Snake Hill Cemetery

One of ASI’s most notable projects was the Snake Hill Cemetery in Fort Erie, Ontario that involved the discovery, exhumation, and repatriation of 28 American soldiers from the War of 1812.

Aerial photo of the lakeshore where the Snake Hill cemetery was discovered.
Aerial photo of the lakeshore where the Snake Hill cemetery was discovered.

Archaeological investigations began at the Snake Hill Site with the discovery of Burial 2, a 24-26 year old soldier. The binding of his feet and the discovery of bandage pins indicate that he had been hospitalized prior to his burial. Ron Williamson and Debbie Steiss carefully exposed the remains with small wooden dowels and paint brushes.

The scientific consulting and technical assistance team was made up of scientists from Archaeological Services Inc., the United States Army, the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the U.S. Armed Forces Medical Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site (N.Y.), Canadian Conservation Institute, Parks Service Canada, Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communications, Niagara Parks Commission, Canadian National Museum of Civilization, Royal Ontario Museum, McMaster University, University of Guelph and the University of Tennessee.

Once the analyses of the remains had been completed, 28 of the skeletons were identified as U.S. soldiers from the War of 1812. They were given full military honours at the repatriation ceremony. Accompanied by the U.S. Presidential Old Guard, each soldier was placed in a flag-draped coffin and escorted into a hearse for transport back to the United States.

On June 30th 1988, the International Peace Bridge between Canada and the United States was closed to allow the procession of hearses to return to the United States. They proceeded to Bath National Cemetery in upper New York State where the soldiers were buried in their final resting place. With that act, the U.S. Army had fulfilled its promise of “We will always bring our boys back home“.

More details about the project can be found in “Death at Snake Hill: Secrets from a War of 1812 Cemetery”, written for the general public and available from ASI.