Niagara Gazette

War of 1812

April 6, 2013

Monument to honor Tuscaroras moves forward


Niagara Gazette — "Do we drown ourselves in tears talking about those British and how they destroyed us," Simonson said, "or do we concentrate on the bright side and illustrate the heroism and the bravery of a small group of about 25 Tuscaroras against 1,500 British?"

Historical Association President Bruce Sutherland said the monument is the among the largest war bicentennial projects that have been undertaken. With its $400,000 cost paid for through public and private sources, it honors a friendship between the Tuscaroras and Lewiston, he said, that has grown even stronger over the years.

"They've never been recognized like this before," Sutherland said.

For the 1,000 Tuscaroras now living on their Niagara County reservation, the monument will stand as a lesson, said Neil Patterson, a descendant of one of the "Tuscarora Heroes."

"I wish the history books would say this is a time when Indians actually helped non-Indians in battle," he said.

Patterson and others plan to participate in December's re-enactment of the burning of Lewiston.

The invasion was seen as revenge for the American troops' Dec. 10 burning of the Canadian town of Newark, known today as Niagara-on-the-Lake, just across the Niagara River. The Americans presumably had been hoping to deny British forces the shelter of the town, according to a historical account.

Nine days later, British soldiers and allied Native Americans, primarily Mohawk Indians, sailed boats to the American shore north of Buffalo, first capturing Fort Niagara before rushing into Lewiston with torches, guns and tomahawks.

"It was the 1813 version of shock and awe," said Simonson, author of "Tuscarora Heroes," which he wrote based on historical accounts.

As Lewiston villagers, some in bare feet and pajamas, fled through mud and snow, two dozen Tuscarora men ran from their nearby hillside village, firing muskets and screaming a war whoop. The British, not knowing how few Tuscaroras there really were and fearing an ambush, halted their pursuit. That bought time for many of the villagers to reach safety.

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