This past weekend my little part of the world banded together and presented a magnificent slice of our history in a way which quite caught my attention. Two hundred years ago, when the War of 1812 was at its height, Oxford on the Thames suffered two attacks led by the famous American sympathizer, Andrew Westbrook. This disgruntled man led American soldiers right to mills, homes, farms and military leaders to burn out his neighbours, even setting alight his own farm before scurrying back across the border with his family in tow.
Saturday and Sunday’s events included re-enactments, period displays, free museum tours, a play about the famous Tecumseh, cricket lessons, and even burnings of buildings to commemorate like activities during the War of 1812. Preacher. Enoch Burdick, played by Rev. Jim Evans, held a Sunday morning church service which was followed by a well-attended replay of Westbrook’s attacks on this area. It was pointed out that the mill, which was the main target of the attacks, stood mere feet away from where we spectators lounged on the grass in the sun and watched the proceedings. If only the ground could tell its stories.
I so enjoyed everything presented but especially the private conversations I shared with many of the re-enacters taking part. Their historical knowledge and their fervour for what they do were thrilling, especially to an historical writer such as myself. They know details about clothing and the way of life back then which fascinate me and I never know when I’ll hear some tidbit which sparks my imagination.
While the marking of the War of 1812 has been going on for two years now, I still found things I haven’t done to commemorate it. In the Route 1812 Map & Guide which I picked up at Beachville Museum, much of Southern Ontario is mapped out with pertinent historical spots to visit and the trails (as they were in the day) to get there. I know my husband and I will be following these in the next few weeks, whenever we can.
You can see some of this on the website, www.westerncorridor1812.com. Just remember that this is our history but by no means is it our present-day situation. Canada and the United States went on to forge a friendly relationship which boasts between our two countries the longest undefended border in the world. We are living proof that differences can be solved and peace attained.
This week, as I put the final touches on the second book in the Loyalist trilogy, The Loyalist’s Luck, I, too, am revisiting our history of two hundred years ago. Here is the blurb about this novel, scheduled for release in October:
When the Revolutionary War turns in favor of the Americans, John and Lucy flee across the Niagara River with almost nothing. They begin again in Butlersburg, a badly supplied British outpost surrounded by endless trees and rivers, and the mighty roar of the giant falls not far off. He is off on a secret mission for Colonel Butler and she is left behind with her young son and pregnant once again. In the camp full of distrust, hunger, and poverty, word has seeped out that John has gone over to the American side and only two people will associate with Lucy—her friend, Nellie, who delights in telling her all the current gossip, and Sergeant Crawford, who refuses to set the record straight and clear John’s name. To make matters worse, the sergeant has made improper advances toward Lucy. With John’s reputation besmirched, she must walk a thin line depending as she does on the British army, and Sergeant Crawford, for her family’s very survival.
With vivid scenes of heartbreak and betrayal, heroism and shattered hopes, Elaine Cougler takes us into the hearts and homes of Loyalists still fighting for their beliefs, and draws poignant scenes of families split by political borders. The Loyalist’s Luck shows us the courage of ordinary people who, in perilous times, become extraordinary.