About 2,000 people turned out this weekend to commemorate a battle in the "forgotten war" that ensured the future of the United States.
"It was excellent," Greg Parrott of the Fort LaMotte Rangers said about the event.
Fort LaMotte Days and the Battle of Africa Point was a two-day event at Leaverton Park, Palestine, attracting dozens of vendors and participants as well as the hundreds of visitors. Parrott said 49 camps were set up around the War of 1812-era fort being built there, with two complete lines of traders.
"Comments from the traders were extremely positive," he explained. "They said they had been to first-time events before, but never one this big or this successful." Fort LaMotte Days is expected to become an annual event.
They also had positive comments about the food court set up by local residents. "It was absolutely superb," Parrott said.
Turnout was good for two re-enactments of the battle, as well as for a presentation by Richard Day on Fort Knox II and other forts along the Wabash River. It was sponsored by the Fort LaMotte Rangers, the Central Wabash Archeological Society and the Palestine Development Association. The rangers also hosted an open muzzleloader shoot Saturday.
The Battle of Africa Point occurred along the Wabash River near modern Palestine in April 1813 - a time when the Wabash Valley was America's frontier. Though not well-remembered today, the battle was significant at the time because four settlers were killed fighting Indians - a steep casualty rate for a War of 1812 militia battle.
The battle had an impact on the development of Palestine and Crawford County. When the war broke out, settlers fled to Fort Knox II at Vincennes in fear British forces would descend upon them from Canada via the Wabash. In their absence, Indians burned the original fort.
In 1813, the settlers returned and built Fort LaMotte II, but all was not well.
The Battle of Africa Point led to a schism between factions within the settlement. The Eaton family pulled out and fortified their cabin, dubbing it "Fort Eaton."
The other settlers, making fun of the Eatons' tendency for having large feet, called it "Fort Foot" - and that name stuck, even appearing in official records.
The fort being constructed at the park represents a typical frontier fort of the time. Little is known about the actual appearance of either forts LaMotte.
The rangers continue work on it most Saturday mornings and Parrott said the public is welcome to come and learn.
The War of 1812 is often called "the forgotten war," overshadowed by the Revolutionary and Civil wars. The only fight most people remember is the Battle of New Orleans, which -though the combatants didn't know it - actually occurred after the war officially ended.
Yet its impact on American history is significant. The Star-Spangled Banner was penned as a poem during the war. The legendary USS Constitution, better known as "Old Ironsides," set sail during it.
And most important of all, America's victory opened the door for westward expansion. "If we hadn't won the War of 1812, America would have ended at the Appalachian Mountains," Parrott said.
And that is why oranizers wanted to commemorate Africa Point. "It covers the early history of Crawford County and what became Palestine," Parrott explained. "There was also a larger effort to re-awake the public to the concept of what it took to make America a country and what it cost to maintain it as a country."