On July 9, 1759, Capt. Walter Rutherford entered French-held Fort Niagara and demanded the fort's surrender. He set in motion a chain of events that would forever change the history of the Niagara region and all of North America.
Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown will recreate the dramatic events of the summer of 1759 on July 5-7 during the historic site's annual French and Indian War Encampment. The three-day event will feature two battle re-enactments each day, 18th century artisans, music, living history programs and many other activities.
The event, now in its 34th year, brings hundreds of authentically clad and equipped re-enactors to the fort to recreate the 19-day siege that ended French occupation of Western New York. Event participants portray Native American warriors as well as French and British soldiers who clashed over the strategic outpost at the Niagara's mouth 254 years ago.
French troops and their Native allies will occupy the fort and its labyrinth of earthen fortifications while British soldiers and their Native allies camp outside the fort. Beginning Friday, the British will assault the fort each day at 3 p.m. until the stronghold capitulates on Sunday afternoon.
Other programs earlier in the day will help visitors experience frontier life during the mid-18th century. A skirmish each morning at 11 a.m. will demonstrate frontier battle tactics, culminating in a re-enactment of the Battle of La Belle Famille on 11 a.m. Sunday. The event also includes military pageantry, uniform and clothing programs, musket and cannon firings, fur trading demonstrations, 18th century children's games and Native American councils.
Inside the fort, 18th century sutlers and artisans will establish a tent city where visitors have the opportunity to purchase period wares and see demonstrations of skills like blacksmithing, woodworking and soap making.
The French and Indian War was fought between 1754-60, two decades before the American Revolution. Under the terms of the treaty that ended the war, Britain took control of Canada and Great Lakes region. The war's cost led to new taxes on the king's American subjects that spawned political unrest in the 13 colonies. Colonists like George Washington gained their first military experience during the conflict; experience that would serve them well during the subsequent war for American independence.
Old Fort Niagara's French and Indian War Encampment is the world's largest annual commemoration of this critical event in the history of North America. It is also the fort's largest event of the year, attracting hundreds of re-enactors and thousands of spectators. More information about the event, including a schedule of activities, is available on the fort's website at www.oldfortniagara.org. Admission to the encampment is $13 per person. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free.