200 Years of Peace - Scouts Canada
Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake
by Festival Nomad Correspondent, Carol Law
Scouts Canada is celebrating 200 years of Peace! The War of 1812 at Fort George, Niagara on the Lake was re-enacted by over 2300 Scouts from Canada and the United States. The Scouts recreate the battles, wearing full period style uniforms, accouterments, brandishing muskets that fire caps (for a satisfying "bang"), and hauling cannons that the boys and their leaders have made.
The mechanisms for the muskets are made and sold by the Bayview Hills Scouts from Newmarket who are more than happy to supply both sides of the event, British and American alike. Bayview Hill Scouts have been participating in the Fort George campaign for all of its 28 years. They represent the 49th “o’foot” Regiment, Company 1. A full replica (5 1/2 ‘ x 6’ )of the regimental flag leads each parade as the Regiment moves from place to place. Needless to say, capturing the “colours” of this Regiment is quite a coup.
Camped out at Butler's Barracks, the Scouts spend a weekend re-enacting the lifestyle, tasks, and battles typical of the war of 1812. They attend lifestyle presentations on barracks life, parade drill, and officer life, have a tour of Fort George, participate in an hour long parade through the Town of Niagara on the Lake where they have a 21st century hour to visit the shops, spend their “pay” (tickets) at the Fudge Parade (in camp candy shop), take local tours, and of course, participate in two sessions of battle including the appropriate drill, commands, formations strategies. Judges determine who “won” each part of the battle. They also decide if a volley of musket or cannon fire hit its mark. If it does the youth have to lie on the ground for one minute and then they reform their regiment and join in again.
This year Parks Canada presented a plaque to recognize over 100 years of service by Scouts Canada during the many wars and conflicts that Canada has assisted in. The plaque dedicates the site as an "Important Historical Site" and Scouts Canada as an "Important Historical Service". It is significant, and speaks to the amazing program that Scouts Canada provides, that Parks Canada allows this large event to camp out on National Historic ground.
A Moment of Silence...
Mindful that there have been troubling times in peace time as well, a moment of silence was observed this year to remember the events of 9/11 ten years ago. I was there for the 1812 camp the weekend following 9/11. We didn't know if the Americans would come. Then we didn't know if they would be able to get through the border - with so many youth? With imitation muskets and cannons? A cheer went up in the field when we heard they were trying to come. Three "hassahs" (British military cheer) went up in the field when we heard they were coming.
We later learned that the leaders explained the bus loads (over 600 Scouts from the US came through) to the boarder guards. The boarder guards checked the Scouts through a special line so they could make the camp in time on a weekend where it was taking up to 36 hours to get through.
2000 Marchers Strong!
On the last day of camp, ten years ago, it was the British side's turn to lead into the Fort for the closing. Imagine a column of almost 2000 people marching across the field, four abreast; the line stretches for over a kilometer. Spontaneously, without discussion, or planned decision, the British troops silently stopped at the Fort gate and formed an honour guard for the American Scouts allowing them to enter the Fort first. 2000 youth were silent for over 20 minutes; this was not asked of them, they recognized the significance of the gesture and gave it out of respect. The closing remarks were very moving that morning. It made you think about what was important. And that, while we teach our youth about what happened 200 years ago, it is what we do with that knowledge today that makes it all worth while.
This is why the war of 1812 is significant; because we can celebrate peace, and work together for the important things.
That is why Scouts Canada chooses to celebrate "200 Years of Peace". Next year, in mid-September, the 29th Fort George Scout campaign will once again descend on Niagara on the Lake. It is anticipated that over 4000 Scouting members will be there to re-enact the war of 1812 and celebrate peace between our nations once again.