Walking in history’s footsteps

Oct 3 • Feature Story, Local NewsNo Comments on Walking in history’s footsteps

 

Marchers – volunteers and staff from Fort Malden National Historic Site – arrive in Chatham in the afternoon of Oct. 2 after walking from Tilbury in the morning. The Caldwell's Western Rangers started their historical walk earlier this week, re-enacting the 1812 retreat from Fort Amherstburg to the site of the Battle of The Thames on Oct. 4.

Marchers – volunteers and staff from Fort Malden National Historic Site – arrive in Chatham in the afternoon of Oct. 2 after walking from Tilbury in the morning. The Caldwell’s Western Rangers started their historical walk earlier this week, re-enacting the 1812 retreat from Fort Amherstburg to the site of the Battle of The Thames on Oct. 4.

With determination and sore feet, four 1812 re-enactment marchers made their way to Tecumseh Park on Wednesday afternoon, after a long 20-kilometre journey on foot.

Dressed in military uniform and carrying items such as water and muskets, the Caldwell’s Western Rangers are marking the bicentennial of the retreat from Amherstburg to their final stop, the Battle of The Thames towards Moraviantown.

However, that journey is not over for the volunteers and staff from the Fort Malden National Historic Site.

Two more days are left until they wrap up their incredible march along the very same route approximately 10,000 to 12,000 people, including an array of soldiers and their families, would have taken exactly 200 years ago.

Natives, loyalists from Essex County and some of their families joined the soldiers on the retreat to avoid ending up under U.S. control.

According to historic interpreter Doug Robinson, when the weeklong trek is finished, marchers will have walked close to 150 kilometres since starting on Sept. 26.

Interpretive officer Alex Dale of the Fort Malden National Historic Site, and one of the marchers, said he had the idea for the walk for years, having been interested in the War of 1812 for more than a decade.

Carrying 25 kilograms of clothing and other items, Dale said everyone involved had to prepare physically beforehand.

“We practised all summer long and the winter as well,” said Dale. “We had to train or else we knew we would be absolutely crippled.”

With most of the marchers unable to participate in each day of retreat, Dale said numbers are expected to swell to 15 by the weekend.

While the hardest challenge of this experience has been the physical aspect of walking with sore feet, Dale and his comrades understand how much harder it would have been for the actual people of the time.

“We’re not being chased by an army,” said Dale with a laugh.

In addition, once arriving in Chatham, the soldiers would not have likely had the luxury of many supplies and the use of tents like the modern day re-creators, instead having to sleep on the hard ground.

“These guys were tired, cold, hungry, dispirited and on a retreat,” said Dale. “It wasn’t like this was a happy time. Not only that, it was a frightening time for the families as well.”

After the march is complete on Friday, Dale will walk away with a unique sense of accomplishment.

“To a minor extent, I have walked in the steps of history, literally.”

 

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