Cannon smoke will be heavy in the air and muskets will be blazing from September 23 to 25, during the seventh annual Battle of Glengarry. The mock battle involves nearly 100 reenactors who will be camped out at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum for three days of living history entertainment. Reenactors bearing the green livery of the Glengarry Light Infantry, who are commonly referred to as “the Glens,” or the “Fencibles,” will be going to battle against invading United States Forces.
On Friday, September 23, more than 300 school children are expected to visit the museum, where they will be involved in interactive history lessons, which aim to teach them about the fur trade, the living conditions in the early 1800s, the people who lived here and the conflicts they fought. New this year, there will be a swordplay class for children, who will learn to fence using foam swords.
The grounds will open to the public on September 24 and 25 for two days of living history demonstrations. There will be swordsmanship demonstrations, English country dancing, a noon day gun, a children’s military muster and fashion shows. Food and beverages will be available, with craft beer from Cassel Brewing and Sarah Cole Cider served on site in the Star Inn. The battle re-enactment will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Following the battle, the actors portraying the victims will be hauled from the field and triaged by a doctor who will portray what medical treatment was like in 1812. The re-enactor in charge of the triage is an actual medical doctor, who will be attending the event with numerous props and medical implements that would have been used to treat soldiers at that time. Not all of the characters portrayed will survive, but they are expected to have a miraculous recovery following the show.
During the battle there will be cannons and musket fire and a small cavalry will circle the field on horses. Pipers will lead the soldiers to battle. A narrator will stand with the audience and explain what the troops are doing and how the battle is evolving.
The battle is representative of a similar conflict that would have taken place in Upper Canada during the War of 1812. The War of 1812 shaped Canada as it is today. As a North American colony ruled by the British, Canada was thrown into battle when the Americans declared war. There were many reasons why the Americans went to war, but historians agree that the most pressing issues involved protesting trade restrictions brought about by the British war with France; the “impressments” or forcible service of American merchant sailors into the British Royal Navy and the British support for Native American tribes fighting European-American settlers for land on the frontier. The Americans were also attempting to push their borders further west in an attempt to set up a neutral Native American buffer state.
Many Canadians will recall the War of 1812 as being the only time in U.S. history where Washington was occupied by a foreign force. On August 24, 1814, after defeating the Americans at the Battle of Bladensburg, British Forces, lead by Major General Robert Ross stormed Washington and set fire to the White House, which was then known as the Presidential Mansion. The building acquired its new name after it had to be painted to cover the damage caused by the fire.
“204 years ago it was a different time period. The local people here were engaged in a war with the United States,” said Battle of Glengarry spokesperson Captain Jim Mullin, of the Glengarry Light Infantry.
The Glengarry Light Infantry, raised chiefly in Glengarry County, which then encompassed a much larger region that included Vankleek Hill and Hawkesbury, was formed to fight the approaching Americans. Most of the soldiers were recent immigrants from Scotland who had settled in Glengarry. A number of them had served in the Glengarry Fencibles, which was formed in 1794 to fight in the war between Britain and France. The unit was disbanded in 1802 following the Treaty of Amiens.
Some of the re-enactors camp sites will be open to the public, to show what living conditions would have been like for soldiers and officers involved in the conflict.
Elena Pretty and her husband, Sébastien Larivée will be portraying a wealthy Scottish Baroness and her French chevalier husband. Their roles are based on fiction and are intended to showcase the living conditions of the elite during that period. Larivée and his fencing partner, Drummond Fraser, will co-host the swordsmanship presentation and demonstrations.
“In history there was always the French and Scottish alliance, which goes back to Mary Queen of Scots,” said Pretty, who is herself of Scottish descent and married to a French swordsman. Pretty, who is a school teacher by trade, says she wanted to find a way to portray the role that strong, aristocratic women played in shaping history.
“The Scottish women are among the few women in the history of the world who were able to keep their titles and lands after their husbands had died. In most other countries, the lands would pass to men or children. It’s a really beautiful story of the empowerment of women,” said Pretty, who will play a widowed Baroness who remarries and lives in Montreal with her husband.
On Saturday at 4 p.m., Pretty will be hosting the “Truce Tea with the Chevalier and the Baroness.” It will follow the battle and is intended to show how soldiers would celebrate following battle.
“The gentry would have provided supplies, including food, water and horses to the soldiers as a way to thank them. We are going to show what a tea of that period would have been like,” said Pretty.
On Sunday, at 10:30 a.m., Pretty, in her role as the Baroness, will be hosting a church tea service and a discussion on the history of tea.
“Tea has always been intertwined in the life of the Brits. It is part of every aspect of their life and it followed them to North America as well,” said Pretty.
For a complete schedule of events at the Battle of Glengarry, visit www.glengarrypioneermuseum.com