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Cape Vincent celebrates 1812 history


CAPE VINCENT — The village may have sensed a feeling of deja vu as tall ships loomed offshore and cannonballs thundered across the village green.

Cape Vincent is celebrating the War of 1812 bicentennial this weekend during its 13th annual Days on the River event to remind the north country of the skirmishes that took place along the St. Lawrence two centuries ago.

“I had a dream about doing something here because there were a number of skirmishes in the Cape Vincent area,” said co-organizer Patricia A. Regan.

Ms. Regan’s family history includes soldiers from both sides of the St. Lawrence River who were involved in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. As a self-proclaimed history buff, she has studied the battles that took place locally since she was 13.

“I wanted to bring an event together to teach younger people that we did have prime action in the War of 1812,” she said.

The event features encampments of re-enactors, four tall ships and patriotic marching music by Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps. Today, there is an 11 a.m. lecture, “Where the Heck was Gravelly Point?” in the French Town Market, and a 1:15 p.m. lecture, “Pre-1812 Settlement in New York,” at the Cape Vincent Historical Museum.

Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce President and event co-organizer Michael J. Chavoustie is happy he took the risk on the event. Although the village has celebrated Days on the River in previous years, the bicentennial event saw some big changes.

“We brought something in this town that a lot here see as positive,” he said. “We would like to continue the re-enactment if the funding is available.”

The re-enactment began at 1:30 p.m. and lasted for a half hour.

Afterward, the riflemen returned to their tents to clean their guns.

Fred J. Hanss, Potsdam, is a member of Forsyth’s Rifles.

“Our outfit was a lot like modern day Army rangers,” he said.

His “commander,” Timothy W. Cryderman, said events like these give people a different perspective of local history.

“It’s the idea of portraying history to the modern person,” Mr. Cryderman said. “It’s hard to get kids to read books about history these days. This gives them sound and movement.”

It worked to spark interest in some children, like 3-year old Paige E. Maitland.

“I liked when they shooted out of the cannon,” she said.

She was on an outing with her grandparents Patrick J. and Peggy Reilly, Sackets Harbor.

“We were actually here for a boat ride,” said Mrs. Reilly. “We didn’t even know this was happening.”

Even though she has seen many re-enactments in Sackets Harbor, she said, she was impressed with the event.

Some of the local residents had not witnessed an 1812 living history event and were happy for the opportunity.

“We’re local, so we heard about it,” said Sally A. Switzer, Cape Vincent. “We’re here for the re-enactment, which was fun. It’s nice to know the history of your town.”

Ms. Regan said she was hoping 2,000 people would show up for the event. By Saturday afternoon, she said, it was probably close.

Today’s festivities will end at 3:30 p.m. with a closing ceremony.

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