The Fort History

Project:1812 – Fort George

Located just outside the historic town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, Fort George stands guard over the Niagara River, her guns set to fire upon Fort Niagara across the river in Youngstown, NY. In fact it was Fort Niagara that spurred the construction of Fort George.

Project:1812 - Fort George
The largest blockhouse on site, historically these were used as both barracks for troops and a defensive emplacement should the walls be breached.

Fort Niagara after its capture by the British in the French-Indian War in 1759 remained a loyal British stronghold throughout the American Revolution. When the Jay Treaty was signed in 1796 the British Army was forced to surrender the massive fort located strategically at the mouth of the Niagara River. They began construction of a new Fort on the Upper Canada side of the river named Fort George. Completed in 1802 it soon became the military headquarters for the region and directly under the command of General Isaac Brock of the 49th Regiment of Foot.

Project:1812 - Fort George
Cannons mounted along the large ‘flag bastion’ on site.

The new fort featured both log and earthwork bastions, cannons, blockhouses, a powder magazine, kitchens, a hospital, and a smithy. Its job was to defend British interests on the Niagara River, provide shelter for British troops, the local militia and the Indian Department. There is a story of how on the eve of the American declaration of war against the British Empire and subsequent invasion of Upper Canada, that the officers of Fort Niagara were dining at Fort George with their British counterparts. Upon hearing the news that war had been declared the dinner continued and the American officers were sent back to Fort Niagara, and the next day the two forts opened fire upon each other. The Americans laid siege to Fort George in May of 1813; a massive naval bombardment followed with a ground attack forced the British to retreat back to their fortifications at Burlington Heights. The Americans used the fort as their base of operations as they attempted to push further into Upper Canada. But after the engagements at Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams they retreated back across the river later in 1813 allowing British Forces to re-establish their garrison at Fort George.

Project:1812 - Fort George
The original powder magazine, the only original structure on site.

Fort George remained in British hands throughout the rest of the conflict. Although the fort remained garrisoned through the rest of the war, the completion of Fort Mississauga located closer to the mouth of the river lessened the importance of Fort George. The fort was left in ruins by 1820, the grounds repurposed for agriculture and even a golf course, as most military operations had been moved to Fort Mississauga or Butler’s Barracks. At the start of conflict during the First World War saw the grounds once again home to the much larger Camp Niagara training base. The 1930s saw a great interest in restoration of many of the historic forts in the Niagara region, Fort George was reconstructed at that time using the original plans from the Royal Engineers. Most of the buildings that occupy Fort George today are reconstructed with modern materials based on the original plans and layout, the powder magazine is the only original building on site and the oldest building in Niagara-On-The-Lake. The fort is operated under Parks Canada as a National Historic Site, reenactors on site dress as the 49th Regiment of Foot. The crown forces operate a drill school every April at the fort as well.

Project:1812 - Fort George
The officer’s quarters and mess.

Photos:
Pentax 645 – SMC Pentax A 645 35mm 1:3.5 – Kodak Tri-X Pan (TXP)

Sources:
Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812 Second Edition, Revised and Updated
Gilbert Collins
www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/on/fortgeorge/natcul/natcul2.aspx

Project 1812 – Fort George originally published May 11, 2012  

Article courtesy of Alex Luyckx

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