Historic Fort Ontario

Fort Ontario Annual Conference

Fort Ontario Conference on History and Archaeology

Conference focuses on Human Conflict and Warfare in North America –

Annual Fort Ontario Conference on History and Archaeology Set for March 30-31, 2019.

OSWEGO, NY – The annual Fort Ontario Conference on History and Archaeology will be held at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, 26 E. First St., Oswego, Saturday and Sunday, March 30 and 31.  The conference explores new perspectives on warfare and human conflict in North America from its first appearance in the archaeological record around 5000 BCE to the Global War on Terror.

This year the conference features a slate of six speakers on Saturday who will deliver illustrated presentations on the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Fort Ontario, and 18th century waterways.  There will also be historical and promotional exhibits, a special exhibit of clothing, uniforms, weapons, and accoutrements of the U.S. Cavalry during the Indian Wars (1866 – 1890) by the Continental Army Collectors Association, authors book signings, and book and memorabilia sales.  On Sunday, a guided bus tour will take participants to forts and sites of lesser known military activity along the Oswego-Oneida-Mohawk water route from Oswego to Rome, NY.

The conference opens on Saturday, March 30 at 8:30 a.m. with an illustrated lecture by historian Corey S. King on the “History of the Fort Ontario Post Cemetery.”  King will discuss his research on previous locations of military cemeteries at Oswego, the history of the existing post cemetery, information on the people buried in it, and the fight to stop their removal after the fort was decommissioned in 1946.

Archaeologist L. Paul Beers will follow with “Fort Pork Barrel, the Battle of Cranberry Creek, 1813,” a talk describing his metal detector survey, mapping, and artifacts discovered during his work on the battlefield site. On July 13, 1813, an American raiding party intercepted British schooners transporting materials on the St. Lawrence River.  After confiscating the supplies, the British pursued the Americans into Goose Bay, and up Cranberry Creek near Alexandria Bay.  A force of 50 Americans prepared and launched a surprise attack on the approximately 250 British soldiers pursuing them, forcing them to retreat after inflicting heavy casualties.  There will also be an exhibit of artifacts recovered from the battlefield.

After a break for lunch, 23-year U.S. Army veteran and retired deputy director of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Richard Barbuto, Ph.D will speak about the American homefront in western New York during the War of 1812.  In his talk, “December 1813: the Burning of the Niagara Frontier,” Barbuto will discuss the violence brought by raiding British soldiers and their native allies along the 37-mile long Niagara River, and their most destructive military operation in December, 1813.  When it was over, every American home along the river was burned except one, and hundreds of Americans were forced to flee into the wintry forests.  Five months later the British attacked Oswego, and rumors of native allies accompanying them and the threat of renewed destruction and depredation caused residents of the village and countryside to flee in terror.

In “Bullets and Battlefield Debris:  What Battlefield Archaeology has taught us about the Battle of Blue Licks (1782) and the Battle of the Crater (1864), Battlefield Archaeologist Adrian Mandzy Ph.D of Morehead State University at Lexington, Kentucky, will share some of the stories and discoveries relating to his study of two battlefields in the United States.  The Battle of Blue Licks took place on Aug. 19, 1782 and is commonly known as the “Last Battle of the American Revolution.” Fought in east central Kentucky, the engagement resulted in the deaths of 77 colonists, including Daniel Boone’s son Israel and Col. John Todd, the great uncle of Mary Todd Lincoln.

The Battle of the Crater was one of the most important military engagements of the American Civil War.  Fought on July 30, 1864, the ambitious Union plan sought to break the Confederate defenses surrounding the City of Peterburg by blowing up a mine and then launching IX Corps through the gap.  While much has been written on the failed assault and subsequent slaughter of African-American troops, Mandzy’s team was able to demonstrate the extent of the Union advance and bring together a variety of sources to provide the first comprehensive understanding of the engagement.

Richard Weyhing, Ph.D, of the History Department at SUNY Oswego, has prepared an original program, “The Marquis de Montcalm and the `Honors of War’ in Europe and North America,” for the conference.  Although most famous for his ultimately fatal involvement in the North American theater of the Seven Years War, the Marquis de Montcalm (1712 – 1759) had distinguished himself as an officer in the French army during the Wars of Polish and Austrian Succession in Europe (1733-38, 1740-48), prior to accepting command over the King’s forces in New France in 1756.  During these conflicts Montcalm served in an array of major engagements, sustained multiple wounds, endured captivity as a POW, and was made a knight of the Order of St. Louis.  Weyhing will consider how Montcalm’s earlier experiences later shaped his conduct as a commander in North America, where he attempted to uphold prevailing European ideals of military “honor” that often clashed with the values of longstanding colonial and Native American cultures of war.

Arthur L. Simmons III, Executive Director of the Rome Historical Society, will present “Fortifying the Oneida Carrying Place, 1755 – 1759,” as the final talk of the conference.  The Oneida Carry was the passage between the westernmost navigable part of the Mohawk River to the navigable part of Wood Creek that led to Oneida Lake, the Oswego River, and Oswego on Lake Ontario.  Simmons will illustrate the numerous fortifications that the British had built on “The Carry” between 1755 and 1759.  These forts included Fort Bull, Fort Craven, Fort Williams, Fort Newport, and the first construction of Fort Stanwix.  He will also explore more in depth the Battle of Fort Bull, which was attacked and destroyed by the French and their Native Allies on March 27, 1756, as part of a successful French campaign to impede British communications, supply, and troop movements to their forts and fleet at Oswego.

The Sunday bus trip will depart promptly from the Lake Ontario Event and Conference at 8:30 a.m. and return around 5 p.m. Participants are encouraged to dress appropriately as the bus tour is a rain, shine, or snow event.  Lunch and snacks will be provided. The number of seats available on the buses is limited to 64.

Pre-registration and payment is required for Saturday and Sunday activities.  Registration for Saturday is $35 and is the same for Sunday’s bus tour.  Registration for both days is $60. The student rate is $25 for Saturday, and $35 for Sunday.  Payment may be made on the Friends of Fort Ontario website.  For more information, to request a complete conference schedule, or arrange for registration and payment by check or credit card, call (315) 343-4711, or email Caroline.Lamie@parks.ny.gov or Paul.Lear@parks.ny.gov.

Updates on the conference will be posted on the Friends of Fort Ontario Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FortOntario/.

For more Oswego County history and events, go to www.visitoswegocounty.com or call 1-800-248-4FUN (4386).  State Parks generate $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs.  For more information on any of these recreation areas call (315) 474-0456, or visit www.nysparks.com, connect on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.

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