The Battle of Fort George is over and the American forces have defeated the British army and militia who are now retreating to Burlington Heights. During the battle many residents fled their homes in town to the safety of family and friends in the countryside. But businesses, gardens and farms needed tending and for residents in Niagara life is going to be very different. Most of the men had left with British army and by the time summer was over, many of the men who stayed behind were being taken prisoner by the occupying US forces. Thousands of American soldiers were camped out in the ruins of Fort George and the Commons. There was some looting and pillaging, but the biggest challenge was supplying and feeding this large force. A tough task for the residents struggling to supply their own needs. The US occupying force could be harsh at times, warning citizens not to provide assistance to the British, arresting suspected sympathizers, and in August, burning the Presbyterian church because it’s tall spire was suspected of being a observation post. The American occupation ended in December and upon their retreat burned nearly all the buildings in the town of Niagara.
During this time of occupation it was not the British flag flying in town, but the US 15 stars and stripes. This is an unusual US flag because it has 15 stripes and 15 stars instead of the 13 stripes normally associated with the flag. This flag was in use until 1818 and is the flag on which the anthem “Star Spangled Banner” is based.
Witness this flag flying on Queen St this summer in the Old Town. Come and meet American soldiers (students in period costume) who may remind you not to offer assistance to the enemy, the British, and who may challenge your allegiance. And the appearance of guard houses adds to the drama of Niagara Under Occupation.