The battle that saved Canada, Friends of Crysler’s Farm present re-enactment

The Friends of Crysler’s Farm Battlefield in co-ordination with the Parks of the St. Lawrence/Upper Canada Village are pleased to present in honour on the eve of Canada’s 150th birthday the Battle of Crysler’s Farm Re-enactment, near Morrisburg.  

On July 9th and 10th, 2016 over 200 re-enactors will encamp at the Battlefield Memorial to re-create and commemorate that fateful day in 1813. The re-enactment will commence at 1:30 pm both days. All are welcome to attend and learn more about “The Battle That Saved Canada.”  

While gazing out across the St. Lawrence on a sunny day with the odd “laker” thumping along, recreational fishing boats anchored and folks out taking advantage of the nice weather for a pleasure cruise; it is hard to imagine that at one time warships in full sail and cannons at the ready once plied the waters.   

A watercourse naturally designed for commerce, from furs and timber to raw and finished goods of a more modern nature, the St. Lawrence has been the highway to and from ports in Europe. 

It has been a mainstay of the Canadian economy since the time when cargo canoes traversed their way through the Great Lakes Basin to the ports of Montreal and Quebec. 

The War of 1812-14, the little known war in North America during the Napoleonic War period saw dozens of battles fought with lives lost, property destroyed and purloined on both sides of the Canadian – American border. 

It was only natural then that the waterway would become the target in the overall plan of American expansionism to remove Canada from the hands of the British.

Late in the fall of 1813, an American invading force under the direction of James Wilkinson and Morgan Lewis made its way from Sackets Harbour. 

By-passing Kingston it threaded its way through the Thousand Islands to land just below Morrisburg.  

Part of a pincher movement, another American force had left Plattsburgh and was making its way to the Chateauguay area of Quebec.  

The main objective of both was to converge and take Montreal- cutting off shipping and the British access to supplies.  

On November the 11th 1813, Wilkinson’s flotilla of some 2,500 personnel, had made land and were preparing to do battle with a British force that had marched from Kingston and were now encamped on the farm of UEL John Crysler. Undermanned with a combined force of British Regulars, Provincial Units, Quebec Voltigeurs, and local militias from Grenville and Dundas and Native Allies, totalling some 900, British commanders Joseph Morrison and Thomas Pearson faced a daunting task. 

Just after the break of dawn on the neighbouring farm of UEL Peter Fetterly both sides clashed. Despite their small numbers the British had home field advantage. 

The Americans were handicapped by sickness; and both American commanders were prostrate in their ships’ cabins with dysentery. 

Within a few short hours the Americans had re-embarked having incurred some 459 casualties. The British count was 192.   

Historically the battle is of importance not only because it became the turning point in the war but in that it was the first time that a force of British – English and French Canadian raised troops and Native forces combined with local Militia in the “Defence of Canada”.  

The family names of those who fought that day can still be found locally.   

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