U.S. and Canadian War of 1812 Speakers Spar at Oswego

OSWEGO – America’s first arms race, the cession of Michigan, and the residents of Upper Canada are among the topics presented at the fifth annual Oswego International War of 1812 Symposium scheduled for Friday, April 17 to Sunday, April 19 at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, 26. E. First St.

This year’s Oswego International War of 1812 Symposium, scheduled for April 17, 18 and 19, once again presents a fascinating and esteemed panel of historians from the U.S. and Canada to talk about the struggle along the border. Dr. Jane Errington (pictured) will discuss the war experience from the perspective of civilian Canadians in this region.
This year’s Oswego International War of 1812 Symposium, scheduled for April 17, 18 and 19, once again presents a fascinating and esteemed panel of historians from the U.S. and Canada to talk about the struggle along the border. Dr. Jane Errington (pictured) will discuss the war experience from the perspective of civilian Canadians in this region.

“Our stellar lineup of speakers includes the return of Sandy Antal, Dr. Gary Gibson and the first appearance by Dr. Jane Errington,” said Fort Ontario State Historic Site Superintendent Paul Lear, chairman of the Oswego International War of 1812 Symposium Committee. “Their presentations really shine the light on some of the events and people in this region that made it the major action theatre that it was.”

He added, “From Brock’s cession of Michigan at the start of the war and its effect on the peace talks at the end; to the war-time sentiment and experiences of residents in Upper Canada, what is today the southern region of Ontario; to the construction of the U.S. Navy brig Oneida, right here in Oswego, NY, that began a naval arms race with the British on Lake Ontario, these stories put a face on the war for the audience and they will be fascinated by them.”

Dr. Jane Errington, award-winning author and professor, takes the podium at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 18 with her presentation, “The Home Front of an ‘Unnatural War,’” a study of Upper Canadian residents during the War of 1812.

Many residents, while initially dismayed to learn that they were at war with their closest neighbors, became even more distressed to realize that they could not avoid the demands of war, even if they were not ‘in battle.’

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As victory on the field depended on support from the home front, residents negotiated, profited and coped in various ways with the conflict that invaded their lives.

Dr. Errington is a history professor at Queen’s University and a professor emeritus at the Royal Military College of Canada, both in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

She has penned three award-winning books and her current research explores how the understanding of gender, class and race helped shape colonial societies and cultures, particularly in Upper Canada, Ontario.

After lunch, Dr. Gary Gibson, naval historian and author, discusses the first naval arms race in the history of a young America.

His talk, “America’s First Arms Race: Lake Ontario, 1807-1817” begins at 1:10 p.m. on Saturday and describes the origin and development of this race and the huge effort and amount of money that it required.

By the end of the war, the U.S. had the most powerful navy squadron in service on Lake Ontario and was building two of the largest warships in the world at Sackets Harbor, NY.

Dr. Gibson is a retired computer scientist who has researched the naval history of the War of 1812 for more than 20 years.

He has digitized much of the primary source material he collected, which is now available at Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, Sackets Harbor, NY.

A trustee and past president of Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, Dr. Gibson has authored several publications, including the second edition of his, “Service Records of U.S. Naval and Marine Corps Officers Stationed on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812,” and has presented numerous papers on his research at symposia and meetings in the U.S. and Canada.

Award-winning author and retired Canadian Army Maj. Sandy will share his presentation, “Isaac Brock and the Cession of Michigan,” which chronicles one of the forgotten and enigmatic episodes that played out in the early days of the War of 1812.

Antal closes out the Saturday session at 3:10 p.m. as he details the background and rationale behind British Major General Brock’s seemingly incomprehensible act of ceding Michigan to the British crown after the capture of Detroit and establishes its connection to Tecumseh’s objective of establishing a Native homeland.

Antal served 20 years in the Canadian Army before retiring to focus on teaching, research and writing.

His first work, “A Wampum Denied: Procter’s War of 1812,” known as the first comprehensive account of Anglo-Native operations on the Detroit River, was honored as the “Choice Award” by the American Library Association. He has presented all over the world and appeared in several historical documentaries.

The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 18 and from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, April 19. Students will present research papers in the second annual student competition to open the symposium at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 17.

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.

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 the Fort Ontario State Historic Site, 1 E. Fourth St., Oswego, NY 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, SUNY Oswego Office of Business Relations, IHeartOswego, the Palladium-Times, H. Lee White Marine Museum, Man in the Moon Candies, Oswego County Today, City of Oswego, www.visitoswegony.com, and the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.

For a complete schedule and to download a registration form, go to http://visitoswegocounty.com/historical-info/war-of-1812/war-of-1812-symposium/

For more visitor information, go to www.visitoswegocounty.com or contact the Oswego County Tourism Office at 315-349-8322.