The traitors are gathering in Fort George this weekend. I wish I could be there with them. They're planning another season of plunder and pillage, looting and burning, treachery and skulduggery. And oh what fun they're going to have.
I first encountered the traitors in July 2009. I sought them out at their camp outside Upper Canada Village near Morrisburg. They'd come to fight in the re-enactment of the Battle of Crysler's Farm, which had taken place during a blustery and wet day in November 1813. The hot dry weather of an Ontario summer was much more conducive for sitting around a camp and getting to know new friends.
I was seeking out Joe Willcocks himself -- or at least, the man who portrays Major Willcocks in the Canadian Volunteers (CVs).
The CVs had not fought at Crysler's Farm; they were too busy holding down the Niagara frontier as part of the skeleton garrison left behind while most of the American army under General Wilkinson departed on an ill-fated attempt to attack Montreal. But on the day in July, they were proud indeed to take their place in the order of battle at Morrisburg.
The Canadian Volunteers were among the most effective units in the American army during the War of 1812. They were fighting for their own farms and property. If they were captured, they risked execution for treason. These were, after all, Canadians who had chosen, for reasons that varied from individual to individual, to fight to make Canada part of the U.S. Republic.
The CVs were very gracious in their welcome when I showed up unannounced in their camp that summer. I've gone to hang out with them several times since, including their participation in the battles of Queenston Heights and Fort George (two more battles in which CVs did not participate).
But I also joined them one evening for the commemoration of the burning of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and that is certainly an action in which they played a major role. To this day, the unit is remembered, when at all, for the destruction of the town rather than their hard fighting in many skirmishes and battles from the summer of 1813 to the end of the war.
But two visits to the CVs stand out in particular. One was in October, 2013, when they joined Maarten Heilbron, Kim Worobec and myself in filming a short trailer to promote Brothers at War.
The other was last summer when they dressed me up as a flag bearer and I took my place in the firing line -- my first battle. It was a terrific experience, even if I couldn't see as much as I would like. As a re-enactor, I could not go onto the field in my 21st century eyeglasses. I had to peer through the smoke short-sighted and rely upon the other senses, especially sound!
After the battle, we had an opportunity to sit around at camp and swap a song or two.
And dinner together at The Harp.
The CVs have gathered in Fort George this weekend for fellowship and planning the year ahead. As re-enactors, they strive to make their experience as authentic as they can. Each member is to bring a dish for the pot-luck supper. They're to bring period dishes and glassware.