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'On the Trail of Betsy Doyle, War of 1812 heroine'

by jmaloni

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Thu, Mar 20th 2014 12:50 pm

On Nov. 21, 1812, the guns of Fort Niagara and Fort George opened fire across the Niagara River. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the cross-border bombardment was a reference by Fort Niagara's commandant, Col. George McFeely, regarding a woman of the garrison bravely carrying hotshot to one of the fort's guns. McFeely said Betsy Doyle acted, "with the fortitude of the Maid of Orleans," a reference to the 15th century heroine, Joan of Arc.

Over the years, Betsy's legend grew, based upon McFeely's isolated account of her actions on that violent November day.

Niagara County Historian Catherine Emerson set out to discover more about Doyle and to separate myth from reality. The story that emerged from her extensive research not only confirmed Doyle's service during the November bombardment, but also revealed a much richer epic of a family torn asunder by the War of 1812.

This is a story of how the War of 1812 impacted one family, and yet, symbolized the greater story of the American experience in that war - of ordinary men and women who were caught up in the events of 1812-15.

Discover more at a Historical Association of Lewiston event Monday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. inside the Lewiston Stone House, 755 Center St. This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

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