For people who plan to attend the War of 1812 Gunboat Weekend in Bath on May 29th, be grateful they used a bunch of students as guinea pigs first. More than a few hundred students from Lennox and Addington and surrounding counties showed up Friday
to take part in the re-enactment of 19th-century Loyalist history, and, thankfully, from the test cannon-ball firings to the pseudo historical operating techniques, all went off without a hitch.
"It seems to be a lot of fun and people are learning," Maddie Love, 11, in Grade 6, said of the events.
Most of all, the students did have fun despite some odd behaviour from the costumed reenactment players.
Take Chad Lees, 14, who, with a group of his school cohorts, was put through a grueling set of military paces similar to soldiers in the War of 1812. But despite the shouting and abuse from the commander running the drill, he managed a salute at the end.
When asked if it was a bit much for a young man, he just shrugged and said "naw."
Starting today at 9 a.m., the grounds of the historic Fairfield Gutzeit House at Centennial Park in Bath will be transformed into a War of 1812 encampment, complete with a gunboat battle re-enactment.
The day involves two tactical gunboat battles on the Bath Basin at Centennial Park (the first at 1 p.m. and the second at dusk). >
The grounds of the historic Fairfield Gutzeit House will be completely transformed to look and feel as they did almost 200 years ago, with people in period clothing and a real doctor performing surgery with antique instruments.
Yesterday, some of the middle school girls who watched the "doctor" do his duties were a bit unsettled.
"I don't know. Some people could find it very scary," Paige McNeeley, 13, said after watching a demonstration of bloodletting.
But student Emily Dillabough, 14, said, "it wasn't really that gross or disturbing, but to think people thought that is very strange."
The doctor, Dr. Gregory Baran, a family physician, says he uses "original instruments" and performs real surgery.
However, for the faint at heart he uses a "breathing dummy." But since it breathes and moves, it looks real.
Organizers say the mock battle is based on events from 1812, when the 22-gun Royal George came under attack from American forces.
Back then, as American troops pursued the Royal George they came across and seized a schooner belonging to William Jr. and Benjamin Fairfield. A fierce battle erupted.
The Fairfield family was among the first United Empire Loyalists who settled the area in 1783. The Fairfield Gutzeit house was built in 1796.
Other highlights include two typical civilian and military camp setups. There will be people in costume portraying period life activities. There will also be a recruitment office where visitors can be enrolled in the "King's Army."
Charles Baker, 57, of Nepean, was dressed as a private and one of the Canadian Royal Fencibles. These were soldiers trained and recruited in Canada to fight the Americans, he said. They were very skilled and were key forces in the war.
"The focal point of the event is to try to bring some awareness of the history surrounding the War of 1812," says David Smith, a director with the Fairfield Gutzeit Society, which is overseeing the Gunboat Weekend. "A highlight is the gunboat battle. We'll have replica vessels, including three or four 31-foot bateaus." Teacher Andrea Putnam, who also does double duty as "Fred," an artillery shooter in the Canadian Royal Fencibles, was in full costume as a private yesterday. She said she thought the event was wonderful.
"I think it is an excellent chance for students to see what it was all about. They get to experience history rather than just read about it," she said.
"They get to touch it and be involved with the elements from the past. Experiencing history rather than just reading it from a textbook makes it really come to life."
The free event coincides with Lennox and Addington County's 2010 launch of its popular "The Best Day Ever in L&A" campaign. The campaign was first introduced last year. Residents and visitors are encouraged to submit their stories, photos and videos about their "best day ever" in the county to www.bestdayever.ca.
"It's a really fun way to learn about our heritage as a community and see what life was like for our ancestors," says Stephen Paul, Lennox and Addington County's manager of economic development. "Whether you're from here or visiting, it will be a thrilling event. There aren't a whole lot of events where you can not only learn history, but relive it."
To get to the event, drive along Hwy. 33 until you reach Bath. The site is by the lake.
From: Bath's blasts from the past
By Robin Harvey
The Kingston Whig Standard
May 29, 2010