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Monument to Canadian-British war dead planned at Sackets Harbor

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SACKETS HARBOR — Nearly 200 years ago, an unknown number of British and Canadian war dead were buried at what is now the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, quickly laid to rest in unmarked graves.

The soldiers, many whose identities are not known, fell victim to American forces on May 29, 1813, during an unsuccessful attempt to disrupt supply lines for American soldiers. After the skirmish, the foreign soldiers were interred by their American counterparts, never memorialized in any way.

Now, a collaborative effort between the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which oversees the historic site, will erect a monument prior to the bicentennial commemoration of the battle in 2013 recognizing the British and Canadian dead.

“It’s giving the honor of war to the Crown forces who were not given the honor of war at the time of their burial,” said Theodore L. Schofield, a member of the board of trustees for the alliance, a nonprofit corporation that supports activities at the site and seeks to preserve it.

Mr. Schofield said there are an estimated 30 British-Canadian dead buried at the site, “but there could be more, there could be less.” The soldiers had come from Kingston, Ontario, in an attempt to attack the shipyard here at a time when most of the American forces stationed at Sackets Harbor were taking part in an attack on Fort George in Ontario.

“The basic intent of the raid was to destroy the naval supplies at Navy Point that were going to be used to arm and supply vessels on Lake Ontario,” Mr. Schofield said.

The remaining Americans were able to repel the insurgency, but not before a fire wrecked much of the military stores at the point. Mr. Schofield said he has seen some literature indicating that, after the battle, the British asked for the return of their dead, but were told by the Americans, more or less, that “we’ll take care of it.” The soldiers were buried, but few know where, he said.

The alliance and the historic site plan to rectify that, erecting a quarried limestone or granite monument to the British-Canadian dead on Ontario Street. The location and the wording on the monument have not been finalized, but Mr. Schofield said all of the funding for the effort is in place.

It is planned that a ground-breaking will take place in August, coinciding with other War of 1812 events being planned by the alliance and the historic site. The dedication likely will occur during a battle reenactment planned for August 2013. There are also plans to rededicate a monument to American soldiers erected on Memorial Grove in 1913.

While War of 1812 commemorations will take place across the country next year, Mr. Schofield said he is unaware of any similar attempts to recognize the British-Canadian dead.

“As far as I know, this is unique,” he said. “I don’t know of anybody else that’s going to honor the Crown troops.”

Mr. Schofield said organizers hope to attract dignitaries from the United States, Canada and possibly Great Britain for the dedication.

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