13, and Sunday, July 14, drew some of the largest crowds ever seen at the heritage site. By any standards, the much anticipated re-enactment of the battle which saved Upper Canada 200 years ago during the War of 1812 was an unqualified success. According to Village authorities, over 7,200 people attended the battle, toured the Village, or took in both activities.
The success of the bicentennial re-enactment was also due to the tireless efforts of the Friends of the Crysler’s Farm Battlefield, who have hosted the event for the last 13 years. The committee is made up entirely of volunteers who spent long weeks organizing events, contacting other key groups and co-ordinating the hundreds of living history re-enactors who came to South Dundas for the weekend from all over Ontario, Quebec and from the States. Working in partnership with the Village, Robin Morris, Bob Irvine and the Friends helped make the 200th anniversary one that visitors were eager to praise.
“It was a really strong event for the Village,” said Jancis Sommerville, Special Events Officer at UCV. “We may all be a little tired today on the site, but it was a wonderful weekend.”
The recreation of the pivotal battle drew over 850 re-enactors to the South Dundas area. Nearly 500 of them actually took part in three weekend battles.
These re-enactors camped in the fields below the Crysler Memorial in tents that imitated those that soldiers, officers, their families and camp followers would have shared 200 years ago. They dress, walk, ride, cook and carry the arms and colours of those who actually served in the War with the United States.
Visitors were invited to step back in time and see blacksmithing, 1800’s military surgery, tinsmithing, rope making, itinerant medicine men hawking their wares, lively games of cricket, dress making and military parades.
Throughout the weekend, noted historians held talks on the local Battle and the origin and nature of the events of the War of 1812 in general.
Also present, reminding visitors of the enormous contribution to the survival of Canada made by the First Nations warriors, were singers and dancers from Akwesasne.
“Represented here today are the Awkwesasne Spirit Singers with dancers from the North American Indian Travelling College,” said Mohawk Jerry MacDonald. “We have 12 young dancers with us who are proud to perform the ancient dances, proud of learning about their culture and heritage.”
Accepting 1812 honours on behalf of all Francophone militia from Lower Canada who fought in battles like Chateauguay, were the Voltigeurs de Quebec. South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds accepted the salute and inspected the troops at the base of the Memorial during the ceremony. The Voltigeurs are one of the oldest French Canadian regiments, having served in many major conflicts from the 1850s to modern day.
The full flavour of the War was brought to bear with the participation in the battles of the tall ships Fair Jeanne and La Revenante, as well as seven gunboats of the era. Cannons firing over the water formed a powerful backdrop to the cannonades on shore.
Definitely the high lights of weekend were the re-enactments of the actual Battle of Crysler’s Farm. As a narrator described the action, the British troops, Canadian militia and Native allies took to the field in a powerful struggle against the invading Americans. The crowds packed on to the hill, cheered loudly and long as the ‘enemy’ was finally repulsed.
All in all, 1813 was a year to remember. And Upper Canada Village and the Friends of the Crysler’s Farm Battlefield staged an historical event to remember.