(June 20, 2016) Youngstown, N.Y. - Old Fort Niagara announces its largest re-enactment of the year, the French and Indian War Encampment, July 2, 3 and 4, 2016, when the National Historic Landmark will portray the 1759 Siege of Fort Niagara in new and interactive ways for the public. Hundreds of French, British and Native re-enactors will gather at Old Fort Niagara to realistically depict the events of July 1759, when British and provincial forces, alongside their Native allies, laid siege to Fort Niagara for 19 days. The event also features a large camp of 18th century merchants and artisans.
New to this annual event will be:
· Construction and exhibition of the British sap, or trench, outside the Visitors Center, to portray the offensive strategy used by the British to approach and attack Fort Niagara during the 19-day siege (please refer to photos).
· Battles, tours, programs and activities will be different every day as re-enactors present a timeline of actual occurrences from the conflict over the event's three days.
· New interpretive tours and vignettes that share historical background information and explain the circumstances that led to specific actions being portrayed.
· $30 three-day pass (available July 2 only) offers visitors a discount on multiple day admission.
"This year's re-enactment has been designed with visitor interest and engagement in mind," said Robert Emerson, executive director of Old Fort Niagara. "Our staff invested time over the winter to dissect the siege and then translate it into an interactive and engaging three-day timeline of events for the public, who can look forward to exciting battles plus new tours and new features that will teach them about -- and involve them in -- the circumstances that led to the British victory and French defeat at Fort Niagara in 1759."
Special features during the event include: engineering and exhibition of 18th century trench defenses; French women sewing sandbags and powder bags, and treating the wounded; kids learning manual exercises with wooden muskets and playing period games; British artillery firing on the French and French firing on the British; Natives and French trading furs for European goods; British and French preparing food and feeding the troops; Natives playing lacrosse; French and British sutlers (period merchants) demonstrating and selling handmade products, like pottery, ironworks, clothing, soap and food.
Summary of the French and Indian War and Fort Niagara's Role
In the 18th century, New France's Fort Niagara occupied a strategic gateway to the inner continent of North America via the Niagara River's connection to the Great Lakes region and subsequent waterways. From 1754 through 1760, France and Britain battled for control of these areas while also fighting the Seven Years War on European soil. Following a 19-day British siege on the fort in July 1759, France finally lost their hold on Fort Niagara and thereby lost the western gateway to the heart of the continent.
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 of American Independence.
(Italicized activities designate battles and public tour opportunities)
Saturday, July 2
9:00 am Doors open; $30 three-day pass available today only
9:30 am Siege Tour: "The French Rebuild Fort Niagara 1755-59" - This tour will explore the physical history of the fort during the French and Indian War. The tour will explain military engineering practices of the mid-18th century and how they were employed to defend Fort Niagara.
10:00 am The Fur Trade: Natives and French traders gather to barter furs for European-made goods.
10:30 am French Colors Ceremony: The French garrison assembles in front of the French Castle to troop the colors. A small hunting party leaves the fort.
11:00 am (Battle Demonstration - arrive before 10:30 for shuttle to site) The British Advance: This program explains how the British army got to Fort Niagara and who composed the force. Soon the French hunting party appears and British forces open fire. The French are reinforced and a battle ensues. French forces withdraw to the fort under cover of artillery.
11:30 am The Interrogation: British officers interrogate several French prisoners they took during the previous skirmish.
12:30 pm Preparing the Fort for Siege: French defenders move trade bales and barrels into the outer works to provide cover. Artillery is also moved into the outer works and French forces conduct a musket and artillery demonstration. This is followed by on ongoing siege demonstration through 4:30 pm.
1:00 pm Rutherford's Embassy: British Captain Walter Rutherford requests a parley with the French commander, Captain Pierre Pouchot. He is escorted into the fort where he presents a surrender demand.
1:30 pm Opening the Sap: A British engineer explains how his forces are going to approach the fort by digging trenches toward the post.
2:00 pm (Battle Demonstration) French Sortie: French forces exit the fort and attack the British trenches.
3:00 pm British Mortars: The British present a mortar demonstration in the sap. French guns return fire.
3:15 pm Kaendae's Embassy: The Seneca chief Kaendae stops the fighting and calls a council with the French.
4:00 pm French Bombardment: French artillery batteries resume fire.
Sunday, July 3
9:00 am Doors open
10:00 am Kaendae's Embassy, Part Two. With Sir William Johnson in attendance, Kaendae holds council in the British camp. Six Nations warriors agree to withdraw from the siege and camp nearby at La Belle Famille. Ongoing siege demonstrations through 4:30 pm.
11:00 am Siege Tour: British and New York Provincial troops advance the sap and trade fire with the French, who fire artillery at the approaching trench.
Noon: Foodways: A demonstration of camp cooking in the British Camp.
1:00 pm Siege Tour: The British advance their artillery and open up on the fort. Artillery and military engineering demonstrations.
2:00 pm (Battle Demonstration) British Assault the Fort - British forces attempt to storm the fort as French defenders stand firm.
3:00 pm Women's Program: French women sew sandbags and gunpowder bags and treat the wounded.
4:00 pm Kids Drill: Hands-on program for children of all ages. Join the fort's garrison and learn how to handle a wooden musket. Children's period games.
Monday, July 4
9:00 am Doors open
10:00 am Siege Tour: Both sides enter their lines and trade musket and cannon fire. Ongoing siege demonstrations through 2:30 pm.
11:00 am (Battle Demonstration) The Battle of La Belle Famille - A French relief force tries to break through, but is defeated by British troops.
Noon Artillery Demonstration: British guns pound the fort. French return fire.
1:00 pm Desperate Measures: British musket fire and artillery continue to pound the fort. Many French guns are put out of service and defenders refuse to fire over the parapet. Officers try to motivate their men to continue the fort's defense.
2:00 pm (Battle Demonstration) British Assault the Fort - The British successfully assault the outer works. The French sue for terms.
2:45 pm Surrender Ceremony: British troops enter the fort, French troops form on the parade ground. Natives help themselves to French goods and the fort surrenders with the partial honors of war.
Admission to the French and Indian War Encampment is $13 per person per day, or $30 for a three-day pass, available July 2 only.
Old Fort Niagara's upcoming events include:
July 6-August 12 DAILY SUMMER PROGRAM Featuring American Revolution Era at the Fort
July 9-Oct. 10 (12pm-3pm) Lighthouse Open to the Public
Sat., July 23 PERFORMANCE Plymouth Fife and Drum Corps
Sun., July 31 PERFORMANCE Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Sat. & Sun., Aug. 13-14 RE-ENACTMENT Soldiers of the American Revolution
Sat. & Sun., Sep. 3-4 RE-ENACTMENT War of 1812 Encampment
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 is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in July and August. Admissions end 30 minutes before closing. 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. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.