October 30, 2013

The Green Tigers

The 49th Regiment of Foot or the Hertfordshire Regiment formed during the War of Austrian Succession in 1744. They became known as ‘The Green Tigers’ for the green facings on their uniform. The regiment took part in the American War of Independence before being sent back to Europe. During the Napoleonic Wars, the 49th campaigned in Holland with the Duke of York in 1799 and served as marines during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.

By 1803, the 49th came back to North America. The regiment was spread out across Upper and Lower Canada performing garrison duties. With the declaration of war, the 49th’s orders to return to Europe were cancelled. In October 1812, the 49th was in the Niagara when the Americans launched their invasion on October 13. The 49th performed well during the Battle of Queenston Heights where their former commanding officer Isaac Brock was killed. 
49th belt plate
As the war progressed the 49th found themselves fighting in a number of battles including Queenston Heights, Fort George, Stoney Creek and Black Rock, to name a few. Perhaps their most famous battle was at Crysler’s Farm in November 1813. The 49th, along with the 89th, fought against the Americans facing three-to-one odds and won the battle.

After the War of 1812, the 49th became a royal regiment and had its name changed to Princess Charlotte of Wales' Hertfordshire Regiment. They served in the First Opium War and during the Crimean War before being amalgamated with the 66th regiment to form The Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales's). This new regiment went on to serve in both the First and Second World War.

If you want to find out more about the re-enactors who portray the 49th Regiment of Foot, you can check out their website by clicking here.

October 23, 2013

All Hallows’ Eve

The origin of Halloween comes from the Celtic harvest festival called Samhain, which means ‘summer’s end.’ The festival took place the night before the Celtic New Year, November 1. The New Year was the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the dark season for the Celts; the day before, October 31, was a day that ghosts and goblins would roam the countryside.

The festival was a day for lost love ones to return home and for people to pay respect to those who had died. However, sometimes these ghosts could cause trouble so bonfires were lit to help keep out bad spirits and in more modern times dressing up for Halloween was used as another way to help keep away bad spirits.

When Christianity became the dominant religion, the Celtic festival was absorbed into All Souls’ Day on November 2 as a time to honour the spirits of the ancestors. This three-day festival, called Hallowmass, began on October 31 or All Hallows’ Eve. The festival not only commemorated the dead but over time the poor would go door-to-door dressing up and asking for food, eventually becoming the Halloween festivities we think of today.

If you want to find our more about Halloween and hear some spooky ghost stories, you can head to Old Fort Erie or Fort George for their annual Halloween tours. Don’t miss these great events!

October 16, 2013

The Battle of Cook’s Mills

By mid-September 1814 the Siege of Fort Erie had ended and British forces moved behind the Chippawa River into a strong defensive position. By mid-October, Major-General George Izard and a number of regulars reinforced the American forces at Fort Erie. Izard decided to take his large force and move up the Niagara to attack the British position at Chippawa.

By October 17th Izard moved to the Chippawa in hopes of drawing out Major-General Drummond. Drummond refused to give battle and Izard was forced to move back toward Fort Erie. Izard learned of a large quantity of flour at Cook’s Mills and ordered Brigadier-General Bissell to take four infantry battalions, along with a company of riflemen and a troop of dragoons, to capture or destroy the essential British food resources. 

Upon learning of this American movement, Drummond ordered Colonel Myers and Lieutenant-Colonel Tweeddale with elements of the Glengarries, the 82nd, the 100th, 104th, a six-pound gun, and a Congreve rocket detachment to intercept the American advance. On October 19th, the Battle of Cook’s Mills began in the morning and lasted about a half hour.
Cook's Mills plaque
Lieutenant John Le Couteur described the battlefield as the British approached,

“The Ground was a fine large clearing with the Chippawa Creek on our left, a gentle slope to the front and bank of the creek. About a mile in front were woods and to the extreme left we could perceive the American Army moving over a pontoon or temporary bridge which they had thrown over the river.”

The British attempted to lure the Americans out from behind the woods but were unsuccessful. The Americans began to move through the trees and the British believed that they were about to be outflanked. Colonel Myers decided to retreat since his orders were to not be decisively engaged with the enemy.

The Battle of Cook’s Mills was not a large or decisive battle, but it was the last battle on the Niagara during the War of 1812. Although the British lost about 200 bushels of grain, they soon captured a similar number from American ships crossing the Niagara. Drummond decided that the best option was to remain in his strong defensive position behind the Chippawa and await the end of the campaign season. The Battle of Cook’s Mills showed Izard that Drummond could not be lured from his defences and this engagement helped to convince Izard to return to Fort Erie before destroying the fort on November 5 and returning to the Buffalo area.

On Saturday, October 19th, you can commemorate the 199th anniversary of The Battle of Cook’s Mills with the unveiling of a peace garden. Click here for more information. 

October 09, 2013

Amidst a host of friends and foes – Abraham Hull

On July 25th, 1814, the sounds of war raged into the night at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. Present during the battle was Captain Abraham Hull, the son of the famous American general William Hull, and nephew of Captain Isaac Hull, captain of the famous USS Constitution.

Abraham Hull was in command of the ninth U.S. Infantry at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane when he was wounded during the later stages of the battle. As the battle ended, Lieutenant John Le Couteur witnessed the horrible scene as hundreds lay dead and the groans of the wounded echoed through the night. Le Couteur found Abraham Hull and tells his encounter with him,

Close by me lay a fine young man, the son of the American general Hull. He was mortally wounded, and I gave him some brandy and water, and wished Him to give me his watch, rings and anything He wished sent to his family. He told me much about Himself and to come to Him in the morning when He would give them to me in charge. When I got to Him, He was a beautiful Corpse, stripped stark naked, amidst a host of friends and foes. 

Abraham Hull's gravestone 
Today, Abraham Hull is buried in the Drummond Hill Cemetery in Niagara Falls, on the battlefield where he fought and died. A stone, erected by his family and comrades, marks his grave. Hull is the only American officer buried in the cemetery from the War of 1812. However, Hull is not the only American soldier buried in the cemetery from the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.

In 1900, a ceremony took place when nine soldiers of the Ninth U.S. Infantry were uncovered in the Drummond Hill Cemetery. These men were laid to rest next to Abraham Hull with full military honours in a unique ceremony. Members of the Fourteenth U.S. Infantry, stationed at Fort Niagara, were permitted to enter Canada with their weapons and fire a salute to their fallen comrades while the band played “Nearer, My God to Thee.”

On October 11, 12, 18 and 19 you can head to the Drummond Hill Cemetery to hear about the lives of individuals buried in the cemetery. A costumed guide will take you through the cemetery as you see theatrical performances that provide a glimpse into the lives of those individuals buried in the cemetery. Click here for more details.

October 02, 2013

Our men gave way – Battle of The Thames

By September 1813 on the Western frontier the British were dealt a devastating defeat on Lake Erie. The American victory at the Battle of Put-in-Bay on September 10, 1813 meant that Lake Erie was under American control and that British forces along Lake Erie were vulnerable to attack.

Major-General Henry Proctor decided to withdraw all British forces toward Burlington Heights up the Thames River to escape superior American forces. Tecumseh, the leader of the native Western Confederacy, was opposed to a retreat and wrote “We must compare our Father's [Proctor’s] conduct to [that of] a fat animal that carries its tail upon its back; but when affrighted, it drops it between its legs and runs off.” Despite Tecumseh’s objections, Proctor began the withdrawal with Tecumseh and his warriors reluctantly agreeing to follow.    
Map of the Battle of The Thames
As the British and native allies moved toward Burlington Heights, Proctor, with Tecumseh’s encouragement, decided to stop at Moraviantown to meet the approaching Americans. Tecumseh’s forces were primarily positioned in the woods with the British forces, mainly comprised of men from the 41st Regiment of Foot, were positioned on the open field between a small swamp and thick woods.

Shadrach Byfield was among them and succinctly describes the battle, “The attack commenced on the right, with the Indians, and very soon became general through the line. After exchanging a few shots, our men gave way.” Byfield retreated to the woods were he was met by a number of native warriors who informed him that Tecumseh had been killed. Byfield goes on to describe his short adventure with the natives before being reunited with his regiment.

The aftermath of the Battle of The Thames/Battle of Moraviantown proved to be a devastating defeat for the British. The British had over 500 men taken prisoner, almost half of their forces present at the battle. The defeat meant that the Western portion of Upper Canada was now open to American influence, and with Tecumseh’s death many Western natives decided to make peace with the Americans, effectively ending Tecumseh’s dream of a native Western Confederacy.

This weekend you can experience the 200th anniversary of the Battle of The Thames taking place in Thamesville, south of London. There will be a number of events happening on Friday and Saturday with a battle re-enactment at 3 p.m. on both days. Click here to find out more.