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Weekend re-enactments commemorate 200th anniversary of Battle of Ogdensburg

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OGDENSBURG — In 1813, the British army marched across the frozen St. Lawrence River to capture the young village of Ogdensburg in order to cut off an American threat on a crucial supply line.

On Sunday, 200 years later, children covered their ears as muskets and cannons boomed at Lighthouse Point as part of an annual re-enactment of the historic battle.

Nearly 200 re-enactors from Quebec, Ontario, New England and Northern New York participated in a weekend of events, an Ogdensburg winter tradition that stretches back more than 20 years.

“For a long time, a lot of people didn’t realize the War of 1812 happened right here,” said event coordinator James E. Reagen.

This year’s events had a special guest: Mary Lou M. Peterson, the great-great-great-granddaughter of war hero Col. Benjamin Forsyth, who commanded the American troops during the Battle of Ogdensburg.

Ms. Peterson came from Colorado to watch the re-enactment.

“I have never been to one before; this is a wonderful weekend,” she said.

She said she began researching her ancestor’s exploits several years ago and was surprised by what she found.

Benjamin Forsyth was born in North Carolina, although he spent much of the War of 1812 in Northern New York. He was killed, and was buried in an unmarked grave near Champlain in 1814.

Ms. Peterson said she hopes to someday have Col. Forsyth’s remains exhumed and moved to his homeland in North Carolina, which was named Forsyth County in his honor in 1849.

“It’s just been the last few years that I really got into this guy, who I really admire a lot,” Ms. Peterson said.

The Ogdensburg re-enactment group Forsyth’s Rifles also is named for the colonel.

Re-enactor Charles E. Abel, Ogdensburg, was a gunsmith before he retired, and was eager to try out his new muzzle-loading blunderbuss. Winter is a good season for firing antique and replica weapons, Mr. Abel said, because the lack of humidity makes it easier to keep the powder dry.

“It’s harder on the guys, because it’s cold, but it’s better on the guns,” he said.

A small crowd of spectators watched the proceedings Sunday, including three generations of one family. Dennis J. Koerick, son Donald J. and Donald’s four children all watched both of the weekend’s battles.

Despite the family having lived in Ogdensburg for decades, this was the Koericks’ first time watching the annual event.

“It was great; we saw it yesterday too, and we learned a lot,” Donald Koerick said Sunday. “We’ll definitely be coming back.”

“Do you know how old Abraham Lincoln was during this war?” asked 9-year-old Donald J. Koerick Jr. “He was 3.”

Making history real is what the annual re-enactment is all about, Mr. Reagen said.

“It’s an important event that we try to bring to life for people, so it’s not just on the pages of the history books,” he said.

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