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Re-enactor: British War of 1812 leader was “a stubborn Scot”

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As the successful leader of victorious British troops in the Battle of Ogdensburgh, Lt. Col. George R.J. “Red George” MacDonnell seemed a perfect fit for military life.

An excerpt from a biography says it all in a few short sentences.

“As a new lieutenant-colonel, MacDonnell succeeded to the command of Fort Wellington at Prescott (Ontario) and on 22 Feb. 1813, exceeding his orders to make a demonstration of strength, he attacked Ogdensburg, N.Y. His successful assault across the ice with a mixed force of regulars and militia ended the occupation of Ogdensburg by American forces for the remainder of the war.”

What a guy. And the Toronto stage actor and St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival regular who will beginning tonight and all weekend portray Mr. MacDonell during the battle’s 200th anniversary festivities in Prescott, Ontario, couldn’t agree more.

“He was a stubborn Scot,” said Warren S. Bain by telephone on Friday.

When the battle’s bicentennial committee called Mr. Bain a few months to consider taking on the MacDonnell role, this fan of historic forts didn’t have to think about it for too long before answering.

“They knew me from the Shakespeare Festival,” he said. “It was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss.”

In doing his customary actor’s research, Mr. Bain dove in headfirst, never looking back and never once doubting it was worth the effort.

“It’s so important to our country,” he said. “I like living history.”

And Mr. Bain isn’t done learning. Tonight in Prescott in full 1813 military regalia, he’ll attend a dinner for Mr. MacDonnell. And preside over the waterfront fireworks above the St. Lawrence River.

The learning never stops.

“Absolutely,” Mr. Bain said. “I’m still doing my homework.”

Events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the battle will take place all weekend on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

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