The War of 1812 arguably could be described as a confrontation that changed nothing in terms of boundaries between Great Britain and the United States. But the war fought on the high seas is considered by some to be the United States' second War of Independence.
"The rule that came out of the War of 1812 was 'Don't mess with America,'" said James Tertius De Kay, who wrote "The Battle of Stonington. "The war made it very clear that Britain no longer looked at America as a colony.''
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the war, locals are taking a closer look at how the battles affected the region - from blockades that shut down commerce on the Connecticut shore to the changes that were forced upon Fishers Island.
"Fishers Island was used as a watering spot; the British dug wells for water for their fleet; they used it for a burial ground; spies and prisoners under British control were dropped off there," said Pierce Rafferty, director of the Henry L. Ferguson Museum on Fishers Island. "Fishers Island went into agricultural decay."
De Kay and Ferguson participated in a panel discussion held last week at the Lyman Allyn Museum, which will open an exhibit July 6 about the bicentennial of the war.
"The Rockets' Red Glare: The War of 1812 in Connecticut," is a collaboration with the Ferguson Museum, Stonington and New London County historical societies, the New London Maritime Society, Mystic Seaport and Lyman Allyn. Artifacts from all five organizations, as well as items from private collections will be on display. It will include the 16-stripe American flag that flew over the defenders of Stonington who kept the British at bay during a four-day battle in 1814.
As a precursor to the exhibit, the museum held the panel discussion, which also included Fred Calabretta, curator of collections and oral history at Mystic Seaport; Helen Rozwadowski, coordinator of maritime studies at the Avery Point campus of the University of Connecticut; and Ben Wilkinson, a junior at Fishers Island School, who is a sailing expert.
"Maps of the Region from 1600s to the 1800s," an exhibit of reproductions of early Dutch, English and American maps of Long Island Sound and the region, is also on display in the Glassenberg Gallery through April 5.
Last week the museum hosted a group of students from Fishers Island School, who presented "Encountering the War of 1812; View from the Classroom." The program included a 60-second history of the War of 1812; and a talk radio show based on materials from the Ferguson museum from 1804 to 1814.
The students will return to the Lyman Allyn in the next school year to view the full exhibit, said Mollie Clarke, director of education at Lyman Allyn.
"I think this was fabulous,'' she said of the collaboration with the museum and the school. "We brought in a new audience and they'll be back in the fall."