Wasaga Under Siege: Relive the History of Wasaga Beach
The location of Wasaga Beach was once a part of the Upper Canada Province created in 1791. At the turn of the century, Upper Canada was drawn into the War or 1812 between the USA and Great Britain. It was in no small part due to the strategic location of Fort Michilimackinac or Mackinac on Lake Huron. The fort was captured by the British in the first few days of the war. The tides soon turned for the Americans in the battle of Lake Erie on September 10th, 1813 and all British armed vessels on the upper great lakes were captured. The HMS Nancy, however, proved elusive. Originally a trading schooner, the Nancy had been pressed into service during the war and outfitted with heavy guns and cannons. After the rout on Lake Erie, it was the last British ship of any military significance. With winter approaching, any further American plans to retake the fort had to be abandoned.
The ship had suffered some damage from gunfire and storms, and laid low over the winter of 1813-1814 when she was refitted by her crew. In early 1814, the British set up a supply line from York to the fort. Nottawasaga was chosen as the post as it provided an advantageous location. The following summer, the Americans moved to recapture Fort Mackinac, landing troops with five ships. The date was 26th July, 1814. The attacking force was held off, and the Americans lost the Battle of Mackinaw Island, suffering heavy casualties. However, they learned of the location of the Nottawasaga Landing post. On August 13th, 1814, they approached the post with three ships under the command of Captain A. Sinclair. Lt. Miller Worsley of the Royal Navy surveyed the approaching ships with some despair, realizing he was vastly outnumbered. He had only 53 men under his command with nothing more than a crudely built blockhouse for defending the HMS Nancy hidden upriver. The Americans believed the Nancy was still out on the lake and were preparing an ambush. However, after American scouts discovered the Nancy and battle broke out, the ship was scuttled.
Over the years, silt deposited around the hull’s wreckage, forming an island. The Hull was discovered in 1911 and subsequently recovered in 1924. Today, it is the Nancy Island Museum. Two centuries later, a historical reenactment of the battle and the war takes place during the annual ‘Wasaga Under Siege’ event. Scheduled for August 15th-16th, over 500 re-enactors playing soldiers, merchants, artisans, etc will take part this year. The event also features a period music festival.
Wasaga Under Siege gives both residents and tourists a chance to acquaint themselves with an important part of the history of the region and the town itself. Such events promote cultural understanding and preserve the memories of great sacrifices for posterity.