Newsmakers 2013: War of 1812 bicentenniel brought history to lifeWritten by Frank Kuron | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s déjà vu all over again!” Yogi Berra famously said, and he was right, as names from dusty history books came to life across the region this past year, portrayed by re-enactors for thousands of attendees at numerous historical events. 2013 was the 200th anniversary of several epic conflicts of the War of 1812 that played out right here in our own backyards. It was 1813 all over again!
Here, in what was known as the Northwest Territory, 1813 began with American forces moving north into Frenchtown (now Monroe, Mich.) to drive out a contingent of British and Indian forces. In January 2013, the River Raisin Battlefield National Park honored those who fell in the confrontation that ensued, known as the River Raisin Massacre, with a march over the same route those Americans had taken 200 years earlier. Many other tributes, tactical demonstrations and lectures were also well-attended.
In May 1813, British military and Indian warriors joined as allies to attack Fort Meigs. They failed, and in July, they failed yet again. This historic rebuff was celebrated for three days in May 2013 as thousands of visitors witnessed something quite exceptional — the largest number of uniformed 1812 soldiers on the grounds since the actual conflict. Amid the smoke of cannon and musket fire, a memorial was dedicated to the Kentuckians who served in this battle. And, just down the road at Fort Miamis, the esteemed British 41st Regiment of Foot was acknowledged with the dedication of a historical marker. Artillery demonstrations, tours and period craftsmen made the weekend both entertaining and educational.
After their unsuccessful assault on Fort Meigs, the enemy traveled 40 miles east to attack tiny Fort Stephenson, in what is now Fremont. Expecting an easy victory, they were surprised when they encountered a handful of feisty Americans whom they could not defeat. This past August, the Fremont community commemorated this victory by raising a replica of the fort and drawing more than 10,000 people to its three-day history-oriented festival.
On Sept. 10, 1813, the Battle of Lake Erie concluded after three hours of shelling. The scene was replayed Sept. 2, 2013, in one of the most spectacular displays of tall ships witnessed on the Great Lakes since that day. More than 2,000 boats anchored on the lake to view 1,400 volunteers take on the personas of real participants and fight again on one of the 15 replica ships. History enthusiasts arrived weeks before and after the Labor Day re-enactment to view, tour and cruise on a ship that the Americans did not give up on that historic day.
With control of the lakes, the Americans had the upper hand and pursued the enemy into Canada, where on Oct. 5, 1813, the Battle of the Thames occurred. This fight marked the end of the war in the Northwest Territory as the British and Indians were soundly defeated. On Oct. 5, 2013, a re-enactment on the battleground near Chatham, Ontario, drew thousands of visitors.
The Toledo Museum of Art contributed to the 200th anniversary celebrations with a special exhibit, “Perry’s Victory: The Battle of Lake Erie.” Nearly 30,000 visitors viewed prized artwork depicting Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and the battle, as well as artifacts including one of only six known copies of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812.
The crowds that turned out to all these history-themed events is phenomenal, and shows there is a new hunger to learn about what happened right here during the formation of our country. Many of the historic sites in the region are open year-round and have annual memorials and celebrations. Check them out this coming year. And next time you see a statue or historical plaque, stop and read about that someone or someplace. Obviously, somebody believed it was important enough for you to take note.
“The future ain’t what it used to be,” said Yogi, but the past sure was present last year.
Frank Kuron is author of the War of 1812 book, “Thus Fell Tecumseh.” Email him at email@example.com.