Fort Henry, Ontario

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Fort Henry
Fort Henry-Laslovarga (90).JPG
Established First fort: 1812 Second fort: 1837
Location Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Designated: 1923

Fort Henry (also known as Fort Henry National Historic Site) is located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada on Point Henry, a strategic point located near the mouth of the Cataraqui River where it flows into the St. Lawrence River, at the upper end of the Thousand Islands. The original fort was constructed during the War of 1812, when present-day Ontario was a British colony known as Upper Canada.[1] The fort was constructed on the high ground of Point Henry to protect the Kingston Royal Naval Dockyard (the site of the present-day Royal Military College of Canada) from a possible United States attack.[2] The fort also monitored maritime traffic on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, as the loss of this vital shipping route would have cut off supplies to Kingston and the rest of Upper Canada.


View of an early Fort Henry. Ink print, "Citadel of Kingston", by William Henry Bartlett (1809–1854)
Aerial view of Fort Henry, 1920

The original fort was built on Point Henry during the War of 1812 to protect the naval establishment on nearby Point Frederick from American attack. It was one of several defensive structures built in and around Kingston. Named after Henry Hamilton, the Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada, it comprised a collection of wooden walls, ditches, two stone blockhouses and a picket fence. The old fort was demolished in 1832 to make way for a new fort, which was constructed between 1832 and 1837 to to maintain the defence of the naval dockyard on Point Frederick and to protect the Lake Ontario end of the Rideau Canal. (The canal was part of an alternate route between Kingston and Montreal that bypassed the St. Lawrence River, which separates Canada and the United States.) A system of more elaborate defensive works was planned but cost overruns in the construction of the canal limited the fortifications to four Martello towers and the fort itself. At the time, these fortifications were the strongest defences in Canada west of Quebec City. Among the historic regiments that garrisoned the fort were the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Neither the original nor the second Fort Henry was ever attacked. The fort was once called the "Citadel of Upper Canada".

The British Army withdrew in 1870 shortly after Canadian Confederation. Canadian troops then garrisoned the fort until 1891. The fort witnessed the founding of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, one of the first units in the Canadian Army, whose B battery was based at the fort. As relations with the United States continued to improve, the need for defences along the border ceased. During the First World War, the adjacent Barriefield Military Camp (now CFB Kingston) was established in 1914. Fort Henry served as a facility for holding German, Austrian and Turkish POWs and some civilian internees, among them Ukrainian immigrants described as "enemy aliens" during Canada's first national internment operations of 1914–20. Abandoned by the military, the fort fell into disrepair. In the 1930s, under the leadership of Ronald L. Way, restorations took place as part of a government work program during the Great Depression. "Old Fort Henry" became a living museum with the introduction of the Fort Henry Guard, and was opened on August 1, 1938. During the Second World War, the fort served as a prisoner-of-war camp for German Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine personnel.


Fort Henry Guard

Uniformed military interpreters known as the Fort Henry Guard staff the fort, conducting demonstrations of British military life and tours for visitors. There are also self-guided tours. Throughout the day there are various activities including historical reenactments of drills and battle tactics, the Garrison Parade, the Victorian School Room, and the Muster Parade, where young visitors are dressed in period uniforms and taught to march by a qualified member of the Guard. There is also a Sunset Ceremony every Wednesday and Saturday in July and August, where a full program of historic drill, music and artillery is presented. During evenings year-round a tour company conducts tours of the fort that highlights the fort's supposedly haunted past.

Fort Henry has been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, and in 2007 was included in the designation of the Rideau Canal as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One can also view from Cartwright Point (the location of the Cathcart Tower).


On 30 June 1983 Canada Post issued 'Fort Henry, Ont.' one of the 20 stamps in the “Forts Across Canada Series” (1983 and 1985). The stamps are perforated 12½ x 13 and were printed by Ashton-Potter Limited based on the designs by Rolf P. Harder.[3]


The Museum is affiliated with: Canadian Museums Association, Canadian Heritage Information Network, and Virtual Museum of Canada.

See also[edit]

Media related to Fort Henry, Ontario at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ "Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada". Retrieved 2014-09-17. 
  2. ^ Cary, Henry (2003). "Early Works: Preliminary Glimpses of the First Military Complex at Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario, 1812-1827". Ontario Archaeology 76: 4–22. 
  3. ^ Canada Post stamp

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°13′48.95″N 76°27′34.85″W / 44.2302639°N 76.4596806°W / 44.2302639; -76.4596806