An Historic Weekend (Part 2)

After walking along the lakeshore (see Part 1) I arrived at Old Fort York, with no expectations beyond exploring the site and its exhibits. I hadn’t visited since an elementary school sleepover there in the mid-1980s. Happily, it was Battle of York Weekend, the annual event commemorating that battle, so there was a lot to see.

This is the site, nestled among Toronto’s mushrooming condominiums and the Gardiner Expressway:

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Fort York National Historic Site (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

This was my first clue that something was up:

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Fort York National Historic Site (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Star-Spangled Banner flown before, with its 15 stars and 15 stripes. And there wasn’t a redcoat in sight; this was a commemoration of the US occupation of York in April 1813.

The invaders:

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Fort York National Historic Site (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

Next time I’m photographing the use of long guns, I’ll remember to stay on their right side. All my pictures show the soldier’s backs, as they’re twisted away to fire from the right shoulder.

After the demonstration of musketry, I spoke with the two participants in blue coats here:

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Fort York National Historic Site (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

The one on the right was outfitted as a pioneer, with axe, saw, and faschine knife. From them, I learned about the reënactments that happen around the region over the summer. I was surprised that there is a reënactment of the Battle of Culloden in Ontario. Disappointingly, I was not allowed to handle a musket, even to gauge its weight, owing to the limitations of their insurance policies.

I call this image “The Littlest Marauder”:

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Fort York National Historic Site (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

This is an image of Douglas Coupland’s sculpture, near Fort York, entitled “Monument to the War of 1812”:

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Douglas Coupland, “Monument to the War of 1812” (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

In an editorial dated November 5, 2008, The Globe and Mail said Coupland’s piece “makes vividly the point that the British and Canadians won the three-year war against American aggressors –thereby escaping annexation– yet does so with humour and good grace.” I aspire to achieve that humour and good grace in this blog, though I court the danger of sliding into the glib or merely clever!

Coupland’s work is also the perfect segue to Part 3 of this post, wherein I describe my first effort at wargaming, courtesy of the good people at the Napoleonic Miniatures Wargame Society of Toronto… coming soon.

An Historic Weekend (Part 1)

On Saturday last, I took a walk along Toronto’s lake shore looking for historic markers, without any particular plan. Although I’ve lived in the city my whole life, I don’t often take the time to explore it.

First find: Royal Canadian Legion branch 344, Queen’s Own Rifles, at 1395 Lake Shore Boulevard West:

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Royal Canadian Legion Branch 344 (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

“Prime Minister of Ontario”? I’d never heard that before. My grandmother’s notes tell me we have a genealogical connection to the Hon. Ferguson, but I haven’t explored it yet, so I leave that for a future post.

Next, closing in on Exhibition Place, I found the site of the old French Fort Rouillé:

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Site of Fort Rouille (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

The original placement of the walls are marked by a concrete walkway, which gives a great sense of presence. I arrived as a batch of cadets received a lesson, but I didn’t press closely enough to overhear.

Next to the fort is Scadding Cabin:

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Scadding Cabin (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

Which the plaque informs me was built in 1794, and moved to its present location from near the Don River in 1879.

Crossing Exhibition Place, I was at The Princes’ Gate when the cadets caught up to me:

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The Princes’ Gate (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

Given that this blog is largely intended as an exploration of the North American military heritage, with a Loyalist flavour, there was something satisfying in seeing this display through the gates first opened by the royals 90 years ago (even if the marching left a little to be desired).

Part 2 of this post will describe my visit to Old Fort York. On my way there, I passed by the Fort York Armoury and snapped this picture of the roof:

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Fort York Armoury (Toronto, ON). Photographed 22 April 2017 by C.H. Elliott.

I have a genealogical interest in Butler’s Rangers, and I wasn’t sure of their connection to the Queen’s Rangers. From the Loyalist Gazette, reprinted on the United Empire Loyalists’ website, I learn there is no immediate connection, but the Queen’s Rangers are fascinating in themselves, with a continuous history back to 1756, first commanded by the famous ranger Robert Rogers. Even with the references I’d seen to Rogers’ trial for treason against the United States, I still thought of him as a US-American, rather than British-American, figure.

So much to learn. Part 2 & Part 3 coming soon.