Battlefield Cemetery at Smith's Knoll
The Restoration of a Piece of Stoney Creek History
By Jo Urbanovitch
The year 2000 saw many significant and exciting changes to the face of Stoney Creek. A restoration project for Smith's Knoll cemetery was realized, culminating in a ceremony which brought hundreds of people to the city's newly refurbished downtown area.
In 1998, the city prepared the Olde Towne Urban Design Plan which set out a vision to enhance the aesthetic and functional character of the historic downtown core. Its primary goal, to establish a "sense of place" through the creation of high quality public spaces and the use of local heritage and public art.
American Millitary Pallbearers from the 3rd United States Infantry, Fort Meyers, Virginia, took part June 4, 2000 in the re-interment ceremony for soldiers killed in the Battle of Stoney Creek.
While there are some projects yet to be completed, the plan has been partially achieved with assistance from the Millenium Bureau of Canada.
On June 4, 2000 at 11a.m., the Battlefield Cemetery was re-opened as a National Historic Site during a special re-dedication memorial service. The original Battlefield Cemetery had been consecrated on May 3, 1908, as the final resting place for the soldiers who fell on June 6, 1813 in the Battle of Stoney Creek.
Before the rededication could take place, five cannons were removed from this National Historic Site for identification and restoration while the site was being upgraded. All the cannons were determined to be British and, according to city officials, have been at the cemetery as long as anyone can remember. They appear in photographs of the site taken in the early 20th century.
Eventually, a lone American gun will be located on the northeast bank as it may have appeared on the evening of the Battle.
At the rededication ceremony, the remains of approximately 23 soldiers killed during the Battle of Stoney Creek on June 6, 1813 were placed into a wooden crate and then reinterred into the locally made new crypt.
The soldiers' remains were unearthed last summer as part of the millenium restoration project. Archaeologists are still unable to explain why most of the skulls are missing.
Some of the bones uncovered are now believed to be those of both British and American soldiers: British buttons and shot were found in addition to the many buttons from the Second Artillery Regiment, an American unit.
Parks Canada has completed a museum display stabilization on the 80 uncovered buttons, which are from the 2nd Artillery Regiment, U.S., and the 49th Regiment, British.
The archaeological dig, conducted by RGS Archaeological Services, began during the summer of 1998, and concluded after an excavation of the entire site in the spring of 1999, when human bone bits were discovered on the east side of the knoll, next to Rosa's Day Spa.
"The bones indicated the soldiers were older than I would have expected, generally in their 30s and 40s," said Professor Maria Liston, Department of Anthropology and Classical Studies, at the University of Waterloo.
Prof. Liston believes the solders may have been killed by other soldiers to end their suffering.
These could have been mercy-killings. The position of these wounds doesn't look like something that would happen during the chaos of battle," Prof. Liston hypothesized.
Future plans for study include an isotope analysis of the bones to gain information as to diet and (by extension) area of origin for each soldier.
In attendance at the rededication ceremony were Liberal MPP Tony Valeri; Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Chair Terry Cooke; the American Military attache Lieutenant Karen McClellan, on behalf of the Ambassador from the U.S. Embassy; General Deputy Counsel General Grant Lindsay, on behalf of the High Commissioner from Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the equivalent of the Battalion who fought in the Battle; participation from her Majesty's Royal Army and Navy; the Canadian Legion; the American Legion; the 23rd Service Battalion (including Col. Mt. Pleasant); and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band.
Reprinted with permission from the Stoney Creek News, June 7, 2000