War of 1812 bat­tle lines drawn at Backus

Simcoe Reformer - - NEWS - SU­SAN GAM­BLE Dax Virtue, 2 1/2 years old, from Stoney Creek, "di­rects" the fir­ing of mus­kets and can­nons dur­ing a bat­tle reen­act­ment Satur­day at Backus Her­itage Con­ser­va­tion Area, near Port Rowan. More than 150 peo­ple took part in the an­nual War of 1812 r

PORT RO WAN — Lis­ten­ing to the crack of mus­kets and the boom of can­nons, chil­dren and adults watched his­tory come alive over the week­end as the tra­di­tional War of 1812 reen­act­ment took place at Backus Her­itage Con­ser­va­tion Area, just north of Port Rowan.

The an­nual bat­tle drew more than 150 re- en­ac­tors who are pas­sion­ate about his­tory and more than 500 spectators who got a chance to wan­der the en­camp­ments, visit reen­act­ing ven­dors and ob­serve bat­tle strat­egy.

“This is a Backus tra­di­tion,” said Bran­don Good, the park su­per­vi­sor who nar­rated the bat­tle be­tween the Amer­i­cans and the Bri­tish Red­coats, who were sup­ported by Cana­dian mili­ti­a­men and na­tive al­lies.

“We’ve hosted this event for more than 25 years and love it be­cause it re­ally fo­cuses on the heart of the Nor­folk com­mu­nity and its ties to the War of 1812.”

While no ac­tual bat­tle or skir­mish is known to have taken place on the Backus prop­erty, many en­gage­ments were all around the area.

A large num­ber of south­ern On­tario mills were burned by the Amer­i­cans – a strat­egy aimed at de­stroy­ing food sup­plies and weak­en­ing their Bri­tish op­po­nents. The busy Back­house mill in Port Rowan was ei­ther ig­nored, over­looked or can­nily cam­ou­flaged, de­pend­ing on the story, and still stands to­day, more than 200 years later.

Good, who is a re- en­ac­tor with a his­tory de­gree, said that re­mem­ber­ing the roots and her­itage of the area is im­por­tant for the spectators who turn out with their camp chairs and cof­fees to watch the fight.

“This was part of our her­itage and our iden­tity. In fact, it was when the Cana­dian iden­tity be­gan to grow. It’s our story.”

Good doesn’t try to glo­rify war as he ex­plains the bat­tle to his daily au­di­ence.

He tells them of the tremen­dous hard­ships faced by the sol­diers, the truly un­com­fort­able uni­forms and the dif­fi­cul­ties of liv­ing in close quar­ters in a tiny tent.

A group of re- en­ac­tors from the First Royal Scot Light company paused af­ter the bat­tle to wipe away sweat.

With mem­bers from Wind­sor to Ot­tawa, the par­tic­i­pants tend to see each other at such reen­act­ments and talk shop, com­par­ing weapons, equip­ment and uni­forms.

Many are ex­tremely se­ri­ous about main­tain­ing the 1812 life­style at such events, while oth­ers have cell­phones tucked into their woollen jack­ets.

“If you’re a re- en­ac­tor, you’re busy ev­ery week­end and poor,” said one.

“It’s known that you start with a com­pact car and then go to a van or a sedan with a trailer to haul all your gear around. And you need a garage.”

The First Royal Scots re­cently pur­chased their own six- pound can­non to take to events.

Be­cause there were no bat­tles on the Backus prop­erty, there’s a lit­tle lee­way in the skir­mishes that take place dur­ing the an­nual event.

On Satur­day, a bald ea­gle soared over the bat­tle­ground, fore­warn­ing of what was to come: the Bri­tish line was even­tu­ally pushed back by the tri­umphant Amer­i­cans.

But, on Sun­day, his­tory righted it­self and the Bri­tish, Cana­di­ans and na­tive al­lies won the day.

Along with the bat­tle, the week­end fea­tured demon­stra­tions of milling, cook­ing, ar­tillery and car­pen­try. Peo­ple also could lis­ten to Mo­hawk sto­ries and take part in wor­ship ser­vice.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Backus Her­itage Con­ser­va­tion Area, go to www. lprca. on. ca. SGam­ble@post­media.com @EXPSGam­ble

SU­SAN GAM­BLE/ Post­media news

SU­SAN GAM­BLE/ Post­media news

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