OGDENSBURG — When Mark T. Valley, Operation Desert Storm veteran and U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduate, was growing up in Ogdensburg, he knew that Abbe Francois Picquet had founded his hometown on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, but no one ever told him about its role in the French and Indian War.
But on Saturday, with musket in hand and dressed in a French soldier's uniform, the Fox network star of "Human Target" was firing volleys at hundreds dressed as British soldiers as part of Founders Day weekend.
"It's kind of like a movie set," Mr. Valley said as he stood on Lighthouse Point, preparing to participate in the 250th anniversary of the final battle of the French and Indian War.
"I thought it would be fascinating to participate," he said. "I've always been interested in history. We tend to overlook our own history."
Mr. Valley said he was impressed by the 800 to 1,000 historical re-enactors who joined him in remembering the battle that was fought off the shore of Ogdensburg in 1760.
During what's become known as the "Battle of the Thousand Islands," 11,000 British and colonials under the command of Sir Jeffrey Amherst traveled down the St. Lawrence River on their way to Montreal, where they hoped to defeat the French army.
Standing between them and the defeat of New France was 350 French soldiers and militia members who were defending Fort Levis on what's now known as Chimney Island.
Mr. Valley said the historical saga of 350 outnumbered French soldiers holding off 11,000 British would make a great motion picture.
Joseph J. Ericksen, a resident of Anchorage, said he traveled to Ogdensburg to participate in the battle as a way to observe sacrifices made during the war.
"I've been to all the major events" over the past five years, he said. "I wanted to be here for the final event."
Robert P. Bearor, a member of the New York State French and Indian War Commission, remembers a decade ago, when Founders Day in Ogdensburg was about a dozen historic re-enactors camping out on Lighthouse Point.
"It's like night and day here," he said. "I know how much work the committee has done over the past 10 years to make this possible."
St. Lawrence County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said she was very pleased to see so many people in Ogdensburg for the first weekend of the International Seaway Festival.
"I can almost feel like I've been transported to the past," she said. "Having all these people here really has an economic impact for Ogdensburg and the county."
The fun continues today, starting with a 7:30 a.m. church service to be held at Lighthouse Point; those who attend should bring their own chairs. The rain location is Notre Dame Church. Also today:
■ At 11:30 a.m., a lecture titled "Daniel Sizar's War: A Connecticut Yankee and 1760 Invasion of Canada" will be given at Freight House Restaurant.
■ At 1 p.m., an inspection and review of troops will take place.
■ At 1:30 p.m., the water battle begins.
■ At 2 p.m., the land battle begins, followed by the surrender of the French flag.