Bicentennial Commemoration celebrates Kentucky’s Role in the War of 1812

Story by Nicky Hughes, Curator, Frankfort Historical Sites

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Soldiers of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery post the colors during a War of 1812 bicentennial event, as a period era re-enactor looks on in Frankfort, Ky., June 22, 2012.  The ceremony marked the beginning of the Kentucky National Guard’s recognition of Kentucky’s service in the War of 1812.(Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — What if the United States went to war, and at the conclusion of the fighting it was discovered that 64% of the casualties had been suffered by citizens of just one state?  That would make headlines.  Well, in fact, that has already happened, and just about everybody has forgotten about it.  It happened in the War of 1812, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky made this extraordinarily disproportional contribution to that war effort.

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The Kentucky National Guard and the City of Frankfort’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites teamed up to put on a two-day commemorative event to bring Kentucky’s part in the War of 1812 back into the eyes of the public, June 22-23.

An opening ceremony of Muster on the Kentucky was held at the State War Memorial in the Frankfort Cemetery and included a speech by Kentucky’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, a proclamation from the Governor’s office and was attended by Dennis Moore, Public Affairs Officer for the Consulate General of Canada in Detroit.

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Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky’s Adjutant General, speaks with members of the 2nd Kentucky Militia, a War of 1812 re-enactor group and Soldiers of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 623rd Artillery, during a bicentennial commemoration event in Frankfort, Ky., June 22, 2012. (Kentucky National guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“The citizens of Kentucky and the Kentucky Militia in particular played a very significant role in the War of 1812,” said Tonini. “The war in the Old Northwest Territory was fought largely by Kentucky Militiamen, the predecessors of today’s Kentucky National Guard, and they deserve to have their service and sacrifice remembered.”

State and Canadian officials laid a wreath in memory of Kentucky’s War of 1812 veterans at the memorial.  The modern-day Kentucky National Guard’s ceremonial artillery battery of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery fired a salute, along with re-enactors of the 2nd Kentucky Militia armed with Kentucky Rifles, which got their name as the result of the use of these deadly weapons in the War of 1812.

A living history camp depicting Kentuckians on campaign during the War of 1812 was set up at Kentucky River View Park.  Frankfort was where several units organized before marching northward to take part in the war’s campaigns along the Canadian border.  The event also included a historical lecture session and dinner in the capital.

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Nicky Hughes, left, portraying Kentucky’s first adjutant general, Percival Pierce Butler, presents Bill Sheets with an Honorary Kentucky Guardsmen certificate, June 23, 2012 in Frankfort, Ky. Members of the 2nd Kentucky Militia, a War of 1812 re-enactor group, were also honored during a bicentennial commemoration event held in Frankfort, Ky., June 22-23.(Photo courtesy of John Trowbridge)

One purpose of the Muster on the Kentucky event was to highlight the critical role of Kentucky troops in the War of 1812, which established proud military traditions still honored by the modern-day Kentucky National Guard.

“Overall, the weekend was a great success,” said John Trowbridge, Kentucky National Guard Command Historian. “I had numerous guests come up to and say how enjoyable and informative the events were.  We would like to thank our participants and certainly our Canadian neighbors who travelled here and helped make this such a memorable event.”

Internationally, a three-year commemoration began in June to honor the participation of the United States, Canada and Great Britain in the conflict. Future events for the Kentucky National Guard include several ceremonies to recognize the bicentennial dates of battles and events in both the U.S. and Canada.

“We are not celebrating war during this period,” said Trowbridge. “We are here to commemorate and honor the service and sacrifice of the Soldiers from both sides of the conflict.  We are celebrating the bicentennial of a war, but more importantly the 200 years of peace since, between the U.S., Canada and Great Britain.”

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