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The Canadian Sideshow

Posted by Tall Ships America on September 4, 2013

[Ed. Note: Since Battle of Lake Erie was re-enacted on Monday, the race team has been on the road. I didn’t have a chance to update the blog with Eliza’s post leading up to the event. Stay tuned for a recap of the battle (I won’t spoil the surprise…)]

September 1, 2013
By Eliza

On the battlefield

Americans and Canadians can’t agree on who won the War of 1812 so, on Monday, we’re holding a rematch. The Battle of Lake Erie (Take Two) begins at noon amongst the Tall Ships America fleet, some sailing under the American Ensign and some flying the British colors.

The historic battle took place in western Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. The British, sequestered near Amherstburg and, short on supplies, had no choice but to confront the Americans near Put-in-Bay, Ohio. The Americans, in turn, were lying in wait – literally. Sick with dysentery and fever, they were ill-prepared to meet the enemy. Thus, as Captain Walter Rybka of Niagara often remarks, the late summer battle was “the day the hungry came out to fight the sick.” Yet the outcome would help to determine naval superiority on Lake Erie and would greatly influence British and American politics in North America.

On Monday, we plan to recreate the Battle of Lake Erie as accurately as possible. Captain Wes Heerssen of Niagara hypothesizes that it will be the largest naval reenactment in American history. The Brig Niagara will play the part of (guess who!) the Brig Niagara, while the other tall ships of the modern day fleet will represent vessels from the historic battle. The weather, which played such an integral part in the original battle and which has threatened us with its unpredictability for months, should be fair. Rather than the shifting southern wind that Oliver Hazard Perry experienced, we expect the wind to fill in from the northwest, so the historic line of battle will be rotated accordingly. We don’t intend to crash one vessel into another, as occurred in 1813, nor will we fire cannonballs. (To do so would contradict both Coast Guard regulations and the Treaty of Ghent. As we don’t actually wish to declare on Canada, we will refrain.) We will, however, deploy many Coast Guard-approved explosives and load our fully operational guns with deflagrating powder. One thing is certain – as was true in 1813, we are hoping for an American victory!


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