Jul 18, 2013 - 4:07 pm
Cars and buses filled with tourists buzz up and down Lundy's Lane heading to the falls or home after a day of sightseeing.
Unbeknownst to them they are whizzing by what is one of the most historic sites in the city. Just a stone's throw away is the quiet solitude of Drummond Hill Cemetery. Nestled right next door to what was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812 the Battle of Lundy's Lane. Created in 1799, the cemetery actually predates the three-year conflict by more than a decade. It's the final resting place to war heroes, city fathers, early settlers in what is now Niagara Falls and daredevils.
Even William Lundy, for whom Lundy's Lane is named, is buried there.
The problem is, no one knows exactly where, according to Niagara Falls city historian Sherman Zavitz.
He was re-interred somewhere else (in Drummond Hill) for some reason, Zavitz said. There's no marker. He's under here somewhere.
The cemetery is also the final resting place of Laura Secord, (Sept. 13, 1775 to Oct. 17, 1868) whose famous trek to warn the British of an impending attack by the Americans resulted in a British victory at the Battle of Beaverdams.
It was on June 21, 1813 when Secord decided she had warn the British forces at Beaverdams after overhearing the American plans. She set out the following morning on a 32-kilometre trek to warn Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon, leader of the British forces in the area, of the impending attack.
And thus, a legend was born.
The stone needs some work, Zavitz said as he examined the massive stone monument that marks not only Laura's grave, but that of her husband, James, who was wounded in the Battle of Queenston Heights. The stone is not the original, however, Zavitz said.
The original stones are at Holy Trinity Church in Chippawa, where she and James attended.
Currently at the gravesite is a stone that was created in 1901 by the Ontario Historical Society.
There are also graves for American soldiers many of whom are unknown who were killed in the Lundy's Lane battle, which took place partially under the cover of darkness in July 25, 1814.
(General Gordon) Drummond in the late afternoon came from Chippawa up the Portage Road and quickly organized troops on top of the hill facing the southeast, Zavitz said, pointing toward an area now dominated by high-rise hotels. The Americans were not expecting to see the British and Canadian forces when they arrived.
Three times the Americans attacked and were repelled, but not before the Americans outflanked Drummond's forces in a night attack and captured the general's gun battery.
The Americans then withdrew to the north and left the guns behind, Zavitz said. The first thing Drummond did was reclaim the guns.
In the end, the battle claimed 84 British lives with the wounded numbering 559. There were 169 British captured and 55 missing. American numbers were 171 dead, 572 wounded and 110 missing.
It was close, very severe, Zavitz said. Very bloody.
American Army Captain Abraham Fuller Hull, one of the U.S. casualties, is buried at Drummond Hill along with the unknown soldiers.
British officer Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Bishop, who died in the Battle of Black Rock in July 1814, is also buried in Drummond Hill.
There are a few artifacts found on the battlefield on display at the Niagara Falls History Museum, just a short march down Ferry Street from the cemetery.
There was a lot left behind on the battlefield, Sara Byers, assistant curator at the museum, says as she points to artifacts on display, which include uniform fragments, musket balls, flints, buttons and even a tooth.
This is where, when we give tours to school kids, we tell them that war was a messy thing.
The biggest find at the site has been the remains of a soldier's tunic. With its former bright red colour now faded to tan, the tunic is in Ottawa for preservation treatment. The fragments at the museum were a part of the same find. They were located with the remains of 11 soldiers from the 89th and 103rd regiments. The remains were discovered on Sept. 3, 1891.
Next year will mark 200 years since the Battle of Lundy's Lane. On the 199th anniversary this year, an event Hear the Cannons Roar! has been set for July 25. Some 199 years to the day of the battle, cannon fire will once again ring out on the battlefield as four cannons manned by the 2nd Lincoln Artillery are fired for 30 minutes. Serving as a kickoff to a year-long countdown to the milestone anniversary of the battle, the event will also feature Theatre Ensemble from Windsor, who will perform Spirit of a Nation on the Lundy's Lane Battlefield. Both of these events are free to attend. A few days later on July 28, The Lundy's Lane Historical Society plans a memorial service on what remains of the historic battlefield on July 28.
Another all-ages theatrical presentation will take place at the Niagara Falls History Museum on July 27 at 10 a.m., when it presents Petticoats, Boots and Muskets. The museum will also host Regency Style Country Dancing on July 11 and Impersonating 1812 on July 18 as part of @ the Museum Thursday Night offerings.
Visitors will meet a cast of characters from 1812 and partake in dance, a mini militia and more. Visitors to the Battle Ground Hotel from July 26 to 28 will get to make their very own shako to take home with them.
Meanwhile, the Niagara Falls Library will showcase its collection of art of the War of 1812 in the Rosberg Gallery.
Sara Byers, assistant curator at the Niagara Falls History Museum, gingerly handles what remains of a small box that once belonged to a soldier who fought in the Battle of Lundy's Lane. July 25 marks the 199th anniversary of the battle, said to be one of the bloodiest of the War of 1812.
Remains of a soldiers tunic which were found at the Lundy's Lane Battlefield in September 1891.