Reenactments of the French and Indian War planned

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Most Americans don't know the details of lesser-known wars in U.S. history. For example, take the War of 1812: Dolly Madison's house in Washington was burned by the British, Francis Scott Key used the occasion to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" and Andrew Jackson, as celebrated in song, won big at the Battle of New Orleans. (Never mind that this took place after the war had ended.)

But what about the French and Indian War? How many of us realize that this war helped set the stage for the American Revolution? Who remembers that it was our first "world war," part of a larger French-English conflict in Europe called the Seven Years War? Who knows that it was started by a young man named George Washington? You have to pay close attention to realize that all the blood and gore in James Fenimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans" was part of the French and Indian War.

Many of this war's battles raged across the state of New York. The French turf the English wanted, and won, included parts of New York as well as French Canada.

And now, 250 years later ...

Two hundred and fifty years later, New York's Anniversary Commemoration Commission is charged with raising awareness of a slice of U.S. history -- and, not incidentally, ensuring that the New York tourism industry benefits. This effort entails a string of commemorative events to run through 2010, 

New York is loaded with strategically important waterways, including the Great Lakes, where the French and British built forts and then fought over them.

Today, New York's Division of Tourism is handing out flyers describing 16 historically significant sites associated with the French and Indian War.

The war-related sites include the Crailo State Historic Site near Albany, the Dutch manor house where "Yankee Doodle" was written; TW.com photo by Nadine GodwinOld Fort Niagara near Buffalo, which was wrested from the French after a British siege in 1759; Fort Ontario near Rochester, a staging area for the British; and Fort Ticonderoga in the Adirondack region, the southernmost fort in France's North American empire.

The commission scheduled 15 events across the state for 2006, and two remain: a living history encampment, Sept. 15 to 17 at Lake George Village (giving access to the Lake George Battlefield and Fort William Henry) and a reenactment encampment, Sept. 23 to 24 at Fort Edward. Both are in the Adirondacks.

Signature events

Most of next year's activities have not been announced, but the big, signature events were scheduled well in advance and are worth planning itineraries around, especially for groups.

The biggest event will last more than two weeks and involve more than 1,000 re-enactors from the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The four scheduled signature events follow.

  • The reenactment of the 1757 siege of Fort William Henry takes place Sept. 15 and 16, 2007. The siege ended with the fort's surrender to the French under Marquis de Montcalm. This is the central historical event in "The Last of the Mohicans."

  • The commemoration of Fort Ticonderoga's Battle of Carillon takes place June 21 to July 8, 2008. A reenactment of the greatest French victory in the war on July, 8, 1758 will include replicas of camps.

  • The reenactment of the 1759 capture of Old Fort Niagara by the British takes place July 3 to 5, 2009. The surrender of this fort gave the British access to the Great Lakes region. Visitors will see living history camps and naval vessels.

  • The reenactment of the attack on Fort Levis at Ogdensburg in northern New York is scheduled for July 17 and 18, 2010. Participants will commemorate the surrender of a 400-man French garrison on Aug. 26, 1760, after the French held out 10 days against a 12,000-man British force.
  • For copies of flyers, call (800) 225-5697. Information on commemorative anniversary events is online at www.iloveny.com.

    To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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