In this first-year observance of the War of 1812 Bicentennial, the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site will host noted author and historian Alan Taylor. In a presentation of his current work, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels &- Indian Allies, Taylor will offer his perspective on Sackets Harbor’s role in the War of 1812 as it evolved along the northern frontier.
Alan Taylor is the author of six books, including Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier- The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution- and William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic for which he was awarded both a Pulitzer Prize in History and the Bancroft Prize. Continue reading →
Sackets Harbor will kick-off the commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 with two great events on Saturday, June 16, 2012. The commemoration will begin at 1:00 P.M. with the dedication of the War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Garden in Market Square Park on West Main Street in Sackets Harbor.
The dedication of the Peace Garden is one of many such dedications that will occur throughout the Great Lakes Region in Canada and the United States to celebrate two hundred years of peace and longstanding friendship between two countries that share the world’s longest undefended border. Following the Peace Garden dedication ceremony, everyone is encouraged to proceed to Harold W. Townsend American Legion Post 1757 on Ambrose Street in Sackets Harbor for a traditional pork barbeque, starting at 2:00pm. The barbeque is being hosted by the Sons of the American Legion, in conjunction with the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance.
The program at the Legion will include tributes to those who sacrificed their lives during the War of 1812 from both sides of the conflict.
The cost of the meal is $5.00 per person. Seating is limited and tickets can be purchased in advance by contacting the American Legion at (315) 646-3530.
For more information about the events, call Dave Altieri at (315) 489-3642.
The Annual Meeting of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, Sackets Harbor Historical Society, and the Sackets Harbor Area Cultural Preservation Foundation will feature a talk by John R. Grodzinski entitled “A Tale of Two Dockyards: The Naval Bases at Sackets Harbor and Kingston in the War of 1812.”
The War of 1812 witnessed the unprecedented employment of naval power on Lake Ontario. From their humble pre-war beginnings, the dockyards at Sackets Harbor and Kingston grew in scale and by the end of the conflict, were producing ships of a scale intended more for the open ocean than inland seas. This presentation will examine the naval commitment made by Great Britain and the United States on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812 and the legacy of those efforts.
This free event will be held on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site’s Barn on Hill Street, off Washington Street in Sackets Harbor. The annual meeting begins at 6 pm- the program at 7 pm. Light refreshments will be served.
John R. Grodzinski teaches military history at the Royal Military College of Canada at Kingston, Ontario. He is author of Sir George Prevost: Defender of Canada in the War of 1812 (forthcoming, University of Oklahoma Press) and several articles examining various topics related to the War of 1812. Grodzinski is also the editor of the on-line War of 1812 Magazine and conducts staff rides and battlefield tours that consider the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, the War of 1812 and the development of fortifications in Canada from 1608 to 1871.
Illustration: The Kingston (now Ontario) naval yard at Point Fredrick in 1815 by E. E. Vidal (watercolor) now hanging in the Massey Library at the Royal Military College of Canada.
A regiment of Canadian quilters and a Pennsylvania woman have won Viewer’s Choice honors from the Great Lakes Seaway Trail War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show. The show featured 1812 period-correct and pictorial quilts from 18 U.S. states and from across Canada.
The favorite quilt of the more than 1,000 visitors to the show hosted by three early 19th century historic sites in Sackets Harbor, a New York State 1812 Heritage Community, was made by nine of the living history interpreters at Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, Ontario. Janice Toonders, who demonstrates spinning and weaving at the Village, designed the quilt using an Irish chain pattern. Toonders, Martina Bols, Linda Brown, Mary Casselman, Christine Christie, Ivah Malkin, Marjorie Munroe, Judy Neville, and Sharon Shaver used wool cloth, silk thread and cotton fabrics to fashion symbols from the 1812 time period for the colorful pictorial. Sharon Shaver, the quilting demonstrator at Upper Canada Village, added the binding and quilting.
“British Major Sir Isaac Brock is front and center. Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost is aside as he navigates his horse home in shame for not advancing his troops at Plattsburgh. We have the First Nation’s Confederacy leader Tecumseh and Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Chief who was working with the British to create a nation in the west,” Toonders explains.
The Upper Canada Village quilters also included the sloop “Wolf” that fought in one of the Battles of Sackett’s Harbour. A bear, a moose, a First Nation’s symbol, a British sailor and Laura Secord who notified the British of a U.S. attack are also among the quilt’s storytelling images.
Quilts from four Canadian provinces made up approximately 30 percent of the show’s quilts.
The show’s second Viewer’s Choice winner is the “Underhill Tree of Life Whole-Cloth Quilt” made by Jill C. Meszaros of Cambridge Springs, PA, 25 miles south of Erie and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Pennsylvania. The all-blue quilt is intricately quilted by hand with a dark blue thread.
Meszaros says, “I chose to create a whole-cloth quilt to honor my family heritage and the history of quilting and our nation. My fourth great-grandfather, Major David Underhill traveled to Huron County, Ohio, in 1810. In 1812 he reacted to the news that the British and Indians were landing only to learn they were really soldiers in Hull’s army. As I quilted, my husband was away and I imagined what it would have been like in 1812 to wait for him to come home.”
Meszaros, a stay-at-home mother of six, fashioned her design after the Clarke Family Quilt in the book “Massachusetts Quilts” and used fruit, floral and foliate motifs inspired by “Quilts-Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum.” The quilt’s batting is wool, typical of the 1812 time. She says, “The last stitch went in the I day I shipped the quilt to the show.”
Show manager Lynette Lundy-Beck notes, “This show inspired people to learn more about the War of 1812, its battles, the soldiers and their loved ones, and about the quilters’ own families. This show is indeed a storytelling event that interprets the travel themes for the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in many interesting and personal ways, and that is what makes this quilt show unique among quilt shows and tourism showcases.”
Much of the war was fought along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, a National Scenic Byway in the U.S. The 518-mile leisure driving route parallels the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River, and Lake Erie. Quilting is just one of many travel themes for the byway.
Watch www.seawaytrail.com/quilting for details on the impact of the 2012 show and for guidelines on the Beauty of the Byways theme for the 2013 show.
The Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show on March 17 and 18, 2012. The event includes an exhibit of 1812 period-true quilts newly-made made by individuals, quilting guilds, historical societies, and reenactors from 18 US states and from Canada. Three historic sites and living history interpreters and quilters in period dress will lend an historic ambiance to the event. The former Union Hotel, a three-story limestone structure built in 1817-18 and now the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center- the Sackett Mansion built in 1801- and the Samuel F. Hooker House Arts Center, c.1808, will open 10am to 5pm each day with displays of “cot-to-coffin-sized” quilts. Lynette Lundy-Beck is a project manager with the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, the not-for-profit organization promoting tourism opportunities along the 518 miles of St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes shoreline in New York and Pennsylvania.
The show guidelines for size, fabrics – linsey-woolsey, silk, and fancy cottons, etc., colors, quilt patterns, and embellishments such as broderie perse (Persian embroidery) were developed by Seaway Trail in concert with American quilt historian Barbara Brackman of Lawrence, Kansas.
1812 and English Regency period living history interpreters lending atmosphere in the exhibit buildings and on the village streets will include “President James Madison,” and members of Forsyth’s Rifles with the Fort La Presentation Association of Ogdensburg, NY- MacKay’s Militia from Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY- and the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance.
Quilters have been invited to also attend in period dress. 1812 period reenactor Ted Schofield will exhibit his early 19th century reproduction sewing implements. The event’s youngest quiltmaker is a 12-year-old girl from Himrod, NY.
The living history ladies of Upper Canada Village researched and designed a pictorial quilt with embroidery and applique depicting soldiers, Natives, moose, and a sailing ship bordered by a traditional Irish Chain pattern.
DeAnne Rosen of Lawrence, Kansas, has dedicated her quilt to her two great-great-great grandfathers and two great-great-great uncles who fought in the war. Her floral work is based on quilts she saw in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.
A special memorial exhibit of quilts will pay tribute to the late Seaway Trail President and CEO Teresa Mitchell, who developed the concept for the Seaway Trail scenic byway and for quilting as a cultural heritage travel theme along that byway.
The event also features quilting demonstrations and vendors. The $5 show admission benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation. The show is co-sponsored by Orleans County Tourism and the 22-mile Country Barn Quilt Trail loop off the Great Lakes Seaway Trail to barns painted with quilt block patterns.
For more information, call 315-646-1000 x203 or visit the Seaway Trail website.
During the War of 1812, control of Lake Ontario was one of many issues considered critical by both sides. A key position for the British was Kingston, Ontario, about thirty miles north of the vital American base at Sackets Harbor. In an effort to establish domination of the lake, the two sites engaged in a shipbuilding race.
The British finished first and gained control, but American builders quickly completed three new ships (two brigs and the huge frigate Superior, larger than its British counterpart). Their launch required only weapons and rigging, which were en route from Brooklyn via Albany. In 1814, hoping to keep those vessels in port, the British sought to disrupt American supply routes. A prime target was Fort Ontario, located at Oswego on the mouth of the Oswego River. On May 5, the British fleet launched an attack that was repelled by the Americans. On the following day, an intensified assault featured heavy cannon fire from the British. Eventually, the Americans lost the fort and some important armaments, but most of the valuable supplies had been taken upriver to Oswego Falls (now Fulton) for safe storage. The preservation tactic worked, and shortly after the Battle of Oswego, a plan was in place to resume moving war supplies northward to the waiting ships at Sackets Harbor.
Following the attack, the British withdrew to Kingston, but a few weeks later, they were at the Galloo Islands near Sackets Harbor, blockading any marine attempts at supplying this strategic site. Should the materials slip through, it would dramatically tip the scales in favor of the American forces. By monitoring the harbor, the Brits were preventing that from happening, ensuring their superiority on the lake.
A British attempt to destroy the Superior was foiled, and on May 2, the ship was launched. But it was hardly battle-ready, still lacking guns and rigging. Less than three weeks after the attack on Oswego, the critical supplies hidden at Oswego Falls were once again on the move. They had already traveled from Brooklyn to Albany, and then to Oneida Lake. Now, from Oswego Falls, it was time for the final, dangerous leg of the journey.
A land contingent paralleled the 19 American boats as they fairly sneaked up the eastern shoreline of Lake Ontario. At Sandy Creek, the boats were taken inland as far as possible while scouts checked ahead for the presence of British ships. It was a wise move, for the enemy was indeed lurking nearby. Shortly after, the British launched an attack, but in less than a half hour, the Americans had won a resounding victory known as the Battle of Big Sandy Creek.
Despite the win, it was deemed unsafe to risk sending the valued supplies any farther by water, lest they again fall under attack and be captured or destroyed by the British. Wagons, oxen, horses, and manpower were summoned, both from the military and from local residents. The plan was to move the important supplies the remaining distance by land.
The bateaux (boats) were unloaded, and soon a lengthy caravan laden with guns, ship cables, and other supplies was on its way to Sackets Harbor, about 20 miles north. Only one item was yet to be moved—a length of rope, albeit an important one—and it presented a real problem.
This wasn’t just any length of rope. It was intended as the anchor line and/or rigging for the USS Superior, the huge new frigate that could alter the balance of power on the lake. That meant this was a BIG rope. Most descriptions portrayed it as 6 inches thick and 600 feet long, weighing in at just under 5 tons.
No cart was big enough to handle its tremendous size and weight, but if it wasn’t delivered, the Superior would remain port-bound, and the Brits would own the lake. Ingenuity often yields solutions at such critical moments, but sometimes good ol’ elbow grease is the answer. In this case, it was a combination of the two, but the emphasis was clearly on the physical.
A section of the rope (referred to as a cable) was piled on a cart, and the remaining cable was strung out along the trail. Militiamen heaved it to their shoulders, and like one gigantic, ponderous snake, the cable began moving slowly northward behind the cart.
There are various accounts of the trip, and claims as to the number of cable-carriers range from 84 to more than 200. Some say that discouraged men skipped out of the nasty job after a few hours, and that locals stepped in, literally shouldering the burden. None of the stories differed on one count, though: participants were left badly bruised from the incredibly difficult ordeal.
But, they did it! The cable arrived at Sackets Harbor on the afternoon of the second day. The tired men wore abrasions, cuts, and huge, deep-purple bruises as hard-earned badges of valor. At the close of their incredible 20-mile journey, “there was loud cheering the whole length of the cable,” as the men were greeted with music, drumming, flag-waving, and drink—and the princely sum of $2 each for their efforts.
They should have celebrated with a tug-of-war!
As soon as it was deemed seaworthy, the Superior turned the tables on the British, blockading their main shipyard at Kingston and helping establish American dominance of the lake. It was thanks in no small part to the “can-do” attitude exemplified by North Country pioneer folks.
Top Photo: Fort Ontario at Oswego.
Middle Photo: One of several plaques honoring the cable carriers.
Bottom Photo: Map of Lake Ontario sites.
Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
On Friday, May 6, 2011, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, NY, opens for the spring season with a special exhibit of New York’s Historic Military Maps from 1750 to 1820. At 6:30 pm that evening living history re-enactor Randy Patten will share his collection of historic maps, accouterments and artifacts from the French and Indian War.
Patten says, “These maps provide a fascinating look into America’s history as it occurred in New York State. Several show the local Northern New York area as well as all of New York state and parts of Canada and Pennsylvania, plus the waterways that people traveled to establish settlements and forts in such places as Oswego and Youngstown.” Over the past 30 years, Patten has traveled to the Library of Congress and as far as Great Britain to obtain color copies of original maps, including some from the collection of King George III. Patten describes the hand-drawn maps as “works of art.”
The presentation by the retired New York State Trooper will include a look at French and Indian War artifacts, a British broadsword from a man-of-war used in the War of 1812, and a lesson on historic musket safety.
The exhibit of more than 50 historic maps will be on display Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5 pm at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center through June 26, 2011. The Center is located at 401 W. Main Street. Day admission is $4. Evening program admission is $5.
For more information on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.
With sponsorship from Watertown Savings Bank, the Sackets Harbor Historical Society has published an updated edition of its Harbor Walk: A Guide to the History & Architecture of Sackets Harbor, NY. The book is available from the Sackets Harbor Historical Society and at several venues in the village that was a shipbuilding center during the War of 1812.
The 44-page illustrated guide celebrates the historic architecture as seen at homes, businesses and buildings in the waterfront village, at Madison Barracks, and on a 17-point Town of Hounsfield Driving Tour in western Jefferson County, NY. Sackets Harbor Historical Society President Jan Maas says, “This guidebook interprets more than 200 years of our cultural, economic and military history by showcasing the architectural quality of our built environment and serves the Historical Society mission to educate the public about the unique heritage of our community.”
The book’s front cover features the Sackets Harbor Bank Building at the corner of West Main and Broad Streets. Watertown Savings Bank operates a branch in the building that dates to c.1836 and includes the Sackets Harbor Historical Society. The Sackets Harbor Bank housed here in 1836 was the county’s second bank.
The book’s back cover highlights the Union Hotel, at West Main and Ray Streets, now owned by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and housing the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center. Frederick White, reputedly the wealthiest man in Jefferson County, built the hotel in 1817-18 to take advantage of the post-War of 1812 hotel trade. The guidebook notes that the building’s “well-preserved interiors are counted among the finest of any Federal-era public buildings in New York State.”
The guide includes a short history of Sackets Harbor, a guide to 13 architectural styles, a glossary of architectural terms, and a bibliography.
The original text was prepared by Michael D. Sullivan and updated by Sackets Harbor Historical Society President Jan Maas. Local historians Bob and Jeannie Brennan, Sackets Harbor State Historic Battlefield Manager Connie Barone, the staff at the Pickering-Beach Historical Museum, Flower Memorial Library and Olin Library at Cornell University contributed to the Harbor Walk guide’s development. Sackets Harbor artist Lawrence Barone provided the new cover design and updated several maps.
The Northern New York Community Foundation and the Heritage Area Program of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation provided funding for the first edition of the guide. Sackets Harbor is a New York State Heritage Area Community.
Sales benefit the Historical Society’s interpretive projects. Call 315-646-1708 for more information.
On Friday, June 4, historian, colonial-style blacksmith, and authentic artifact supplier Jack Vargo will present the exciting tale of “The Last Battle of the French and Indian War.” The final struggle to control the North American continent in 1760 was waged at Fort Levis on Chimney Island in the St. Lawrence River. The program begins at 6:30pm at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center at the corner of Ray and West Main Streets in Sackets Harbor, NY. Vargo is co-owner and head artisan for the Beaver River Trading Company, a Croghan, NY, business that provides historically accurate museum-quality 17th and 18th century colonial artifact reproductions to historic sites and living history reenactors.
Vargo says, “My background in mechanical engineering, an interest in the early technologies of Native American and Colonial populations and knowledge gathered through archaeological studies and publication development support our efforts to preserve and interpret history, much of which occurred throughout the Great Lakes Seaway Trail shoreline region.”
In 2009, Seaway Trail, Inc. published “Waterways of War: The Struggle for Empire 1754-1763, A Traveler’s Guide to the French & Indian War Forts and Battlefields along America’s Byways in New York and Pennsylvania.”
The New York State Signature Event commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the French and Indian War is set for July 16-18 at Fort la Presentation as part of the Ogdensburg, NY, Founder’s Day celebration.
There is a $5 fee for the June 4 program at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center to benefit the Seaway Trail Foundation. For more information, call 315-646-1000.
The Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, Inc. and the Village of Sackets Harbor, New York are proud to host the War of 1812 North American Grand Tactical, July 31-August 1, 2010. The Grand Tactical is the annual gathering of all 1812 American and Crown Forces recreated units, showcasing a wide range of living history traditions including 1812 camp life, clothing, cooking, dance, etiquette, music, period games, military dress and tactics, and weaponry.
One of the largest living history weekends for re-enactors, this is the dress rehearsal for the 2013 Bicentennial living history event scheduled for Sackets Harbor. Grand Tacticals annually alternate between the United States and Canada, attracting large numbers of participants and spectators. This is the first War of 1812 Grand Tactical for New York State’s north country. The Sackets Harbor site was selected for its battlegrounds authenticity and ranking by the National Park Service as one of the top ten War of 1812 sites in the nation. Experience life during the War of 1812 as living history re-enactors and sutlers (period merchants) gather at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site. A full schedule of demonstrations fills Saturday from 9am to 8pm and again on Sunday from 9am to 3pm. There is a nominal admission fee.
This gigantic Grand Tactical kick-off to the upcoming War of 1812 Bicentennial will give everyone a taste of what’s to come during the three-year cross-border observance starting in 2012.