March 26, 2017

Essex Celebrates “Burning of the Ships,” A Major American Defeat in the War of 1812

The “Sailing Masters of 1812” of Essex lead the parade.

The “Sailing Masters of 1812” of Essex lead the parade.  All photos by Jerome Wilson.

ESSEX — In the darkness of 3 a.m. on the morning of April 8, 1814, British troops attacked and burned 27 American ships in Essex, both on land and in the harbor.

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman was on hand early in the parade.

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman was on hand early in the parade.

Essex at the time was a major builder of ships, which the British apparently knew, when they planned their attack.

A color guard on parade.

A color guard on parade.

The British attack on the Town of Essex caught Essex residents totally by surprise, to the degree that not a single Essex resident fired a shot as the British burned their ships.

Beating drums and playing fifes.

Beating drums and playing fifes.

However, when daylight came, as the British ship burners were making their way back down the Connecticut River, Americans started firing at the British from the the shore of the river, and at least two of the attackers were killed.

This fife and drum corps dates its ancestry back to 1787.

This fife and drum corps dates its ancestry back to 1787.

Fast forward to modern times and for the past 48 years, the Sailing Masters of 1812 have commemorated the “Burning of the Ships” with a parade down Essex’s Main Street. True to form, they were at it again this year last Saturday, May 9.

Some wore light blue ...

Some wore light blue …

Over 15 marching fife and drum corps participated in this year’s “Burning of the Ships” parade.

... while others went barefoot!

… while others went barefoot!

It must be noted, however, that some in Essex, who take the liberty of adding more than a grain of truth, call the event the “Loser’s Day” parade.

There were also some women marching in the parade.

There were also some women marching in the parade.

On and on the fife and drum corps came ...

On and on the fife and drum corps came …

This little boy’s “Mama” was playing in the band ahead of him in the parade.

This little boy’s “Mama” was playing in the band ahead of him.

This band of bagpipers added a Scottish element  to the parade.

This band of bagpipers added a Scottish element to the parade.

On and came the marchers in the (almost) never-ending parade!

On and came the marchers in the (almost) never-ending parade!

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