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Burning of the Ships Day 2021

May 8, 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Burning of the Ships Commemoration
Saturday, May 8, 2021 at 2:00 PM
Connecticut River Museum, Essex, CT

The Burning of the Ships Commemoration is a free public celebration held in Essex, Connecticut on the second Saturday in May. The Sailing Masters of 1812 hold the commemorative event to mark the British raid on Essex ships and shipyard on April 8, 1814 during the War of 1812.

The 2021 event, under COVID-19 precautions, requires a smaller commemoration with a single corps instead of the usual full parade with multiple fife and drum corps. The Sailing Masters of 1812 will parade from the town landing onto the Connecticut River Museum grounds. The hour-long ceremony will consist of the playing of the National Anthem, commentary by officials, historical context, and a short concert.

Background information:

In 1968, on a damp and chilly spring day, the Sailing Masters of 1812 held its first “Burning of the Ships Commemoration.” The group’s charter members were very well aware of the historical importance of the April 8, 1814 burning of the ships in Essex, the largest naval loss that the United States had until Pearl Harbor. The Sailing Masters continued an oral tradition started by Austin Lay who witnessed the raid and told the story to school children until his death, at the age of 93, in 1891. The Sailing Masters have become the keepers of this small part of US history, and annually mark this historic event with a parade and concert right at the location of the British raid.

The purpose of the Sailing Masters of 1812 is to perpetuate the art and performance of ancient fifing and drumming and to commemorate the role of Essex, Connecticut in the War of 1812, and is a nonprofit organized for historical and educational purposes. The Corps has adopted the uniform of a US Naval Sailing Master, a warrant officer ranked between midshipmen and lieutenant. The Corps performs on wooden fifes and rope tension snare and bass drums, and its repertoire includes period tunes and music from the fife and drum tradition. These include nautical and military tunes such as “Roving Sailor,” Sailor’s Hornpipe, “1812,” “Hulls Victory,” and “Unites States March;” and historic tunes such as “Yankee Doodle,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Image credit:  Sailing Masters of 1812


May 8, 2021
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Event Category:


Jane S Raunikar
67 Main Street


Connecticut River Museum
67 Main Street
Essex, CT 06426 United States
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