OSWEGO, NY – In commemoration of Flag Day, a display of the many flags that have flown over Fort Ontario and the United States will be exhibited and explained by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Oswego Lodge #271.
More than 250 school children will be at the old fort on June 14 at 10 a.m.
Following this, interpreters dressed as British troops of the Revolutionary War will take down the Kings Colors and Continental troops will run up the American flag in a recreation of the peaceful transfer of power that occurred at Fort Ontario in 1796.
Members of the military interpretive unit of the Continental Arms Collector’s Association, representing the 1st New York Regiment of 1781, will portray the American troops.
There will also be living history displays and musket firing demonstrations after the program.
Regular admission fees will be charged for the Flag Day event; school groups are invited to register at the student rate of $1 per student, chaperone and teacher.
Teachers may call 343-4711 to make reservations or contact [email protected]
The first known flag in Oswego was the British Union Jack which flew over Fort Oswego from 1727 until it and forts Ontario and George were destroyed in an overwhelming French attack in 1756, during the French and Indian War.
Ironically the flag of the victorious French was a plain white flag – now the usual token of surrender!
French forces in North America were under the Department of the Marine and the white ensign was the symbol of the high seas.
In fact, a small naval fleet on Lake Ontario under Captain Rene LaForce flew this flag.
The more familiar fleur-de-lis was not used in America at this time, except on regimental banners.
For a brief time both the British and French flew white flags as the English negotiated surrender terms.
Fort Ontario was rebuilt in 1759 following the pentagon shape that is still seen today.
Abandoned for many years, the fort was burned in a massive fire by a party of American raiders during the Revolutionary War in 1779.
Among these were members of the 3rd New York Continentals whose regimental colors were eventually adopted as the New York State flag.
In 1796, when the US took possession of Fort Ontario, a 15 star-15 stripe flag was flown from the northwest bastion.
This would be the scene of a fierce fight in 1814 when British troops stormed the fort.
American marksmen picked off three attackers scaling the flagpole before the fourth ripped off the large garrison flag and replaced it with the British.
This captured flag is still in existence and housed in a castle in Scotland as a war trophy.
As the nation developed and more states were added to the union the number of stars increased until 48 graced the flag.
The US Army finally removed that flag in April 1946 when the post was closed.
The history of Fort Ontario, located at the north end of East Fourth Street in Oswego, parallels the history of the US and as such is an ideal location to portray the evolution of Old Glory.
In addition to attending the Flag Day observance, visitors may tour the forts buildings, ramparts and casemates.
For more information about NYS Parks, visit www.nysparks.com or about Fort Ontario, visit www.fortontario.com