OSWEGO, NY – In 1792, after the Revolutionary War and long before he began his term as the nation’s fourth President, James Madison wrote, “War contains so much folly, as well as wickedness, that much is to be hoped from the progress of reason; and if any thing is to be hoped, every thing ought to be tried.” Ironically, although it is unlikely that he anticipated another war with Great Britain, Madison’s term encompassed the War of 1812, also known as the Second War for Independence.
The decisions that Madison made as U.S. President, and other aspects of the Second War for Independence, will explored in detail April 4 through 6 when 12 historians and several college students present their research at the fourth annual Oswego War of 1812 Symposium at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, 26 E. First St., Oswego.
History lovers, students and professional historians will have a rare opportunity to hear critical analysis of colorful and lesser-known aspects of the war, including the Central New York battles at Oswego and on Big Sandy Creek, the struggle for control of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, and aspects of military and civilian life along the New York State-Canadian frontier.
Dr. John Grodzinski will present “Army versus the Navy: Lieutenant-General Prevost, Commodore Yeo and the Unity of the British War Effort in the Canadas, 1813 – 1815” from 9:50 to 10:30 a.m. on April 5.
An Assistant Professor of history at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, Grodzinski is a popular speaker and has addressed historical groups throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“During the War of 1812, British plans to defend the Canadas were predicated on their dominance of the Great Lakes and the Upper St. Lawrence River,” said Grodzinski. “The arrival of the Royal Navy on the Great Lakes in 1813 greatly enhanced the British capabilities, and ultimately undermined the unity of the British war effort, creating by 1814 an irreconcilable division between the British Army and the Royal Navy. The inability to resolve this command problem resulted in a public scandal that divided British services, while a potentially damaging court martial influenced the post-war defensive plans for British North American, and the historiography of the War of 1812.”
Grodzinski is author of “Defender of Canada: Sir George Prevost and the War of 1812,” and the soon to be released “The 104th (New Brunswick) Regiment of Foot in the War of 1812.”
He has appeared in War of 1812 episodes for PBS “Battlefield Detectives” and consulted for the Discovery Channel and CBC Radio. This year marks Grodzinski’s third appearance at the Oswego War of 1812 Symposium.
Also returning to share his research with Oswego audiences is Michael McGurty, Superintendent of New Windsor Cantonment and Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Sites near Newburgh, NY.
Despite being “misused, misled and sometimes abandoned,” the 100,000 members of the New York State militia managed to redeem themselves in their military duty during the War of 1812.
Their story, “The tools and drudges of the regular troops,” is the topic of McGurty’s lecture from 11:20 a.m. to noon on April 6.
“Though Thomas Jefferson predicted the population disparity between the United states and British North America made the conquest of Quebec ‘a mere matter of marching,’ the Madison administration was incapable of marshaling the nation’s vast resources,” said McGurty. “Over 100,000 strong, the New York Militia alone outnumbered the inhabitants of Upper Canada, but this superiority availed them little. They suffered considerably for the failures of national leadership, but amidst all of the travail, New York’s citizen soldiers did manage to find a measure of redemption.”
McGurty is a recently retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, and has authored several interpretive histories.
He is currently working on a history of the New Windsor Cantonment, where the Continental Army spent their final winter encampment during the Revolutionary War.
He holds a master’s degree in history from SUNY Buffalo.
The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 5 and from 9 a.m. to noon on April 6.
Oswego State University students will present research papers at the opening of the symposium, Friday evening, April 4.
For a complete schedule and to register, go to www.fortontario.com or http://visitoswegocounty.com/historical-info/war-of-1812/war-of-1812-symposium/
Registration for both days is $75 per person or $35 for students with a valid ID. The registration fee includes Saturday’s lunch, refreshment breaks on Saturday and Sunday, and workshop materials. One-day registration is also available: $50 for Saturday, including lunch; or $25 for Sunday. For students with a valid ID, one-day rates are $23 for Saturday, including lunch, or $12 for Sunday.
SUNY Oswego students who register with Dr. Richard Weyhing of the History Department at least one week in advance will have the reservation fee covered.
Advance registration is required and may be paid by check or credit card through the Friends of Fort Ontario. Contact Lear at 315-343-4711 for credit card payments Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Checks should be made payable to “Friends of Fort Ontario – 1812” and mailed to Fort Ontario State Historic Site, 1 E. Fourth St., Oswego, N.Y. 13126.
Special room rates for symposium attendees are available at the Best Western Plus Captain’s Quarters Hotel, 26 E. First St., Oswego.
Please call the hotel at 315-342-4040 and mention the Oswego War of 1812 Symposium.
The symposium is sponsored by the Friends of Fort Ontario, Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, Oswego County Tourism Advisory Council, Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, Pathfinder Bank, SUNY Oswego Office of Business Relations, IHeartOswego, the Palladium-Times, H. Lee White Marine Museum, Man in the Moon Candies, WCNY-TV, Dot Publishing, Oswego County Today, City of Oswego, and the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.
For visitor information, go to www.visitoswegocounty.com or contact the Oswego County Tourism Office at 315-349-8322.