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Havre de Grace set for War of 1812 Commemoration Weekend

Costumes are prepared, logistics are finalized, attendees are reconfirmed – just some of the many preparations Havre de Grace officials and volunteers made earlier this week in final preparation for the city to receive thousands of visitors for the Attack on Havre de Grace Commemoration Weekend.

"It looks like it's going to be a successful event," Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty said Monday.

The events, which begin Friday afternoon and last through Sunday afternoon, will commemorate Havre de Grace's involvement in the War of 1812, with a focus on the May 3, 1813 raid by British troops.

This weekend's War of 1812 events will coincide with the 32nd Annual Decoy & Wildlife Festival. About 125 artists, decoy carvers and others will be on hand at Havre de Grace Middle School and the Havre de Grace Activity Center on Lewis Lane.

The festival is presented by the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. Events take place from 6 to 9 p.m Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, according to the Havre de Grace tourism website.

There will also be activities for children, auctions, food and retriever dog demonstrations.

"That's also going to be a major event," said Dougherty, who explained that final preparations are being made for the decoy festival as well the War of 1812 commemoration.

The main event on Saturday for the War of 1812 festivities will be a re-enactment of the British raid on the city in 1813.

Despite efforts by local militiamen to repel the invaders, the British – who were under the leadership of Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Cockburn – prevailed.

The invaders fought the townspeople from the present-day location of the Concord Point Lighthouse and then battled through the city to the northern outskirts of town where the Susquehanna Museum at the Lock House sits today. The British took over the city and looted and destroyed much of it, burning all but a handful of homes.

'Lighthouse to lock house'

"This event is planned so it is from lighthouse to lock house," Brigitte Peters, tourism and marketing manager for the city and co-chair of the War of 1812 Committee, explained in an interview last month. "The event is happening right in the heart of our city." The lighthouse is at the southern end of the city and the lock house at the northern end.

British forces conducted similar actions in communities along the Chesapeake Bay in 1813 as a prelude to their campaign in 1814, when they sought the capture of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

Events will be held in those communities through next summer to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the various raids.

This weekend's events in Havre de Grace serve as the kickoff to the Maryland's Chesapeake Campaign commemorations.

"It's great for [Star Spangled] 200, to be the kickoff point [of the Chesapeake Campaign," Dougherty said.

Peters described the invasion of Havre de Grace as "one of the first major attacks at the top of the Bay, which all led to what happened at Fort McHenry in 1814."

The British were successful in taking Washington and burning the White House and Capitol in 1914 before moving north to invade Baltimore, where their troops were repelled at the Battle of North Point.

British naval forces were eventually stopped at Ft. McHenry at the entrance to the Baltimore Harbor. Despite an all-night bombardment, the American troops garrisoned in Ft. McHenry did not surrender. The sight of the U.S. flag still flying the next morning stirred Key to pen "The Star Spangled Banner," while being detained on a British ship where he had gone to negotiate the release of a friend who had been captured earlier in the conflict.

The National Park Service and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority provided about $150,000 in grants to Havre de Grace city officials to assist with preparations for this year's commemoration.

The money went to projects such as signage along the waterfront and exhibits.

"[The funds were] kept within our businesses, as much as we could, as far as creating the signage, the graphic arts, the illustrations, the woodworking," Peters said.

Friday events

Havre de Grace's Commemoration Weekend begins at 3 p.m. Friday with the arrival of the tall ships Pride of Baltimore II and Sultana at the city waterfront, according to the city's tourism website.

Havre de Grace Main Street will hold the season's initial First Friday events downtown from 5 to 10 p.m., with the theme being a tribute to the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 Celebration Welcome Dinner takes place at 7 p.m. in the Vandiver Inn on Union Street.

Saturday events

The re-enactment of the 1813 raid begins at 10:30 a.m. at the lighthouse grounds near Concord and Lafayette Streets.

The re-enactment lasts through 3 p.m. and will include a performance by the Ft. McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corps, a raising of an 1812-era "Star Spangled Banner" U.S. flag, re-enactors dressed as British soldiers clashing with re-enactors dressed as local militiamen and more.

The re-enactors will clash with each other in a running mock battle through the city streets until the militia's final stand at the grounds of the Lock House.

The tall ships will open at 1 p.m., and a military march will be held through the city to the downtown area at 3 p.m.

A "Grace Under Fire" Regency Ball will be held at 5 p.m., and the commemoration ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. on the lighthouse grounds.

The ceremony will include a performance by The Columbia Orchestra – with selections such as Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" – and fireworks.

Sunday events

Events Sunday will begin bright and early with the 7 a.m. Red Coat Run 5K race.

A Kayak Poker Run will be held at 10 a.m., registration begins at 9 a.m.

A Sunday service in the style of the 1800s will take place at St. John's Episcopal Church starting at 10:30 a.m., followed by a reception.

"I just love the town and love the friendliness and the openness of the people here, and I think that Havre de Grace is really going to be on the map," St. John's member Camay Calloway Murphy, who has been researching the church's history, especially around the time of the War of 1812, told The Aegis in March.

The church was looted by British troops during the invasion.

Tours of the tall ships will be available for a final time at 11 a.m.

'Stepping up to the plate'

Dougherty said numerous entities in Havre de Grace, from the city police department to the Susquehanna Hose Company, the city's Ambulance Corps, the Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street group, local museums, city commissions, even individual residents, are "stepping up to the plate" in preparing for this weekend's events.

"It's an accumulation of everybody stepping up to the plate and making sure the event is going to be successful," he said.

"Most of all, we can't thank the citizens enough," Dougherty added. "We have gotten nothing, nothing but great remarks from citizens."

The mayor noted the Commemoration Weekend was mentioned in a recent issue of AAA Magazine, "in bold."

"It's a destination to come to," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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