Crucial Skirmish focus of 1812 commemoration at Iroquois Point

 

For most Canadians, a skirmish fought on November 7, 1813, near a little place called Point Iroquois, is often overshadowed by the decisive Battle of Crysler’s Farm, which took place on November 11, 1813.

Under  the command of General James Wilkinson, 1,200 invading American troops attacked the 200 men of the 1st Regiment of Dundas Militia led by Captain Michael Ault. The American forces ultimately overwhelmed the dogged resistance of the defenders. The Point fell.

Yet the actions of the Iroquois militia on Nov. 7 delayed the main American advance, giving Lt.-Col Joseph Morrison, commander of the British and Canadian soldiers at Crysler’s Farm, the crucial time he needed to organize his forces.   

On Saturday, November 9, the battle for Point Iroquois will once again be played out, near the locks, in modern day Iroquois, as the Iroquois-Matilda Lions host a spectacular military re-enactment. More than 65 Canadian and American re-enactors will take to the field in a full scale staging of the 1813 fight.

“This is going to be an incredibly exciting day,” said Steve Wilson, past president of the Lions. “We are going to be recognizing significant events in our community’s past. And we are dedicating four black granite plaques as permanent symbols of the Capture of Point Iroquois, the Toussaint Island Ambush, the Blockhouse known as Fort Needless and the Rallying of the 1st Regiment of Dundas Militia.”

The South Dundas War of 1812 Commemoration Project has been over a year in the planning. Walter Reid, president of the Iroquois-Matilda Lions, gives full credit to two planners and organizers.

“Historian and mason Howard Kirkby and Lion Jacques Asselin, chair of the Commemoration Committee, have done outstanding work,” he said.

“Jacques and I thought of the history of this village, of the connection with the Seaway, and the project really evolved from that,” Kirkby said. “With the War of 1812 so prominent in the news, we wanted to get people involved and excited about local history. With a new Waterfront Trail a possibility, we felt that signage in the community was important. The creation of special commemorative plaques was a natural progression.”

The plaques (made by Liz McCooeye and Dale Crowder) have each been locally sponsored. The Iroquois-Matilda Lions donated one; the Friendly Brothers Lodge (Masonic) #143 gave one; and the Cardinal Masonic Lodge #491 (now amalgamated with the Friendly Brothers) gave one. The fourth memorial has been donated by Frank Ault. His family is descended from a man who fought in the 1813 Skirmish in Iroquois and also at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm. 

“Howard and I were very excited about this project from the first,” said Jacques Asselin. 

The Lions were looking for major community projects to sponsor. “When we saw the dedicated work of Howard and Jacques and realized that this was a real community project, we had to get involved,” said Lions president Reid.

Enlisting re-enactors for the battle in Iroquois was both interesting and challenging for Howard Kirkby. The 15th US Regiment, New York’s Forsyth’s Rifles, New York’s 1st Light Artillery, the Canadian Fencibles, the Grenville Militia and the Canadian Voltigeurs will all be at the Point November 9, along with an honour guard from the SD&G Highlanders under former honourary colonels (and enthusiastic Project supporters) Jim Brownell and Bill Shearing.

“I approached the co-ordinator of re-enactments at Fort Wellington. He looked at our proposal, visited the Point, learned we would be holding a memorial service for the fallen, and saw our dedication to the project. He gave us his support,” said Kirkby. Then he laughed. “I also met with re-enactors from New York State and gave them the history of Iroquois, asking them to take part in our event. 

One of them asked me, “Did we win?” I said, “Well, on Nov. 7, 1813, you did win.” “We’ll be there,” he said.”

The troops will be mustering around 10 a.m., followed by the dedication of the commemorative plaques near the flagpoles at 11 a.m.  At 11:30, there will be a memorial ceremony to honour those 1812 veterans who fell in defense of Canada. 

At 2 p.m., the Capture of Point Iroquois will be re-enacted, with soldiers taking to the battle field to the sound of drums, musketry and artillery.

Throughout the day, visitors can enjoy exhibits set up in the Civic Centre in Iroquois ranging from quilts, and 19th century memorabilia to military firearms. The United Empire Loyalists Society will be at the Centre, as will Parks Canada and representatives of the 1st Dundas Militia.

“And quite a few of us will ourselves be in period costumes throughout the day,” added Howard Kirkby.

Lunch and dinner are available at the Iroquois Golf Club, with tickets on sale at Mustard’s Variety or at the door. All the events at the Point and at the Civic Centre are free of charge. A free will offering would be appreciated.

“We are running a bus every half hour or so, starting at noon,” said Jacques Asselin, “so people can leave their cars in the plaza.

“I believe this Project is a very good example of what a community can do when people decide to get involved,” said Kirkby. “When people see what the Iroquois-Matilda Lions have done, I hope it will be like looking into the future, and inspirational to the next generations. This project could never have happened without the Lions.”

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