Work on Fort George was completed by 1802, when it became headquarters for the British army, local militia and the Indian Department. Standing guard over the entrance to the Niagara River, it contained six earthen and log bastions linked by a wooden palisade and surrounded by a dry ditch. Inside the walls, the Royal Engineers constructed a guardhouse, log blockhouses, a hospital, kitchens, workshops, barracks, officers' quarters, and a stone powder magazine. (Only the effectively designed magazine survives from the original fort.)
During the War of 1812, Fort George served as the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British army. These forces included British regulars, local militia, FIRST NATIONS warriors, and a corps of freed slaves. Brock served here until his death at the BATTLE OF QUEENSTON HEIGHTS in October 1812.
The Battle of Fort George
In a plan approved by military leaders in Washington in 1813, Fort George was to be a principle target of attack, along with Kingston, YORK and FORT ERIE. As Major General Henry DEARBORN wrote, the plan was to "take York; from there proceed to Niagara and attack Fort George by land and water." Commodore Chauncey's small fleet began bombarding the fort on the morning of 25 May, setting fire to all the log buildings. The assault landing took place early in the morning of 27 May 1813, led by Colonel Winfield Scott. The fort's defenders were a polyglot force of about 1000 all ranks of the 8th and 49th Regiments of Foot, the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles and the Glengarry Light Infantry, along with about 300 militia.
When the assault landed, a detachment of British troops and First Nations confronted the Americans but as the British commander Major-General John VINCENT wrote to Governor George PREVOST, they "were obliged to fall back, and the fire from the Shipping so completely enfiladed and scoured the plains that it became impossible to approach the beach." The defenders suffered 52 killed and 306 injured or missing. Vincent decided to abandon the fort and move out of range of the naval guns. He got word that some 4-5000 American troops were making "an effort to turn my right flank." He spiked his guns, destroyed the ammunition and marched his troops along the Niagara River toward Beaver Dams and eventually Burlington. Despite capturing the fort, the Americans had little to show for their victory as they did not succeed in destroying Vincent's force.
The American forces used the fort as a base to invade the rest of Upper Canada; however, they were repulsed at the Battles of STONEY CREEK and BEAVER DAMS. After a seven-month occupation by the Americans, the fort was retaken in December and remained in British hands for the remainder of the war. After the war, the fort was partially rebuilt, and by the 1820s it was falling into ruins. It was finally abandoned in favour of a more strategic installation at Fort Mississauga and a more protected one at Butler's Barracks.
Fort George National Historic Site
The site was declared FORT GEORGE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE in 1921. The original plans of the Royal Engineers guided the reconstruction from 1937 to 1941. Since 1969 the site has been managed by Parks Canada as a living history site. It is noted for its staff in period costume, period demonstrations and highly developed educational programs.
Author JAMES MARSH
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Fort George National Historic Site of Canada
Take a virtual tour of Fort George National Historic Site, a much fought over location in the War of 1812. From Parks Canada.
A well-illustrated guide to events, re-enactments, and celebrations commemorating the War of 1812 in the Niagara region of Ontario. From the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake's Bicentennial Committee.
Sir Isaac Brock on Horse at Fort George
View a painting of Sir Isaac Brock on horseback exiting the gates of Fort George. Click on the image for an enlarged view. From 1812history.com.
The Battle of Stoney Creek and the Blockade of Fort George
A very long and detailed account of British and US military planning and strategic maneuvers in the Battle of Stoney Creek and the blockade of Fort George that was part of the War of 1812. From the Niagara Historical Society.
Fighting for Naval Supremacy on Lake Ontario, 7-10 August 1813
A detailed article about the battle for control over Lake Ontario in the War of 1812. Covers the actions of British commander Sir James Lucas Yeo and American Isaac Chauncey. Also, scroll down to page 17 to view the illustration "Forty Mile Creek, 8 June 1813." The caption describes how control of Lake Ontario influenced the actions of land forces in the war. From the journal "Canadian Military History."
Niagara Parks: Commemorative Plaques & Markers
See the text of individual plaques and markers commemorating the War of 1812 found throughout the grounds of Niagara Parks in Ontario. Also, check this site for more information about specific park locations and events.
The Friends of Fort George
See an illustrated visitors' guide to the Fort George National Historic Site and Brock's Monument located at Queenston Heights.
Fort George National Historic Site, Artificer’s and Blacksmith Shop
This site offers a description of the heritage characteristics of the Fort George National Historic Site, Artificer’s and Blacksmith Shop. From the “Canada’s Historic Places” website.
The Taking of Fort George
View a print which depicts naval forces engaged in the Battle of Fort George in May 1813. From the Niagara Historical Society & Museum.
Niagara Frontier and York
An overview of conflicts and skirmishes on the Niagara Frontier and around York during the War of 1812. Includes images of archival documents. From the Archives of Ontario.
This nicely illustrated article outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the location chosen for the construction of Fort George on the banks of the Niagara River in Ontario. From the Canadian Army Journal.