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French and Indian War Re-Enactments, Living History and Merchants at Old Fort Niagara, July 3-5

by C. Clark

The fort's signature event of the year includes international book launch

Fri, Jun 19th 2015 03:00 pm

(June 19, 2015) Youngstown, N.Y. - Acres of white canvas tents, hundreds of 18th century re-enactors in period clothing, and explosions of muskets and cannons will welcome visitors to Old Fort Niagara from July 3 through 5 for the fort's yearly signature re-enactment, the French and Indian War Encampment.


This year marks the 36th year of recreating the historic siege of Fort Niagara in 1759, when the British succeeded at taking it from the French. The event features large-scale battle re-enactments at 2:00 p.m. each day, expansive living history camps, lacrosse and cricket games, period music, hands-on activities for children and dozens of 18th century artisans and merchants. In addition, historian and author David L. Preston will launch his book, Braddock's Defeat, and be available for signings.

 

"People travel hundreds of miles to experience history at Gettysburg and Williamsburg," said Robert Emerson, Executive Director of Old Fort Niagara, "but you don't have to go farther than Old Fort Niagara for impressive and authentic 18th-century experiences. You are invited to our French and Indian War Encampment, which is one of the largest in the world. Come and you won't be disappointed!"

 

The Visitor Experience

 

On Friday, July 3, at 10 a.m., all troops and Native warriors assemble for a grand parade and showing of the colors. This is followed by a French and Indian attack on a frontier settlement. Next, young people will have a chance to "enlist" in the New York Provincial forces to help the British capture Fort Niagara from the French. At noon, the British Indian agent, Sir William Johnson, will council with leaders of the Six Nations to secure their support for an attack on Fort Niagara. At 2:00 p.m., both sides will mass their troops for a battle re-enactment that recreates a British assault on Fort Niagara's outer works. This will be followed at 3:00 p.m. by a French artillery bombardment.

 

Saturday, July 4, will open with a Native American lacrosse game, followed by a dramatic recreation of a council between Native leaders and the fort's commander, in which the French persuade the Natives to withdraw from the British side. At noon, visitors will learn details of 18th century siege warfare as British engineers demonstrate how a besieging army dug their way toward the fort's outer walls. This will be followed by an artillery demonstration involving multiple guns, howitzers and mortars. At 2:00 p.m., the French will launch a counterattack hoping to drive the British Army away from the fort. Following the battle, re-enactors will present two programs; Kids Drill, a chance for young people to enlist in the fort's garrison, and 18th Century Games. At 3:30 p.m. French artillery will once again open fire, portraying the increasingly desperate situation of the fort's defenders.

 

On Sunday, July 5, visitors will witness the fort's capture much as it happened in late July 1759. Visitors are urged to arrive at the fort by 10:00 a.m. to catch the shuttles to a nearby battle re-enactment site. Activities begin at 11:00 a.m. with a re-enactment of the Battle of La Belle Famille, a crucial engagement that determined the fate of the fort. Visitors will also witness artillery demonstrations and military music throughout the day. At 2:00 p.m. the British make their final assault on the fort, this time capturing the outer works and forcing the French to surrender. Following surrender ceremonies and the exit of the French garrison, the British inter their commander, who was killed during the siege.

 

Re-enactors portraying the events and livelihoods of that period will camp at the fort during the weekend. Being true to history, the British encampment will be outside the walls of the fort, while the French encampment will be within. Visitors are welcome to mingle with both camps and learn about their differences.

 

Brief Summary of French and Indian War

 

The French and Indian War was fought between 1754 and 1760, two decades before the American Revolution. Under the terms of the treaty that ended the war, Britain took control of Canada and the Great Lakes region. The war's cost led to new taxes on the King's American subjects that spawned political unrest in the 13 colonies. Colonists like George Washington gained their first military experience during the conflict. This experience would serve them well during the subsequent War for American Independence.

 

"The siege of Fort Niagara set the stage for a British empire that controlled the Niagara River and access to the inner continent," said Mr. Emerson. "The importance and significance of this battle in our history are what drive us to share this re-enactment each year. Before the colonists were motivated for independence from the British, the British were motivated to remove the French obstacle that got in the way of their New World quest. We will show you how that happened."

 

Over its long history, Old Fort Niagara's French and Indian War Encampment has become a July 4th tradition for many area residents and visitors to the region. The event dramatically portrays an important episode in early American history that helped shape the future histories of the United States and Canada.

 

International Book Launch

 

Unique to this year's event is the international launch of Braddock's Defeat by David L. Preston, who will sign copies of his book on Friday, July 3, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 3-5 p.m.; and on Saturday, July 4, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-5 p.m. The books will be for sale throughout the weekend.

 

According to Amazon.com: "David Preston's gripping and immersive account of Braddock's Defeat, also known as the Battle of the Monongahela, is the most authoritative ever written. Using untapped sources and collections, Preston offers a reinterpretation of Braddock's Expedition in 1754 and 1755, one that does full justice to its remarkable achievements. Braddock had rapidly advanced his army to the cusp of victory, overcoming uncooperative colonial governments and seemingly insurmountable logistical challenges, while managing to carve a road through the formidable Appalachian Mountains. That road would play a major role in America's expansion westward in the years ahead and stand as one of the expedition's most significant legacies."

 

Schedule of Events

 

Friday, July 3

10:00 a.m.      Assembly & Trooping of the Colors. Witness the pomp and ceremony of 18th century armies as they parade their flags before the assembled troops.

10:00 a.m. - Noon     Book Signing, David L. Preston, Braddock's Defeat

10:30 a.m.      Uniform Program. Meet the people who fought in the Siege of Niagara.

11:00 a.m.      Raid on a Frontier Settlement. A French and Native American raiding party attacks an isolated frontier settlement.

11:15 a.m.      Recruiting Demonstration (youth activity). In response to frontier raids, the Colony of New York recruits soldiers to attack French-held Fort Niagara.  

Noon             British-Native Council. In a dramatic demonstration of frontier diplomacy, Native Americans debate their course of action as Anglo-Americans plan their attack on Fort Niagara.

1:15 p.m.        Concert of Military Music. Enjoy popular tunes of the 50s (1750s) and find out how musicians played a vital role in the life of the 18th century military.  

1:45 p.m.        Military Engineering Demonstration. Find out how an 18th century siege was laid and the role of military engineers in reducing a well-defended fort.

2:00 p.m.        Battle Reenactment. British forces make their first effort to overrun Fort Niagara. Get a bird's-eye-view as British regulars and New York provincial troops make their first attempt to carry the French defenses.

3:00 p.m.        French Artillery Demonstration. See the French fire their big guns from the Dauphin Battery.

3:00 - 5:00 p.m.          Book Signing, David L. Preston, Braddock's Defeat

4:00 p.m.        18th Century Games and Siege Tour. Play a family-friendly 18th century game or learn more about the siege  by taking an informative walking tour of the fort's defenses.

5:00 p.m.        Musket Demonstration

6:00 p.m.        Musket Demonstration

 

Saturday, July 4

10:00 a.m.      Lacrosse Game. Watch Native and European players in a traditional game of Lacrosse, known as "the little brother of war."

11:00 a.m.      French Native Council. Frontier diplomacy continues as Kaendae brokers a Native withdrawal from the siege.

11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.           Book Signing, David L. Preston, Braddock's Defeat.  

Noon             Siege Tour- Engineering and Artillery Demonstration. Learn how the British intend to approach the fort by trenching toward its walls. Discover their plans for bombarding the fort and see guns, howitzers and mortars fired at the fort.

1:15 p.m.        Concert of Military Music. Enjoy popular tunes of the 50s (1750s) and find out how musicians played a vital role in the life of the 18th century military.  

1:45 p.m.        Military Engineering Demonstration. Find out how an 18th century siege was laid and the role of military engineers in reducing a well-defended fort. 

2:00 p.m.        Battle Reenactment. French soldiers launch a spontaneous counterattack against the British positions.

3:00 p.m.        Kids Drill (youth program). Enlist in the French Army and be trained to defend the fort.

3:00 - 5:00 p.m. Book Signing, David L. Preston, Braddock's Defeat 

3:30 p.m.        French Artillery Bombardment.  See the French fire their big guns from the Dauphin Battery.

4:00 p.m.        18th Century Games

4:30 p.m.        Cricket Match in the British Camp

5:00 p.m.        Musket Demonstration

6:00 p.m.        Musket Demonstration

 

Sunday, July 5

10:30 a.m.      Board Shuttles to La Belle Famille

11:00 a.m.      Reenactment of the Battle of La Belle Famille

Noon             French Artillery Demonstration. See the French fire their big guns from the Dauphin Battery

1:15 p.m.        Concert of Military Music. Enjoy popular tunes of the 50s (1750s) and find out how musicians played a vital role in the life of the 18th century military.

2:00 p.m.        Battle Reenactment. Watch as an increasingly desperate French garrison tries to withstand a British attack. British forces have moved closer to the fort and now bring devastating fire to bear on the fort's walls.

2:45 p.m.        Surrender Ceremonies. With a breach blown in the fort's wall and the French relief force defeated at La Belle Famille, the Fort's commandant, Captain Pierre Pouchot, must surrender the post.  

3:00 p.m.        British Military Funeral. Now in possession of the fort, the British must bury their dead, including their leader, General John Prideaux.

 

Ongoing Event Activities

18th century merchants and artisans, including several artisans from Colonial Williamsburg demonstrating their crafts, living history camps, foodways, military medicine, fur trading, guard mount, special displays and more.

 

The daily admission is $13.00 per person.


Old Fort Niagara (www.oldfortniagara.org) is located in Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown, N.Y., which is 14 miles north of Niagara Falls via the Robert Moses Parkway North. The fort opens at 9 a.m. daily and is open until 5 p.m. Admissions end at 4:30 p.m. Old Fort Niagara is a Registered National Historic Landmark and New York State Historic Site operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association (a not-for-profit organization) in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Like us on Facebook.