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Names of British soldiers in Garrison Cemetery sought Many died of injuries and disease during the War of 1812

Crying out for help in agonizing pain, British soldiers entered the Garrison Road field hospital in Williamsville in 1814.

Many never made it out alive from the American hospital. They lie buried together a mile away, nameless in death -- for now.

But Cheektowaga Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr. wants to change that. He wants to find the names of the British soldiers buried in Garrison Cemetery, the War of 1812 cemetery on Aero Drive in Cheektowaga.

The town acquired a list of the British regiments the men represented, and they will be read during Sunday's ceremonies at the cemetery.

"We have the names of all the American soldiers, but we don't have the names of the British soldiers," Johnson said.

There are 205 American soldiers from 12 states buried in the cemetery. They died in 1814 and 1815 in the military hospital, most from diseases like diarrhea, dysentery and typhus. Many died in the summer and fall following the burning of Buffalo in December 1813 and the Battles of Chippawa and Lundy's Lane in July 1814.

British soldiers also were treated at the hospital, according to an eyewitness at the time, William Hodge, who saw the British soldiers being transported to the hospital following the sortie in Fort Erie, Ont.

"They were in great pain, and begged for whiskey . . . They were awful objects to behold -- some with their eyesight gone and others with their faces blackened and disfigured," he reported.

At least some of the British soldiers who died were buried in a section of the small cemetery that was separate from the American soldiers. Johnson said he will seek the help of the Canadian and British governments in identifying the British soldiers. The town also is applying for a state grant of up to $60,000 to restore a fence at the cemetery.

"We have a photograph from 1900 of the Garrison Cemetery. It is completely enclosed by a wrought-iron fence and archway," Johnson said.

The cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The town's annual parade commemorating the sacrifices of those buried in the cemetery will start at noon Sunday at Aero and Wehrle drives and proceed to the cemetery. At the cemetery, Boy Scouts from the United States and Canada will re-enact a battle from the War of 1812. The dead will be remembered with the placing of wreaths, including one by Canadian Consul General Stephen Brereton.

A reception will be held after the commemoration at Pvt. Leonard Post Jr. Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars, 2450 Walden Ave. The festivities continue at 7 p.m. at the Town Park outdoor theater on Harlem Road with a Flag Day concert featuring the Cheektowaga Central High School Jazz Ensemble and the Cheektowaga Community Symphony Orchestra.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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