Sunday, September 13

War of 1812 Reenactment - Battle of Backus Mills

Backus Mills Conservation Area is located not far from Port Dover. In 1798, John Backus built a grist mill on the site. It is the one of a few mills that weren't burned during the War of 1812.

The Battle of Backus Mills was a turning point in the War of 1812. Sentries were posted in pairs along the shores of Lake Erie and they had orders that when they saw American ships, they were to run back and let their commander know. This let the Americans to believe that the British were cowards.

I discovered that there was going to be a reenactment at Backus Mills today. Hubby and I decided we would go. The weather was to be nice and since we had really enjoyed a Civil War reenactment a few years ago, we thought it would be nice to learn more about this battle.

We arrived at the conservation area, parked and then started walking. I had been to Backus Mills once when I was a child, but had forgotten how far you have to walk. We went down a hill and saw the mill right in front of us. It ceased being a working mill in 1955, but today it is a National Historic Site.
This pond is across a little wooden bridge from the mill. A tranquil place and it is stocked with fish.

This is the sluice of the mill. The water was crystal clear.

Another view of the mill, the sluice and the water wheel.

If you look closely, you can see the water wheel just at the back corner of the mill.

This is the John Backus House. It was just up the hill from the mill and John Backus would have been able to see the mill from the front porch.

Just past the house is where the sutlers had set up. One woman was making kitchen hooks. Others had coffee pots and other household items.

The people who take part in the reenactments camp on the grounds. Quite often the entire family is involved. There were people of every age taking part.
Here come the Americans. They are preparing for battle.

And here are the British at the opposite end of the field. While they stood there, the Americans attacked.

The British are trying to push the Americans back. Here is the first fatality.

The British are gaining ground. They have the Indians as their allies.
The British still trying to push the Americans back. They are gaining ground, but can't break through the American lines.

The Americans are retreating. The drummer boys were very young, just as they were in the original battle.
Americans on the run. They are going to head around and try to ambush the British in a different spot.
These three young men are Americans. The narrator explained that the Americans didn't have the cloth to always have blue uniforms. Sometimes they were grey and yes, even green. The British also had a shortage of cloth and dressed some of their troops in green. This caused great confusion.

American officers rounding up their men for the retreat. Notice the Native lodges in the background. This is where the Native people taking part in the battle were staying. I would have liked to have been able to get closer, but it wasn't possible with retreating American soldiers everywhere.
We walked back down the hill, past the Backus house and crossed the wooden bridge. There is a small dam there. It looked so refreshing.

Across the path from the dam is this gazebo with the old hand pump and trough in front of it. That old pump brought back memories.

We saw these two Americans on the way to the second part of the battle. They are just beginning to take part in the reenactments.
The Americans are taking a stand and other troops are in the woods, trying to hold the British back.

The light blue flag has the most beautiful picture of an eagle on it. Notice the commanding officer stays behind the troops.
More casualties. The smoke was thick on the battlefield. The narrator explained that these men didn't need camouflauge, as often the smoke was so thick they couldn't see the enemy.
The British are gaining ground once more and pushing the Americans back.

More casualties. Those who are "killed" stay on the ground for a while, but not for the entire battle.
Thick smoke and this is only from the muskets, not from the cannons. When they resounded, the narrator warned us to cover our ears with the palms of our hands and open our mouths. The sound of those cannons was loud and the ground vibrated so much that if you were standing nearby, it almost knocked you off your feet.
Checking the fallen to see if any of them are alive.
Only one of them survived and these young drummer boys helped him off the field. The crowd cheered them on.
The Americans are on the run and theBritish have won the Battle of Backus Mills.

After it was all over, the narrator (standing at attention) explained that the reenactors don't condone war but instead do the reenactments to keep history alive. The band in the background is playing a lament and the crowd was asked to remain silent at this time.

It was a little warm when we were walking over to the second half of the battle, but it took place around the woods. There was a pavilion there and lots of trees. We met a couple from Jamestown, New York and enjoyed talking to them. Both spectators and reenactors traveled to Backus Mills this weekend from all over North America.

Hubby and I certainly enjoyed the day. It was nice to get away for a while and step back in time to witness the things that the soldiers and their families went through during this time in history.

I wish all of my friends and readers a great week.


  1. What an interesting thing to go to. You got some great photos too!

  2. Yet another excellent post -entertaining and educational with terrific photos to show even more information!

  3. Mary! Mary!! This post was just plain terrific.

    Loved the scenery and the photos of the reenactment. What a glorious day for you both. Awesome, just awesome.

    [That area around the Mill is absolutely beautiful...I can hear the water running off the mill wheel!]

    Hope this time my link will work for you. [I'm beginning to think that perhaps it was that I wasn't signed in and just used the Name/URI sign in on the 'comment as'. But, who knows what technology is doing these days]

    I woke up early this morning and am taking a good advantage of catching up on my blogger buddies!

  4. That looks like fun. I didn't know that there were battles around Lake Erie.

  5. Thank you for sharing this great adventure. I was so absorbed with each photo, it actually shocked me to see the two Americans on horseback in from of modern day automobiles. LOL

  6. Interesting look at a bit of history most of us have never heard of, most likely. I'm in the third book of a Civil War trilogy and the descriptions of the battles are so disturbing.

    Have a wonderful week!

  7. Now that sounds like a perfect day to me!! I love stuff like this. It must have been so exciting to watch the re-enactment but I probably would have cried to see all those getting "killed"! lol Loved seeing all the pictures, dear Mary, and it's one place I'll have to drag Steve to one day. hehe xoxo

  8. I'd like to go to a reenactment some day. The pictures of the mill and water wheel were great. I found records where my gr gr gr grandpa was in the War of 1812.

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