Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 11, 2006

Historic flag returns to Old Fort Niagara

YOUNGSTOWN — Old Glory finally will be returned to her place of honor, nearly two centuries after the British claimed the 15-star flag as a trophy during the War of 1812.

The flag is destined to become the centerpiece for the new $6 million museum and visitors center at Old Fort Niagara, set to open June 23.

Since the day the landmark fortress was restored as a tourist attraction, it has lacked an adequate orientation and information facility to enhance the experience for visitors. Now it will have a reception area, a museum gift shop, 60-seat theater and state-of-the-art displays.

Old Fort Niagara then will provide the kind of welcome that people receive at other such sites that preserve our heritage. A classic example: Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. There visitors are shown an informative 15-minute film and given a glimpse of the famous flag. When they enter the fort, they’re well-equipped to enjoy the rounds.

The road back to Niagara has been long and arduous for the colors the British captured on that frigid night, Dec. 19, 1813. A month later, an aide to Maj. Gen. Sir Gordon Drummond, the commander of the British forces in Upper Canada, arrived in Quebec to present the flag — the trophy — to Sir George Prevost, British commander-in-chief of North America.

In May 1814, Prevost shipped the Niagara flag to London where it was laid before the feet of the Prince Regent, later King George IV.

It is generally believed that the Prince Regent returned the Fort Niagara flag to Gen. Drummond, whose family home was in Scotland. There it remained on display in a hallway for decades before word of its whereabouts reached Canada in 1984.

Unfortunately, it had been badly damaged by a fire in 1969 and its owner then — the late Baroness Lady Strange, a descendant of Drummond — didn’t help matters by tossing the burned flag into a washing machine.

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