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Old Fort Niagara commemorates 1812 Declaration of War

by jmaloni
Fri, Jun 1st 2012 07:20 pm

Old Fort Niagara announced this week it will commemorate the bicentennial of the Declaration of the War of 1812 with a day of special programs on Saturday, June 16.

Highlights of the day's activities include dedication of new interpretive signage about war heroine Betsy Doyle, a flag-raising ceremony featuring a replica of the fort's 24- by 28-foot garrison color, and the unveiling of a new 1812 living history program that will take place daily through the summer of 2012.

"Throughout its long history as a museum, the fort's programs have focused on the British and French periods of occupation," said Robert Emerson, executive director of the Old Fort Niagara Association. "For the first time this summer, fort visitors will experience a garrison of U.S. troops."

Emerson credits several local organizations with updating the fort's program for the 1812 bicentennial including the Niagara County Legislature, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission, Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, Grigg Lewis Foundation, the Rooker Family Foundation and Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council.

This summer, fort visitors will see living history interpreters dressed as soldiers of the First United States Artillery Regiment, a unit that garrisoned the fort from 1812 until the British captured the post in December 1813. Throughout the summer, they will present programs about what it was like to serve in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812.

Old Fort Niagara will also pay homage to its famous heroine of the war, Betsy Doyle. Until recently, Doyle was regarded as a legendary figure who helped carry red-hot shot to a cannon on the roof of the French Castle. New research by the Niagara County Historian's Office recently revealed much more of her story, rendering the fort's 1930s-era bronze marker about her obsolete. A new marker, containing the updated story in a colorful format, will be dedicated at 2 p.m. on June 16.

Immediately following, Old Fort Niagara will present a demonstration of an early 19th century "hot shot," in which an iron cannonball will be heated red hot to serve as an incendiary device.

Emerson noted the U.S. declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. Because of the fort's distance from Washington, D.C., and slow modes of transportation in use at the time, news of the declaration did not reach Fort Niagara until June 30.

For more information on the June 16 event, call 745-7611 or visitwww.oldfortniagara.org.

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