Ghosts of 1812 is the title of a novel written by Mason Winfield. Mason was gracious and allowed Bob Lennartz to review the book. The review follows.
Special forces enter a village and destruction and mayhem is the order of the day. The War is unpopular and many people at the time and years after do not have a good understanding of why the conflict occurred. Vengeance, bravery, traitors, heroes, and the day-to -ay misery experienced by the foot soldier is evident. The persons who volunteered to protect our freedom at times are near starvation, they’re cold, and they live in mud. The leadership of the military covers the gamut from grand to incompetence. Where are these events occurring? Is this a story about Valley Forge, the Civil War, Vietnam, or maybe Iraq? It could be, but the conflict I’m referring to took place in Western New York, and across the Niagara River in Canada.
Fans gather at a sporting event, and before the contest begins and announcer asks. “Please stand, remove your hats and honor America with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.” The singer grabs everyone’s attention with a stirring rendition of the Nation’s Anthem. Francis Scott Key’s phrase mentioning, “the rockets’ red glare; the bombs bursting in air; gave proof through the night; that our Flag was still there.” Did you ever wonder why those rockets and bombs were launched in the first place? Many think that phrase originated in the Revolutionary War.
The herein noted events were part of the War of 1812. Mason Winfield has captured these historical events in his book: Ghosts of 1812. “This book is a light history of the 1812 conflict with supernatural site-traditions at points of relevance to the Niagara War.”
Many people from Western New York, and frankly from around the world, visit Fort Niagara. Maybe they take a ride to Lewiston. Others decide to go over to Canada. A visitor may stop in Fort Erie. It has a great oriental restaurant. Travelers may visit the Military Fort that is in place at Fort Erie Ontario. The ride from Fort Erie along the mighty Niagara River is very enjoyable. If you are observant, a marker at Frenchman’s Creek is discovered. The road takes you to Chippewa, and a world famous waterfall is not far ahead. During this enjoyable visit maybe the visitor found Lundy’s Lane. As the road passes the region around the Falls, it’s a beautiful ride to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Millions of people have traveled this route, took in the scenery, possibly bought a few gifts and then returned home. Mason Winfield’s book shows that these joyful actions were all situated on “hallowed ground.” From 1812 to 1814, Western New York, and the tourist area mentioned, were staging areas for bloody battles. Some call this war, “The Forgotten Conflict.” How could we ever forget what happened here? The soldiers from all sides felt the cold metal of bayonets and I’m sorry to say so did many innocent women and children. The implements of war in the early 1800’s were old but very effective. If anyone doubts that fact just look into the effects of a cannon releasing grape shot or canisters. American forces camped during a tough winter on Flint Hill. This hill is now part of Forest Lawn Cemetery. The local site involvement in the War seems to never end.
Buffalonians who study history know of the Burning of Buffalo by the British. The Queen City at the time of the conflict was more of a village than a city. The City was burned out of vengeance for acts that the American forces unleashed on the Canadian side of the Niagara River. Many of the Battlefields of this war no longer draw our attention. The spreading of blacktop and commercial development adds to the lack of attention to this conflict.
Mason provides fascinating details on the human spirit and folklore which arose from these times. We must honor and never forget those who participated in this conflict. The human effort expended was tremendous. If we pay no attention to the past, maybe those who participated have a reason to be anxious to share what they went through.