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The War is Coming…

Yes, towns around the Thousand Islands in 2012 are getting ready to “celebrate, learn and/or participate” in the 200th anniversary of War of 1812.  We plan to present a number of articles about this historic period in our Thousand Islands.   Be sure to take advantage of all the events taking place.  This is one of the first, and it will be interesting.   

War of 1812 Symposium

Twice attacked by a combined British and Canadian force crossing the St. Lawrence River, Ogdensburg, New York has the history and location to host a War of 1812 symposium and commemorate the bicentennial.

The fourth annual War of 1812 symposium April 27-28, 2012, with eight speakers drawn equally from the United States and Canada, will be as far ranging as the geography the seminars cover. Participants will take an intellectual journey from the shores of Lake Champlain to the Niagara Peninsula, through archaeology on land and under water, to education, medicine, preservation and strategy. 

"From the first symposium in 2009, we have offered an international scope of scholarship and interpretation to commemorate the War of 1812," said Barbara O’Keefe, President the Fort La Présentation Association. "This year the variety of subjects presented by our speakers, who have professional standing as scientists, archaeologists, academics and historians, is sure to have broad appeal."

The topics should generate a synergy because the organizers have put together an engaging program sure to attract participants with multiple interests.

The location of General Zebulon Pike’s 1812 encampment on the banks of the Saranac River near Plattsburgh, NY was forgotten for nearly 200 years. Keith Heraklo, president of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association, offers a lively presentation on his no-stone-unturned research into pinpointing the encampment. Consulting archaeologist Tim Abel discusses the dig he led to verify Heraklo’s work and the historical context of related archaeology.

Western Lake Ontario laps the shore of Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, a hot theater for most of the War of 1812, famous for the Battle of Queenston Heights where the legendary British General Isaac Brock was killed. Ron Dale, Parks Canada Superintendent for Niagara National Historic Sites, will discuss the battle and the role of Fort George in the War of 1812.

"I am proud to say we have one of our own giving a talk on the challenges of teaching the War of 1812 and its relevance to contemporary society," said O’Keefe. "Melissane Schrems Assistant Professor of History at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY is on the board of the Fort La Présentation Association."

Dr. Scott Stevens, a colleague of Dr. Schrems, is the director of the D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Dr. Stevens will lecture on Abbé François Piquet and the legacy of Indigenous/Mohawk alliances during the War of 1812.

Abbé Piquet founded the fortified mission of La Présentation in 1749. Stevens is a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe situated east of Ogdensburg. 

The organizers have not forgotten the healing arts are sometimes life, if not limb, savers in the time of war. As proof, Greg Baran, MD, surgeon to the re-enacted Regiment of Canadian Fencible Infantry, has a fascinating look at wartime medical practices.

History professor Major John Grodzinski from the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario is the dinner speaker. Major Grodzinski is a specialist in the War of 1812 who will offer a perspective on British planning for and conducting of war in North America, 1808-1815.

"Ron Dale and John Grodzinski are two of the historians featured in the recent PBS production, The War of 1812," O’Keefe noted. "Four other historians who appeared in the production have presented at our previous symposia, Don Graves, Diana Graves, Victor Suthren and Patrick Wilder."

Invitations have been sent to museums and communities along the St. Lawrence River in Ontario and New York to publicize their War of 1812 commemorations. Bath and Gananoque will have tabletop displays promoting their bicentennial legacy projects.

The Freight House Restaurant, adjacent to Ogdensburg’s Feb. 22, 1813 battlefield, will again offer its exclusive hospitality beginning with the Friday evening social for early arrivals and Saturday that kicks off with a continental breakfast. The midday interval features a buffet lunch and the day concludes with a sit-down dinner.

Registration, accommodation and meal information is posted at

By Michael Whitacker

Michael Whittaker is a member of the Board of Directors of the Fort La Présentation Association, in Ogdensburg, N.Y.  He has been a military re-enactor for more than 25 years, as a member of Forsyth's Rifles, the United Train of Artillery of Rhode Island and similar organizations. Whittaker also provides heritage interpretation to schools, historic sites and community events. He has many years experience in media and public relations with the Government of Canada. He is a branding analyst in the International Markets Bureau of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.  Michael Whitacker wrote Who Won the War? in April 2009, and 1760 "Battle of the Thousand Islands" in June, 2010.

Editor's note:  Please check our pages on the War of 1812 for more interesting history:  The Place/History/War of 1812

Posted in: Event, News Article
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george textor
Comment by: george textor ( )
Left at: 8:42 PM Sunday, January 15, 2012
Sounds great.Will the talks be available on the web for those of us who cannot attend? Thanks. GT