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Who Won the War?


Editor's note: The outcome of the War of 1812 was not decisive.  In fact, if you Google "who won the War of 1812" you will see several opinions. Perhaps historian Wesley Turner summed it up in the title his book, The War of 1812: The war that both sides won.  For those of us living in the “North Country”, we have the opportunity to learn more about this period of history through a grant, made in February, by the New York Council for Humanities to the Fort La Présentation Association in Ogdensburg and the creation of the War of 1812 War College.  We hope those interested will take advantage of this important opportunity to participate.

War College

Whoever controlled the St. Lawrence River controlled Canada. The Americans never cut the lifeline of British supplies during the War of 1812, and the profound impact the war had on the development of Northern New York has been largely forgotten.

As the bicentennial year (2012) of the war approaches, the Fort La Présentation Association of Ogdensburg, NY is sponsoring a daylong series of five seminars to examine aspects of the war which affected the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, and, particularly, the communities of Sackets Harbor and Ogdensburg, NY.

Saturday, May 2, 2009 marks the inaugural War of 1812 War College at Ogdensburg, NY.

"The War College is not only for academics and historians because these seminars will interest military re-enactors, history buffs and the public that wants to know more about our history,”  says Project Director Doug Cubbison.

There will be displays on the archaeology of the War of 1812, on the 1812 Marines, and the Fort La Présentation Association. A short concert, of early 19th-century music, will be performed by the Excelsior Cornet Band. The speakers are listed, below.

The event will be held in the banquet hall of the Freighthouse Restaurant in Ogdensburg, NY which started life as a railroad station. The restaurant is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places and is located on the 1813 battlefield adjacent to the Fort de La Présentation archaeological site.

Ogdensburg had many war experiences. The most devastating was Feb. 22, 1813 when Lt. Col. ‘Red George’ Macdonnell of the Glengarry Light Infantry led a reprisal raid across the frozen St. Lawrence from Prescott. The 1st US Rifle Regiment under Captain Benjamin Forsyth was driven out of the town. Military supplies that could not be taken back to Canada were burned.

“We plan to develop our first War College seminar into a two-day, annual symposium that will be about more than military history,” Cubbison said. “Beyond strategy and tactics, and who won or lost, there are the social and cultural consequences that still resonate in the US and Canada.”

The lectures, and related activities include: a continental breakfast, a buffet lunch, a sit-down dinner and the cost for the day is a very reasonable $US 55. Payment must accompany your registration.

Details on the May 2nd War College can be found at www.fortlapresentation.net or by calling 315-394-1749.

The Lecturers

Dr. Timothy Abel has a PhD in Archaeology and is the past Executive Director of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Dr. Abel is also the President of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance and has performed extensive archaeological investigations at various sites of the War of 1812 in northern New York. Dr. Abel will speak on the Archaeology of the War of 1812, and will specifically discuss how historic archaeology can cooperate academically with more traditional historic research (archival and cartographic) to enhance our understanding of a wide and diverse range of study topics from the War of 1812.

Dr. Gary Gibson currently serves as a Board Member of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, and is intimately involved with other historic preservation and educational, interpretive and commemorative initiatives in Sackets Harbor and Jefferson County. Dr. Gibson will be talking about naval operations on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812.

 Major John R. Grodzinski, MA, FINS, a serving Officer with the Canadian Army, is currently assigned to the Department of History at the Royal Military College in Kingston, where he is also a doctoral candidate. His dissertation will examine British strategy during the War of 1812. Major Grodzinski will be the keynote speaker, and he will provide an overview of the War of 1812 on the Upper St. Lawrence River (between Montreal and Kingston). This theater of the War had the most direct effects upon northern New York State and Ontario.

Donald E. Graves is a widely published military historian, who owns and operates an historic preservation consulting firm. Professionally educated at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Mr. Graves has previously served as an historian for the National Historic Sites Branch of Parks Canada, the National Archives of Canada and the Canadian Forces. Mr. Graves will speak on ‘Forgotten Soldiers: The Regular US Army and the War in the North, 1812-1815.’ This lecture will focus upon the contributions of the Regular US Army, particularly the soldiers stationed at Sackets Harbor.

James Reagen is a founding member of the Fort La Présentation Association and a charter member of the Ogdensburg Historical Commission. He will give a talk on the War of 1812 in Ogdensburg followed by a walking tour of the battle as it progressed through the town. Mr. Reagan is the co-founder of the annual February Battle of Ogdensburg reenactment and the former chairman of the city’s Downtown Battlefield Committee. He is the Managing Editor of the Ogdensburg Journal and the recipient of numerous journalism awards.

by Michael Whittaker, War of 1812 War College

Michael Whittaker is a member of the Board of Directors of the Fort La Présentation Association, in Ogdensburg, N.Y.  He has been a military re-enactor for more than 25 years, as a member of Forsyth's Rifles, the United Train of Artillery of Rhode Island and similar organizations. Whittaker also provides heritage interpretation to schools, historic sites and community events. He has many years experience in media and public relations with the Government of Canada. He is a branding analyst in the International Markets Bureau of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Editor's note:  Please check our new pages on the War of 1812:  The Place/History/War of 1812

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