Navy War Ships Visit Detroit Riverfront

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The Brig Niagara will dock in Detroit. // Photograph courtesy of Flagship Niagara League

The War of 1812 may have inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner,” but in Detroit, at least initially, there were no “broad stripes and bright stars”  — only the white flag of surrender.

In what was ignominiously known as the Siege of Detroit, the British captured the city in August 1812 after a disorganized Gen. William Hull capitulated.

However, the Americans redeemed themselves on the Great Lakes, most notably in September 1813, when U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and his sailors thrashed the British Royal Navy. He commanded the Brig Niagara in the Battle of Lake Erie. Shortly afterward, Gen. William Henry Harrison and his troops reclaimed Detroit.

So it’s fitting that our town should be one of the nation’s focal points in this bicentennial year of the war, when the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard join civilian groups nationwide to mark the anniversary. During the week of Sept. 4-10, tall ships — including a replica of the Brig Niagara — and Navy war ships will moor along Detroit’s riverfront. They arrive Sept. 4, and public tours start the next day.

The Opening Night Navy Welcome Gala (7-10 p.m. Sept. 6.), an evening of entertainment, food, music, as well as visiting sailors from U.S. and Canadian naval ships, will be held at a site to be announced. Proceeds ($100 general admission, $250 VIP) benefit Operation Homefront, Wounded Warriors, Navy Sea Cadets, and other organizations. More information: youhappy.com/1812Detroit.

General Motors Corp. is also organizing commemorative events in front of its headquarters at the Renaissance Center and in the RenCen’s Wintergarden.
For a list of Detroit events: ourflagwasstillthere.org.

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