Fort Malden staff march to and participate in Battle of the Thames



Alex DaleBy Ron Giofu

(Photo courtesy of Barry Evans)

The large re-enactment of the Battle of the Thames that occurred earlier this month included some staff and volunteers from Fort Malden National Historic Site.

However, it was how they got there that proved to be significant.

Alex Dale, interpretive officer with Fort Malden, was joined by three others as they re-enacted the 1813 retreat from Amherstburg with that re-enactment ending at the Battle of the Thames site. Dale said the original retreat not only involved hundreds of British soldiers but wives and families as well.

“We felt it needed to be captured,” said Dale. “It needed to be commemorated.”

Dale said plans started a couple of years ago to plan something unique and the social migration from Amherstburg in the fall of 1813 stood out.

“We really felt it needed to be recreated,” he said.

The walk actually began Sept. 26 and saw it go to the Duff-Baby House in Windsor on the first day where Dale estimates the group spoke to roughly 100 school children. With the help of the Provincial Marine, the group was transported on the water to Puce Road the next day where the walk continued.

Other stops along the way included the Maidstone Museum, St. Peter’s Church in St. Joachim, Tecumseh Park in Chatham, Ferguson Park in Thamesville before entering the Battlefield of Moraviantown. With the co-operation of the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, Dale added they even got to sleep in a school one night with that school being Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Elementary School in Stoney Point.

“It gave us a chance to bring our show on the road,” said Dale. “We’d do five hours (of walking) and immediately do two hours of school programming right away.”

There were logistical challenges that had to be overcome, he noted, including where to take bathroom breaks while on the road. While the march was sometimes challenging, Dale said he kept himself going by thinking of the people who did the walk 200 years ago without the aid of municipal roads.

The Battle of the Thames was “a great weekend altogether,” he added, and also included other Parks Canada volunteers from places as Woodside, Fort George and Point Pelee.

“We met some really cool contacts along the way,” Dale added. “It was a really cool experience all along the route.”

The four “core” volunteers that took part in the retreat were joined by volunteers on weekends from as far as London, Toronto and Ottawa. Dale pointed out many are still in high school or university so they could only march on weekends. Barry Evans and Dan Fox were also credited for helping out “behind the scenes” by driving vehicles that included an RV.

Dale said he has been performing re-enactments for approximately 20 years and while he said he greatly enjoys reading about it, doing such re-enactments as the retreat and the Battle of the Thames is “so much more enlightening.”

While he did train for the recent retreat, he admits “I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked to have been.” That said, he enjoyed the retreat re-creation.

“It was a very, very cool experience,” said Dale. “It was certainly the most ambitious experience I’ve ever taken on or will ever take on.”

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