The Battle of Glengarry

On a sunny autumn weekend, September 24-25, two armies clashed on the grass that stretched between fields of ripening corn and a scattering of pre-Confederations buildings.

The armies of soldiers, sailors, soldiers' wives, camp followers and Mohawk warriors were actually outnumbered by the army of visitors who had come to witness the event.

The ebb and flow of the battles were described in a play-by-play by experts who explained the tactics of the War of 1812.  

By the time the contest was settled and the armies marched past to salute the tourists, everyone agreed that the Battle of Glengarry was a terrific way to wrap up the re-enactment season for 2016.

Actually, there never was a Battle of Glengarry during the War of 1812, although the first skirmishes of the war took place on the St. Lawrence River near there, and the Battle of Crylser's Farm in November 1813 was one of the decisive contests of the war.

But Glengarry County has a powerful 1812 legacy through the contribution of the Glengarry Fencibles, a light infantry regiment recruited from the county's pioneers who had previously seen action in Europe before settling down to build farms in Upper Canada.

Their memory is kept alive through the 57th Vankleek Hill Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders Army Cadets, many of whom exchanged their camo for shakos and coatees.

Throughout the weekend, they provided much of the muscle and energy that kept the event running smoothly.

They also led the church parade on Sunday morning.

The Glengarry cadets could come in for the day from their homes in nearby Maxville, Vankleek Hill, and Alexandria, but some of the participants of the Battle of Glengarry weekend came from longer distances and camped over the weekend.

Of course, this being the Regency period, some people camped out in greater luxury than others.

This British officer's tent would be similar to the one where Eli reports to Colonel Scott in Blood Oath.

Campers came from Ottawa, Kingston, Montreal, Upstate New York, and Toronto, from where these sutlers brought musical instruments for trade and sale.

Historian Richard Feltoe came from Brampton to set up his sutler's tent as a seller of War of 1812 artefacts. Here he demonstrates to soldiers of the 100th Regiment (the Dubliners who came to save Canada and decided to stay) a device for cleaning brass buttons without getting the uniform dirty.

Bragging rights for the longest distance go to Garrett and Ruth Swarengen who, along with Garrett's parents, drove 14 hours from Indiana for the event. The trip was made longer by the delays when a Canadian customs official was reluctant to let them cross the border with a firearm -- even if it was a War of 1812 replica musket.

But Garrett and Ruth made sure they enjoyed their weekend in Canada to the max -- including taking part in the country dances held Saturday afternoon.

A splendid time was had by all.

Country dancing was followed by a "fashion show" -- actually a "show and tell" where re-enactors could talk about their clothing and the people they represented.

Re-enactors take great care to get the details of their uniforms right.  Note the Medussa head in the crest of this dragoon helmet.

Some of the uniforms went back earlier than the War of 1812, to recognize the Highland origins of Glengarry County.

Not all the clothing was military. "The Baroness" and her husband, "the Chevalier" were Europeans caught in Upper Canada during a visit, waiting for an opportunity to return home.

Following the battle on Saturday, the Baroness hosted a tea where both sides could gather together in the spirit of friendship to celebrate 202 years of peace between Canada and the United States.

Everyone was welcome that the marquee tent of the Baroness and the Chevalier.

And as befits a lady, the Baroness herself poured, of course.

After a long day at the battle, those who wished to quench their thirst with something stronger than tea could repair to The White Star Tavern -- said to be the oldest continuously licensed premise in Ontario.  The building dates from the 1840s; it became a tavern in the 1860s.

For the kids who aren't particularly interested in tea parties or are not welcome in the taverns, there were instructions in sword fighting by Drummond Fraser.

Or if they preferred, they could stay and play with their toys -- period-correct, of course.

Come Saturday evening, everyone gathered together for pot luck supper.

There was more than enough to go around.

Cake too!

And as for me?  I had a blast!  On Friday I had already used the White Star Tavern as a classroom to talk about the War of 1812 during  the annual Education Day. On Saturday, the organizers set me up in front of the Orange Lodge where I could talk to people about Jake and Eli. I sold a lot of books.

And Jake and Eli are making the 14-hour drive back to Indiana.