Friday, November 9, 2007

Fort Erie National Historic Site was the first British fort to be constructed as part of a network developed after the Seven Years' War (or in the United States the French and Indian War) was concluded by the Treaty of Paris (1763) at which time all of New France had been ceded to Great Britain. It is located on the southern edge of the Town of Fort Erie, Ontario, directly across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York.

Fort Erie Development
This new fort was unfinished when the United States declared war on June 18, 1812. The garrison of Fort Erie fought at the Battle of Frenchman's Creek against American attacks in November 1812. In 1813, Fort Erie was held for a period by U.S. forces and then abandoned on June 9, 1813. The fort had been partially dismantled by the small garrison of British troops and Canadian militia as they withdrew. British reoccupation followed American withdrawal from the area in December 1813. The British attempted to rebuild the fort. On July 3, 1814 another American force landed nearby and again captured Fort Erie. The U.S. Army used the fort as a supply base and expanded its size. At the end of July, after the Battles of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, the American army withdrew to Fort Erie. In the early hours of August 15, 1814, the British launched a four-pronged attack against the fortifications. A well-prepared American defence and an explosion in the North East Bastion destroyed the British chance for success with the loss of over 1,000 of their men. A full scale siege then set in and was only broken on September 17 when American troops sortied out of the fort and were able to capture or damage the British siege batteries. Shortly after the American sortie, the British lifted the siege lines and retired to positions to the north at Chippawa. After unsuccessful attacks at Cook's Mills, west of Chippawa, news reached the American forces that the eastern seaboard of the U.S. was under attack. On the November 5, 1814, with winter approaching, the Americans destroyed the fort and withdrew to Buffalo. Fort Erie is the site of the bloodiest battlefield in the history of Canada. See Siege of Fort Erie

War of 1812
The Treaty of Ghent was signed December 24, 1814, ending the War of 1812. Fearing further American attacks, the British continued to occupy the ruined fort until 1823. Some of the stones from the fort were then incorporated into the construction of St. Paul's Anglican Church, which stands today on the Niagara Parkway 3 km (2 miles) north of the fort. The Fort Erie area became significant as the major terminus in Canada for slaves using the Underground Railroad in the middle of the 19th century. The town of Fort Erie began to grow north of the fortifications when a rail terminus and station were constructed.

Aftermath of war
In 1866, a brigade of Fenians (Irish Republicans) used the ruins of the old fort as a base for their raid into Ontario. The Fenian Brotherhood invaded Canada on June 1, 1866 with more than 500 American Civil War veterans by crossing the Niagara River a little north of Fort Erie. Their first order of business was to occupy the town of Fort Erie and demand food and equipment from the local population. The invaders offered Fenian bonds as payment but were refused by the townsfolk.
The Fenians then marched north to try and capture the town of Chippewa at the north end of the Welland Canal. Before reaching their goal, and discovering a British and Canadian force had reached the town before them they turned to face a weak Canadian militia brigade that was approaching Fort Erie from the west, routing it at the Battle of Ridgeway. The Fenians returned to Fort Erie where they defeated a second small force of local Canadian militia, including a naval detachment from Dunnville. Unable to get reinforcements across the river and concerned over the approach of a large number of Canadian Militia and British regulars, the Fenians retreated from Fort Erie for Buffalo. See Battle of Fort Erie (1866)
Around the same time visitors to the ruins included the Prince of Wales and Mark Twain. As the 20th century approached, the Old Fort was used as a park and picnic area by local families.

Redevelopment of the fort

List of forts
Fenian Brotherhood
Niagara Parks Commission
War of 1812
United Empire Loyalists
Upper Canada
Fort Mississauga
Fort George, Ontario
Navy Hall

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