(photo not available) American service families lay flowers in respect for fallen U.S. soldiers and personnel from the War of 1812 at a ceremony Monday in Halifax dedicating the site on Deadmans Island.
(photo not available) Re-enactors wearing the British uniforms from 1812 wait for the start of dedication ceremonies for American soldiers buried on Deadmans Island off Halifax.
Memorial Day for graves
Deadmans Island plaque honours remains of U.S. War of 1812 POWs by IAN GRAY
For nearly 200 years, the bodies of 195 American prisoners from the War of 1812 have lain in unmarked graves on Deadmans Island in Purcells Cove.
Now, thanks to the efforts of volunteer groups both here and in the United States, they finally have a memorial.
On Monday, representatives from the United States government and Halifax Regional Municipality unveiled a plaque marking the graves of the soldiers. The names, ranks, units and date of death are inscribed on the marker.
The prisoners had been housed at the nearby Melville Island military prison. When they died, mostly of diseases like dysentery and smallpox, they were rowed across to Deadmans Island and buried in shallow graves.
One of the people in attendance at the dedication ceremony was Maida Follini, a descendant of Vermont infantryman Ralph Powers who was captured at Fort Erie in 1814 and died at Melville Island a year later.
She made the trip from Amherst to see the plaque unveiled.
"I think it's wonderful," said Ms. Follini, an American citizen who has lived in Canada since 1980. "Things like this show how much our countries have in common."
The island served as a burial site from 1803, when the prison was established for French prisoners of war, until the end of the war in 1815.
The idea for a memorial began in 1998, when a developer proposing to build a condominium complex on the island spurred local groups such as Northwest Arm Heritage Association to contact American veterans and heritage societies.
In 2000, the municipality bought the land, now a civic heritage park.
The American Department of Veterans Affairs provided the plaque unveiled Monday, which was Memorial Day in the United States.
People involved in the effort to preserve the site said the ceremony marked a triumph of civic involvement on both sides of the border.
"What I find interesting is that it wasn't the governments of the countries who commemorated these people, but volunteer organizations and private citizens," said Heather Watts, co-author of a forthcoming book about Melville Island and its prison.
Ms. Watts and co-author Iris Shea were involved in the Northwest Arm Heritage Association's campaign to save the site.
The ceremony featured a 21-gun salute from re-enactors of the 78th Highlanders Regiment and a colour guard from the USS Constitution.
Representatives of the United States military and government and Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly pointed to the commemoration of the American prisoners of war as a sign of improved relations between the two countries.
"It's hard for me to imagine this happening in any other country," said John Dickson, the United States Embassy's charge d'affaires. "Canada and the U.S. have come a huge distance since 1812, and we serve as an example to the world."
Bruce Towers, one of the memorial's American proponents, agreed that the marker represented a point of unity between Americans and Canadians.
"There's far more in common between our countries than there are differences," said Mr. Towers, who lives in Prospect, Conn. "It was really fantastic of (the heritage association) to bring this to people's attention."
For those who had pushed to stop the development of a condominium on the island, Monday's ceremony marked the successful completion of a seven-year effort.
"This is the culmination of a lot of hard work," said Ms. Shea.
"We're very happy." ------------------------------
There is a new plaque with all the names of known U.S. POWs who died and were buried at this site.
Hope this posting will be of some interest to those doing research on U.S. military personnel who fought in Nova Scotia between 1800 and 1815.