Two hundred years ago at Fort George in Ontario, deafening cannons and the pop of musket fire could be heard from afar. On a recent Saturday, those same sounds came from a field outside the fort. No, the war has not started up again. It was simply the Scout Brigade of Fort George, a scouting event organized by Scouts Canada, where about 2,000 scouts from both sides of the border played re-enactment games inspired by the War of 1812.
The 2012 edition of the event was held last month, but this one was special: the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. This camp-out has been happening every third weekend in September since 1984. The American Scouts are the American soldiers, and the Canadian Scouts play the British soldiers.
The Scouts arrived on a Friday night and set up their camp, much like soldiers did 200 years ago. After they set up their tents, they hung out for a little bit but many of the Scouts turned in early, as they knew how tiring the next day would be.
On Saturday, the scouts rose at 7 a.m. sharp to convene for breakfast with other members of their troop. Following their breakfast, the Scouts gathered in their ranks and at 8:30 began to march to Fort George. The scouts always bring their own muskets from home, with caps as ammunition to create a more genuine battle scene. When they arrived at the fort, they held the Opening Ceremonies. After that was the Morning Programme, where the Scouts learned how to march and fire correctly. At around noon, the Scouts hiked back to their camp for lunch.
After lunch, many of the campers' favorite part was up next: the parade through Niagara-on-the-Lake.
"My favorite part is the parade," said Cameron Isaacs, a sophomore at Clarence High School and a member of Boy Scout Troop 27.
Cameron has been coming to the Fort George event for two years and said he really enjoys it.
The campers parade through town to a schoolyard, and then get an hour and a half of free time in the town.
After the parade, the Scouts march back to their campsites and quickly get ready for the afternoon battle in the Main Field, a large hilly area with many prickly weeds scattered throughout. The objective of the game was to capture the other team's flag, through battle maneuvers and intricate pre-battle strategy.
For Collin Palmer, this was his favorite part of the weekend.
"They're really exciting," Collin says of the battles.
Collin is also a member of Troop 27 and a sophomore at Clarence.
"This year, I got to be the colors," he said. "The colors are the flags, so if the British capture them, we lose."
Basically, the battles work like this: One team is on offense and one team is on defense. The team on offense, which happened to be the British during the first two battles, tries to capture the defending team's flag. Opponents fire their cap muskets at each other, trying to take out the other team so they can get closer to the flag, or keep intruders away. After the first two battles (in which the British were victorious), the Scouts marched back to their campsite for dinner, which consisted of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, and beans.
The Scouts then geared up for the Fudge Shop, a tent filled with – well, that's self-explanatory. The line can have campers waiting for up to an hour for the famous fudge, with so many people wanting the delicious dessert that some people at the end of the line might not get any.
Also on Saturday night was a movie, lanyard making, patch trading and even a concert in the Main Field, which the pop of muskets and smoke had filled only three hours before.
On Sunday, Scouts woke up for breakfast at 7 a.m., and at 8:30 they formed for the march to Fort George, for the famed Battle for Fort George. This battle was the same format as Saturday. This time, instead of the American Scouts being on defense, they were attacking for the British flag.
"The battles are definitely my favorite part," says Nick Wright, another member of Troop 27 and an eighth-grader at Clarence Middle School. "It was a fierce battle."
The Americans were slightly more successful on Sunday: They split the two battles.
"A lot of the new recruits thought the weekend was very tiring, but in the end they'll always be happy they went," Nick said.