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Thursday, September 28, 2023
Fort George Officers’ Day offers insights into lives of the elite

Fort George had a lot of different classes of people. Some were soldiers, some servants, while some were wealthy officers who enjoyed nights of music and food.

On Saturday, the historic site gave a bit of insight into what life was like for the wealthy elite at the time.

Peter Martin, special events co-ordinator for Parks Canada, said while this year’s Officers' Day gathering was a bit smaller than usual — it was the first year back at the annual event in two summers due to COVID-19 — it was still filled with educational talks about life during the War of 1812.

Martin was dressed as a major in the 41st Regiment, which was stationed at Fort George.

To be a major, Martin said, people had to pay a hefty sum, sometimes thousands of pounds — and that’s not adjusted for inflation.

So majors were from wealthy families and had been well-educated.

“They were always upper class. That ensured they could read, they could write, they’ve gone to school — because there was no public school system then. It was just, you want to go to school, you paid for it,” he said.

“And once you got in, you had to pay for everything.”

Most soldiers couldn’t even write their own names, he said.

Others, like officers, sometimes were allowed to go to school as a part of their service.

Each officer had their own personal servant, called a batman, who would do various things such as help them dress in the morning, or set up dinner tables, with each plate having to be measured the exact distance from others.

Wealthy civilians often would attend the dinners as well.

“It was all very prim and proper to a certain degree,” Martin said, adding the servants were paid and often treated quite well.

Martin sang the praises of the reenactors who help put the Fort George event together.

“Reenactors are wonderful people. They have a ton of passion for this,” he said. “They have real jobs, this is what they love to do.”

He said it’s nice to be able to resume special events, which the fort normally puts on many times during the summer. He looks forward to more in the future.

“It’s just a little bit of fun and something different for people to see.”

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