The declaration of war wasn’t real, but some say it was certainly significant.
Early Monday afternoon, historical animators in Put-In-Bay, Ohio, declared war on Britain. A similar group on Signal Hill responded by recruiting people to fight on Britain’s behalf with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencible Infantry.
The activities — broadcast simultaneously between both sites via Skype — commemorated the 200th anniversary of the declaration of the War of 1812.
The Newfoundland regiment was heavily involved in helping Britain protect Canada during a campaign that lasted 2 1/2 years. Members of the unit fought for the British at every major battle and hundreds were killed.
Jim Lynch says their sacrifices are largely unknown, and that’s
why events like Monday’s are important.
“I think we’ve done a disservice to the men who served in that regiment,” says Lynch, chairman of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council’s bicentennial committee.
“I think, perhaps, that segment of our history was never taught in schools, we don’t see it occupied in our history books and so on, so it’s a part of Newfoundland history that’s kind of faded away from memory.”
Yesterday’s re-enactment was a partnership between Signal Hill and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-In-Bay, which is run by the United States National Park Service.
News of the mock declaration from the U.S. site was met with Newfoundland governor Sir John Duckworth, played by Chris Martin, making his best sales pitch to get people involved in a war against the “southern antagonist” or “rabble next door.”
“You’ll receive food, lodging, pay, great drink and a suit of clothing fine enough to catch the eye of the king himself,” said Martin’s character.
In the King’s army, he added, a soldier wants for nothing, the drink is endless and his majesty will give a shilling to those who join, for their bravery, courage and loyalty.
Six people — two actors in period clothing and four bystanders — bought the pitch.
The Signal Hill Tattoo also participated. Drums and fifes were played. Canons and muskets were fired. Besides commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the activities also kicked off Parks Canada’s summer season at Signal Hill, a season being dubbed “The Newfoundland Soldier, Then and Now.”
The itinerary includes a July fantasy camp where people train to participate in the Tattoo as well as an August encampment featuring re-enactors from the Halifax Citadel and Fortress of Louisbourg.
“I invite you to visit Signal Hill this summer to further discover the history of the War of 1812, Newfoundland’s role in the conflict and the war’s impact on this nation,” Peter Penashue, Newfoundland and Labrador’s representative in the federal cabinet, said in a news release.
For more on War 1812 anniversary events at sites across Canada, visit http://bit.ly/PdrNql.