Fort Henry, Ontario

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Fort Henry
Fort Henry-Laslovarga (90).JPG
Established First fort: 1813, Second fort: 1836
Location Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Website http://www.forthenry.com
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 east end of Lake Ontario. The original fort was constructed during the War of 1812, when present-day Ontario was a British colony known as Upper Canada. 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 American attack.[1] 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. The fort is currently a significant tourist attraction.

History[edit]

View of an early Fort Henry. Ink print, "Citadel of Kingston", by William Henry Bartlett (1809–1854)
Aerial view of Fort Henry, 1920
One of several cannons located on the ramparts of Fort Henry. Most guns were located on the north ramparts since the enemy was expected to attack overland from the north rather than from the lake

First fort[edit]

In the years immediately following the American Revolution, British-American hostilities was still a concern for the British. The British military established a post in what is now Kingston in 1783 by partly refurbishing and garrisoning the ruined French fort (Fort Frontenac). This fort, however, was deemed difficult to defend, and so a fortification was proposed for Point Henry.[2] Although this fortification was never built, a fort's construction was finally begun on Point Henry in 1813 at the beginning of the War of 1812 to defend the important naval base on Point Frederick. This fort, named after Henry Hamilton, former Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Quebec, was one of several defensive structures built in and around Kingston. By 1816 when construction ended, the fort consisted of earth and stone ramparts, magazines, barracks, signal towers and support batteries.

Second fort[edit]

The old fort was demolished to make way for a new fort, which was constructed between 1832 and 1836 to defend the Lake Ontario end of the strategic Rideau Canal, the harbour, and the naval dockyard. In 1842, an advanced battery overlooking the harbour was added to the main fort. 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. Neither the original nor the second Fort Henry was ever attacked. The fort was once referred to as the "Citadel of Upper Canada".

Imperial (British) troops were deployed at the site of Fort Henry from 1813 to 1870. Canadian troops then garrisoned the fort until 1891. Among the historic regiments that garrisoned the fort were the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment. Canadian units who used the fort include "A" and "B' Batteries of Garrison Artillery, and the 14th Battalion, Princess of Wales' Own Rifles. As relations with the United States continued to improve, the need for defences along the border ceased. Abandoned by the military, the fort fell into disrepair. Fort Henry held prisoners of the 1837–38 Rebellions. German, Austrian and Turkish prisoners of war and some civilians, including Ukrainian immigrants described as "enemy aliens" during Canada's first national internment operations of 1914–20 were also held at the fort. In the 1930s, under the leadership of Ronald L. Way, restorations took place as part of a government work program during the Great Depression. During the Second World War, the fort served as a prisoner of war camp for German Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine personnel. "Old Fort Henry" became a living museum with the introduction of the Fort Henry Guard, and was opened on August 1, 1938.

Present use[edit]

Fort Henry Guard

Fort Henry is administered by Parks Canada and operated by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission. Uniformed military interpreters known as the Fort Henry Guard staff the fort, conducting demonstrations of British military life and tours for visitors. Self-guided tours are also available. Other activities and demonstrations include 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. A Sunset Ceremony is held 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.

Legacy[edit]

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 based on the designs by Rolf P. Harder.[3]

Affiliations[edit]

The fort is affiliated with: Canadian Museums Association, Canadian Heritage Information Network, and Virtual Museum of Canada.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Media related to Fort Henry, Ontario at Wikimedia Commons

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cary, Henry (2003). "Early Works: Preliminary Glimpses of the First Military Complex at Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario, 1812-1827". Ontario Archaeology 76: 4–22. 
  2. ^ Mika 1987, p. 180.
  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