Soldiers will step back in time next month as they march from Fort George to Queenston Heights to re-enact the Battle of Queenston Heights on its 210th anniversary.
The bloody and deadly battle re-enactment will play out on the weekend of Oct. 15 and 16.
The Battle of Queenston Heights was the first major skirmish of the War of 1812. The battle also is famous because it led to the death of Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock died.
He was killed on Oct. 13, 1812, after leading 200 men from Fort George to Queenston Heights to battle the invading Americans.
“It’s really significant, because it’s the first time that you see British soldiers alongside Canadian marshman, (Runchey’s) Coloured Core, as well as Indigenous warriors, fighting shoulder to shoulder to defend what was Upper Canada,” says Amanda Gamble, the executive director of the Friends of Fort George.
“And if they had not been successful here, I think it would have changed the outcome of the whole war,” she added.
During a promotional presentation at Brock’s Monument at Queenston Heights last Friday, Gamble, along with a few others from the Friends’ board and Queenston Heights staff, explained how the re-enactment weekend will play out.
The presentations will highlight all of the groups involved in the war.
Many people aren’t aware of how deeply involved the First Nations were, said Peter Martin, special events co-ordinator with Parks Canada.
“One of the reasons why we do this is to talk about the different stories,” he said.
The Queenston Heights bicentennial battle re-enactment on Oct. 12, 2012, was the last re-enactment staged at Queenston Heights – and more than 15,000 people turned out.
Though this year’s re-enactment isn’t expected to draw as many people, organizers are hoping to see a great turnout since it’s such a unique piece of Canadian history.
“The War of 1812 was a very formative time in all of North America, not only for the Americans, but for the Canadians and for the Brits, who were running things here,” said Lt.-Col. Bernard Nehring, who has been on the board of the Friends of Fort George for about 35 years.
An estimated 500 re-enactors will take part in the presentations.
Gamble said some Fort George staff will be participating, but a lot of the re-enactors are volunteers who do it as a hobby.
“It’s their passion,” added Martin. “They do this all because they love it, so it’s pretty amazing,” he said.
On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 15, soldiers will start at Fort George and make the more than 10-kilometre trek up to Queenston Heights, where Brock’s Monument stands.
“We like to talk to people, or show people, to highlight that specific time because it was a part of Canadian history,” said Martin.
On the Saturday, there will be guided tours of the battle site and the Landscape of Nations memorial to Indigenous allies.
At 2 p.m., after the soldiers finish their march to Queenston, the battle re-enactment will start.
Brock’s Monument will be open for visitors to climb or to visit the museum.
Sunday’s activities will be centred on Fort George to mark the anniversary of Sir Issac Brock’s funeral.
In 1812, thousands of people came to Niagara to witness what some called the grandest funeral ever.
“We’re going to do a smaller re-enactment of the funeral procession through Fort George and then have a commemorative service at the Brock Bastion, which is where he was originally buried in October of 1812,” said Gamble.
“That will be to commemorate Brock as well as John Macdonell, who was his aide-de-camp that died at the Battle of Queenston Heights as well, and to commemorate all those that have fallen,” she added.
The Friends of Fort George, Parks Canada and the Niagara Parks Commission are working together to make the weekend happen.
The Friends of Fort George also received a grant from the province to help fund the event.
“The whole thing (is to) make sure that people in our area understand how important Brock was (and) how important it is to honour him and those who fought with him and fought against him,” said Nehring.
To view the full schedule of the weekend, visit friendsoffortgeorge.ca. Anyone interested in climbing the monument or participating in the tours must sign up online.