The Battle of Lundy’s Lane Bi-Centennial Commemoration

Submitted by: #5552 Ernie Dueck, # 6296 Dave Renshaw and #5337 Bob Carr

The bi-centennial commemoration of the 25th of July, 1814 Battle of Lundy’s Lane was held in Niagara Falls on the 25th of July, 2014 in and around the actual battle site, which was not only the bloodiest battle of the War of 1812, but also seen as the defining point of this war.

A gathering of ex-cadets from the Niagara region and from Ottawa, Brockville, Kingston, Toronto and other Ontario cities, took place in Niagara Falls at noon on July 25th. A luncheon event, hosted by the Hamilton Branch, and organized by #5337 Bob Carr and #11356 Paul Downie, ably assisted by a number of others, including #5178 Gary Hodgson and #20456 Adam McInnis, was held at a hotel just 2 blocks removed from the main battle site which includes a cemetery where a number of the fallen, including the heroine of the War of 1812, Laura Secord are buried. The luncheon attracted 18 ex-cadets and 15 special invited guests (a serendipitous confluence of numbers, ie 1815 also being the official end of this war) including the Minister of National Defense, Rob Nicholson, MP for Niagara Falls, and Major John Grodzinski from RMC, Department of Military History, and an important author of a number of books on the War of 1812. John held us spell-bound in an after lunch speech on the many and varied details of this pivotal battle, and then led guests on a tour of the Battle Site, all of which was done without notes, attesting to John’s in depth knowledge of the war and this battle.

John was preceded by the MND, Rob Nicholson who recognized the sacrifices and contributions of Canadian men and women who have fought in these and succeeding wars in defence of Canada and defence of freedom and democratic values around the world.

Nyla Jean de Boer (wife of ex-cadet #16420 John de Boer), whose Great-great- great- great- great Grandfather was James Forsythe, owner of land on which this great battle took place, provided poignant context to the battle and the enduring impacts on settlers of the region. Ex-cadet #11356 Paul Downie, another speaker and presenter, brother of Phil Downie and John Downie, all in attendance, who had become friends with a collector of battle site memorabilia, including cannon balls and musket shots and an avid history buff, presented some of these to guests that he recognized for their various contributions.

All ex-cadets present answered the “roll-call” from the oldest #2831 Cam Crowe, to the youngest #20456 Adam McInnis, with their college number, year of graduation and a short personal biography.

The luncheon was followed by a tour of the battle site, led by Dr John Grodzinski who described the desperate battles that ensued on the evening of the 25th of July, 1814, including 3 charges by British Lt Gen Gordon Drummond through the night in attempts to recapture artillery guns captured earlier by the Americans. The charges did not succeed in recapturing the guns, but did inflict many casualties on both sides, and to such an extent on the Americans that forced them to withdraw from the battle field and led directly to the end of the war.

An interesting side-light from the American position occurred earlier in the evening when the American Commanding Officer, Major Gen Jacob Brown ordered Lt Col James Miller of the 21st US Infantry Regiment to “capture” the British guns that were inflicting significant losses on the American units. Miller’s famous reply was “I’ll try, Sir”. Under cover of darkness and the British distracted by another attack from the American right side, Miller attacked the British guns from the left, killing most of the gunners and taking the guns. This 21st US Infantry Regiment has today become the 5th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Bobcats” and whose motto understandably is “I’ll try sir”. This 5th Infantry Division was strongly represented in the American commemoration of this famous battle on this afternoon of the 25th July, 2014.

Later in the evening (7:30pm) while the more robust amongst us participated in the 2.5 km re-enactment walk to the battlefield site, there took place a Bicentennial Commemoration Service including anthems, prayers, another battle history presentation and speeches from both Canadian and US representatives, including the MND Rob Nicholson, followed by Taps, Last Post, Minute of Silence, Piper’s Lament and Reveille and ending with God Save the Queen, all poignant points of remembrance.

Many of the speakers both at the ex-cadet luncheon and in subsequent ceremonies lauded the fact that this bloody war led to 200 years of peace between two neighbours with the longest unprotected border anywhere in the world. Noteworthy indeed!

The final event of this commemoration, ending around 10:15pm was a near full re-enactment of the battle, with loudspeaker commentaries from representative actors, and again memorable.