Fort Henry Days at Oglebay Park next weekend will feature two prominent speakers who will relate aspects of Native American culture and an appearance by a group of re-enactors who portray a little-known contingent - Americans who fought for the British.
In keeping with the latter element, the theme of this year's observance is "The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!" Alan Fitzpatrick, a member of the organizing committee for Fort Henry Living History Inc., said new participants include a re-enactment group from western Pennsylvania who wear green coats. Two men from Wheeling are part of this group, he added.
Fitzpatrick explained that the "Green Coats" were "Americans who fought with the British - this is something unusual." He remarked that this historical footnote is largely unknown among the general populace.
Historical researcher Doug Wood is set to portray Ostenaco, a prominent Cherokee leader, for Fort Henry Days at Oglebay Park.
Fort Henry Days takes place at Oglebay's Site 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 4-5. The event is free and open to the public. The schedule of presentations for the two-day event "is very heavy on Indian culture this year," committee member Joe Roxby observed.
The two main speakers - historical researchers Dan Cutler and Doug Wood - are appearing under the auspices of the West Virginia Humanities Council's History Alive! program. "They're both important speakers. It's been great that they've been able to be here," Fitzpatrick commented.
Cutler, who hails from Milton, W.Va., will portray the 18th-century Shawnee leader Cornstalk at 11:30 a.m. both days.
Regarding the background of the historic figure, officials of the Humanities Council explained, "Cornstalk led close to a thousand warriors against an equal number of Colonial troops during Dunmore's War in 1774 at the Battle of Point Pleasant. He rose to become leader of all Shawnee tribes and the northern confederacy of tribes that included Shawnee, Mingoes, Wyandottes, Delawares and Cayugas.
"After the battle, he (Cornstalk) pursued a policy of peace with the whites. On a trip to Point Pleasant in 1777 to warn settlers that the British were attempting to incite his tribesmen to attack them, he was taken hostage and then murdered in Fort Randolph along with his son and two companions."
Wood will portray Ostenaco, a prominent Cherokee leader, and discuss the Cherokee campaigns at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4. The Chatauqua-style presentation will provide opportunities for listeners to ask questions of both Ostenaco, the war captain, and Wood, the historical researcher.
Humanities Council officials noted that the nation is commemorating the 250th anniversary of the French & Indian War, a period of the region's history that "was marked by military and diplomatic struggles among two European superpowers, two North American Indian superpowers and several other native nations to gain or maintain control over the Ohio River region. The outcome of the war ensured the future cultural dominance of English-speaking peoples over the entire North American continent."
Wood, as Ostenaco, will tell the compelling story of the Cherokee leader's exploits on behalf of his British brothers and sisters. Ostenaco led warrior gangs out of the Potomac River forts in 1757 and along the Ohio River in 1758.
In addition to the historical presentations, Roxby said, "We have some interesting music planned this year." A local group, the Marsh Wheeling String Band, will play at 10 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 4. The 17-piece Marshall University Fife and Drum Corps will perform at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, and at 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 5.
Gallowglass, a perennial favorite group and "house band" of Fort Henry Days, will appear with the Heritage Dance Association both days and will perform in concert at 4 p.m. both days, Roxby said.
Demonstrations of 18th-century trades, crafts and arts will be offered throughout the festival. An auction of items related to Fort Henry Days will be conducted at 12:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4. The observance on Sunday, Sept. 5, will open with an 18th-century-style church service at 10 a.m.
This year's battle re-enactment, staged on the field below Camp Russel at 3 p.m. both days, will recreate the Siege of Fort Henry in 1782, Roxby said. As part of the battle, Betty Zane's run for the gunpowder will be re-enacted by Kristin Schnorrenberg. She also will give presentations on Betty Zane at 10:45 a.m. both days.
The 1782 Siege of Fort Henry "was the single most identifiable event in Wheeling's history," Roxby commented. "It obviously inspired a great deal of historical pieces," he said, noting that the battle was popularized in the past century by writer Zane Grey, a descendant of the founders of Fort Henry.
On another interesting note, Fitzpatrick said two men who have direct family ties to the Siege of Fort Henry will be in attendance at the commemoration of the battle that took place 228 years ago. James Caldwell of Sandusky, Ohio, will speak at 1:45 p.m. both days and relate stories of the battle participation by his ancestor, also named James Caldwell. Robert McColloch, a Korean War veteran from Wheeling, will be present at Fort Henry Days; he is a descendant of Abrams McColloch, a brother of famed Indian fighter Sam McColloch.
Placing the Siege of Fort Henry in historical context, Roxby said, "This activity took place a little less than a year after the British had surrendered at Yorktown. The guns were silent in the East, but the war was very much still a fact of life on the frontier. The British still held cities in the East, but there was no fighting going on in the East."