OSWEGO, NY - Area residents and visitors will have the opportunity to witness both Rebel and British troops of the War for Independence at Fort Ontario State Historic Site the weekend of June 13-14, 2009.
Throughout the weekend, there will be living history demonstrations, marching and weapons drills, and camp life activities.
While Fort Ontario has a long and colorful past, the era of the American Revolution is perhaps the least known. The first fort had been built in 1755 by British and colonial forces during the French and Indian War but was destroyed the following year by the French and their native allies. Rebuilt in 1759, by General Thomas Gage, the fort played an active role in the last years of the war which led up to the British conquest of Canada.
After the French and Indian War the post was considered of little strategic value and was abandoned before the Revolution. In July of 1775, the ruinous fort was the scene of a great council of 1400 Iroquois warriors who listened to British leaders plead for help against the American rebels, but only the Mohawks under their celebrated leader, Joseph Brant, pledged their loyalty.
Again, in 1777, British, Loyalists, German Hessians, and Indians met at Fort Ontario in preparation for their ill-fated attack on Fort Stanwix.
On their retreat from there they encamped at the fort for three weeks before deciding to retire to Canada. So angered were the natives over their losses on this campaign that they reportedly killed some of their British and German allies.
A couple years after this, a raiding party of 30 Continentals and Oneida Indians found that the fort was still abandoned and they burned what they could in a massive blaze that was still smoldering two weeks later.
Finally, after repeated requests by their Indian allies, Major General Frederick Haldimand ordered Fort Ontario to be repaired and garrisoned early in 1782. General George Washington, concerned with the threat the rebuilt fort posed, ordered Colonel Marinus Willett and 600 troops to make a surprise assault. Deterred more by severe weather conditions than enemy opposition, Willet called off the attack after being discovered by a foraging detail. It was mid-winter and several men died from exposure and 125 were hospitalized for severe frostbite. This is considered by many historians to be the final campaign of the war. It was not until 1796 that the British were finally forced to evacuate the post, as a result of Jay’s Treaty.
Re-enactors at the fort will represent several regiments including the British 21ST and 24th Regiment of Foot. On the rebel side, members of the Continental Arms Collectors will portray the 1st New York Regiment, and other units will attend the event as well. The 24th has a rich and long history dating back to 1689. It served faithfully under General John Burgoyne in the 1777 campaign that ended in disaster at Saratoga, NY. Although they fought bravely in the finest traditions of the British army they suffered heavy losses at the hands of their rebel enemies, especially skilled marksmen under Colonel Daniel Morgan.
Interned as prisoners of war, they saw no further action in the war.
The 1st New York was formed at the outbreak of the war in 1775. They served in the campaign against Canada and helped to capture Montreal but failed at Quebec. The regiment served in many hard fought battles and campaigns - around New York City, Saratoga, the campaign against the Iroquois in 1779 and the victory at Yorktown in 1781. Members of the Continental Arms Collectors interpretive unit will represent the 1st New York Regiment.
A special treat is in store for kids at the fort as Shari Crawford, early American activities specialist and teacher, will present her 18th Century Toys and Games program during public hours on Saturday and until 4 PM on Sunday. Some of the toys and games include stilts, trundling hoops, two-balls, bat & trap, shinny, marbles, cups and balls, skittles, and quoits. Crawford has conducted this and other programs for adults and children such as Open Fire Cooking, Clothing and Laundry, and English Country Dance at historic sites, schools, scout camps, and adult day camps around New York. She has published articles on many aspects of 18th century life (www.18thcenturytoysandgames.com).
Fort Ontario is one of six historic sites and 16 parks in the Central Region administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Carol Ash Commissioner. For more information about NYS Parks visit the agency website at www.nysparks.com, or Fort Ontario at www.fortontario.com. Fort Ontario State Historic Site (315) 343-4711 is located at the north end of East 4th Street off Route 104 East in the City of Oswego, New York.
Revolutionary War event at Fort Ontario State Historic Site. Featured in the photograph is the 42nd Regiment of Foot, commanded by Dan McMahon.
Contact: Richard LaCrosse, Jr.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.