August 01, 2012

Bayonets are trump

For soldiers during the War of 1812 their time was not always spent performing military drills or fighting in battles. For recreation, soldiers in both armies had a few activities to occupy their time.

Soldiers often liked to gamble by playing various dice and card games. In fact, soldiers were so prolific with their gambling that on a number of occasions men would play dice games just minutes before battle. One officer noted that just before a battle the ground was covered with cards and dice, since it was considered bad luck to carry these items into battle.  

Fort Niagara
For officers their recreational activities tended to be more refined and included activities such as painting, playing an instrument or attending plays. Officers did gamble with their fellow officers, as one embarrassing example from December 1813 highlights. On Dec. 19th in the middle of the night, a British force stealthily overcame the American defences at Fort Niagara. As some American officers played cards, one asked, “What are trump?” A British soldier burst forward and replied, “bayonets are trump!” This story has probably been exaggerated over time, but it does show that games of chance were prolific.

If you want to experience some entertainment involving the War of 1812, make sure you head to Old Fort Erie to see Sparks from a Campfire. The Dominion Repertory Theatre performs this play set during the War of 1812 and tells the story of a young man thrown back into the time of the War of 1812. The play runs from July 28 to Sept. 2, Tuesdays through Sundays at dusk. For more information, please click here  

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