Citadel Hill (Fort George)

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Halifax Citadel
Citadel hill.jpg
Citadel Hill
Location Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Coordinates 44°38′51″N 63°34′49″W / 44.64750°N 63.58028°W / 44.64750; -63.58028Coordinates: 44°38′51″N 63°34′49″W / 44.64750°N 63.58028°W / 44.64750; -63.58028
Part of a series on the
History of
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax Town Clock.jpg

Citadel Hill is a hill that is a National Historic Site in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Four fortifications have been constructed on Citadel Hill since 1749, and were referred to as Fort George—but only the third fort (built between 1794 and 1800) was officially named Fort George, by General Orders of October 20, 1798, after Prince Edward's father, King George III. The first two and the fourth and current fort, were officially called the Halifax Citadel. The Citadel is the fortified summit of Citadel Hill. The hill was first fortified in 1749, the year the town of Halifax was founded. Those fortifications were successively rebuilt to defend the town from various enemies. Construction and leveling have lowered the summit by ten to twelve metres. While never attacked, the Citadel was long the keystone to defence of the strategically important Halifax Harbour and its Royal Navy Dockyard.

Today, Parks Canada operates the site as the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada and has restored to its appearance in the Victorian era.[1]

The First Citadel[edit]

Father Le Loutre's War[edit]

First established in 1749, as a counterbalance to the French stronghold of Louisbourg, which the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) returned to France, Halifax played a pivotal role over the next decade in the Anglo-French rivalry in the region.[2] Various fortifications at Halifax protected Protestant settlers against raids by the French, Acadians, and Wabanaki Confederacy (primarily the Mi'kmaq) in a conflict known to some historians as Father Le Loutre's War. The war began shortly after Edward Cornwallis arrived on June 21, 1749 to establish Halifax with a sloop of war and 13 transports that carried 1,176 settlers and their families.[3] The Mi'kmaq felt that the British settlement at Halifax violated earlier treaties signed after Father Rale's War in 1726.[4] On 11 September 1749, Cornwallis wrote to the Board of Trade:

The Square at the top of the Hill is finished. These squares are done with double picquets, each picquet ten foot long and six inches thick. They likewise clear a Space of 30 feet without the Line and throw up the Trees by way of Barricade. When this work is compleated [sic] I shall think the Town as secure against Indians as if it was regularly fortify'd.[5][6]

The first fort was a small redoubt with a flagstaff and guardhouse, near the summit and just east of the south ravelin of the present citadel.[7] It was part of the western perimeter wall for the old city, which was protected by five stockaded forts. The others were Horsemans Fort,[8] Cornwallis Fort, Fort Lutrell and Grenadier Fort. (The British built Fort Charlotte - named after King George's wife Charlotte - on Georges Island the following year in 1750.)

Building the first Citadel. Soldier of the 29th Regiment of Foot (right) guarding against Acadian and Mi'kmaw raids by Charles William Jefferys
Citadel Hill during Father Le Loutre's War (1750)

The fortified city walls guarded by five stockaded forts to protect against Mi'kmaq, Acadian, and French attacks was the centre of a network of forts Cornwallis built to protect settlements including Bedford (Fort Sackville) (1749), Dartmouth (1750), Lunenburg (1753) and Lawrencetown (1754).

During Father Le Loutre's War, the soldiers guarding Halifax constantly on alert. The Mi'kmaq and Acadians raided the capital region (Halifax and Dartmouth) 12 times. The worst of these raids was the Dartmouth Massacre (1751). Four of these raids were against Halifax. The first raid was in July 1750: in the woods on peninsular Halifax, the Mi'kmaq scalped Cornwallis' gardener, his son, and four others. They buried the son, left the gardener's body exposed, and carried off the other four bodies.[9]

In 1751, there were two attacks on blockhouses surrounding Halifax. Mi'kmaq attacked the North Blockhouse (located at the north end of Joseph Howe Drive) and killed the men on guard. They also attacked near the South Blockhouse (located at the south end of Joseph Howe Drive), at a saw-mill on a stream flowing out of Chocolate Lake into the Northwest Arm. They killed two men.[10] (Map of Halifax Blockhouses)

In 1753, when Lawrence became governor, the Mi'kmaq attacked again upon the sawmills near the South Blockhouse on the Northwest Arm, where they killed three British. The Mi'kmaq made three attempts to retrieve the bodies for their scalps.[11]

Prominent Halifax business person Michael Francklin was captured by a Mi'kmaw raiding party in 1754 and held captive for three months.[12]

The Seven Years War[edit]

Citadel Hill, The British Squadron going off to Louisbourg Expedition (1757)

The stockaded forts were also instrumental to the British during the French and Indian War (the North American theatre of the Seven Years War). The Fort was used to help facilitate the Expulsion of the Acadians, many Acadians being imprisoned on Georges Island in Halifax Harbour. During the war, the Mi'kmaq and Acadians resisted the British throughout the province. On 2 April 1756, Mi'kmaq received payment from the Governor of Quebec for 12 British scalps taken at Halifax.[13] Acadian Pierre Gautier, son of Joseph-Nicolas Gautier, led Mi'kmaq warriors from Louisbourg on three raids against Halifax in 1757. In each raid, Gautier took prisoners or scalps or both. The last raid happened in September and Gautier went with four Mi'kmaq and killed and scalped two British men at the foot of Citadel Hill.[14] In July 1759, Mi'kmaq and Acadians killed five British in Dartmouth, opposite McNabb's Island.[15] There were also numerous raids against the British in the province such as the Raid on Lunenburg (1756).

The Second Citadel[edit]

American Revolution[edit]

Citadel Hill from Fort Needham during the American Revolution (1780)

The first major permanent fortification appeared on Citadel Hill in the American Revolution.[7] The possibility of attack during the Revolution required a larger fortification to protect the city from an American or French attack. Built in 1776, the new fort on Citadel Hill was composed of multiple lines of overlapping earthen redans backing a large outer palisade wall. At the center was a three-story octagonal blockhouse mounting a fourteen-gun battery and accommodating 100 troops. These works required that the hill be cut down by 40 feet. The entire fortress mounted 72 guns.[16] Citadel Hill and the associated harbour defence fortifications afforded the Royal Navy the most secure and strategic base in eastern North America from its Halifax Dockyard commanding the Great Circle Route to western Europe and gave Halifax the nickname "Warden of The North". The massive British military presence in Halifax focused through Citadel Hill and the Royal Navy's dockyard is thought to be one of the main reasons that Nova Scotia—the fourteenth British colony—remained loyal to the Crown throughout and after the American Revolutionary War.

Citadel Hill from Point Pleasant Park during the American Revolution (1780)

Neither French nor American forces attacked Citadel Hill during the American Revolution. However, the garrison remained on guard because there were numerous American privateer raids on villages around the province (e.g., Raid on Lunenburg (1782)), as well as naval battles just off shore, such as the Naval battle off Halifax. By 1784 the works were reported in ruins except for the blockhouse.

The Third Citadel[edit]

All four fortifications constructed on Citadel Hill since 1749 were commonly referred to as Fort George, but this third Citadel is the only one officially named Fort George, by General Orders of October 20, 1798, after King George III.

French Revolutionary Wars[edit]

The French Revolutionary Wars that began in 1793 raised a new threat to Halifax. A new citadel was designed in 1794 and completed by 1800. Much of the work was inspired by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George III and the father of Queen Victoria, who was posted to Halifax as Commander-in-chief from 1794 to 1800. The top of the hill was leveled and lowered a further 15 feet to accommodate a larger fortress on the summit. It resembled the outline of the final Citadel, comprising four bastions surrounding a central barracks and magazine, but used mainly earthwork walls.[17] One bastion was constructed with labour from Jamaican Maroons.

Town clock[edit]

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent commissioned a clock tower in 1800 prior to his return to England. The Town Clock opened on October 20, 1803, at a location on the east slope of Citadel Hill on Barrack (now Brunswick) Street and has kept time for the community ever since.

The War of 1812[edit]

The Third citadel received hasty repairs and a new magazine during the War of 1812 in case of an American raid, but they did not construct new fortifications as a significant British Royal Navy presence made an American siege unlikely. By 1825 all the works except the powder magazine, were in ruins,

The Fourth Citadel[edit]

Citadel Hill, circa 1870. Cannons facing the harbour.

The current star-shaped fortress, or citadel, was completed in 1856, during the Victorian Era, following twenty-eight years of construction. This massive masonry-construction fort was designed to repel a land-based attack by United States forces and was inspired by the designs of Louis XIV's commissary of fortifications Sébastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban[citation needed] a star-shaped hillock citadel with internal courtyard and clear harbour view from armoured ramparts. Between 1820 and 1831 the British had constructed a similar albeit larger citadel in Quebec City known as the Citadel of Quebec.

Centrepiece of the Halifax Defence Complex[edit]

The Halifax Citadel and its predecessors were the focal point of the British military's Halifax Defence Complex, which included (in various years):

The Halifax Citadel was constructed to defend against smoothbore weaponry; it became obsolete following the introduction of more powerful rifled guns in the 1860s. British forces upgraded Fort George's armaments to permit it to defend the harbour as well as land approaches, using heavier and more accurate long-range artillery. The Citadel's two large ammunition magazines also served as the central explosive store for Halifax defences, making Citadel Hill, according to the historian and novelist Thomas Head Raddall, "like Vesuvius over Pompeii, a smiling monster with havoc in its belly".[18] By the end of the 19th century, the role of the Citadel in the defence of Halifax Harbour evolved to become a command centre for other, more distant harbour defensive works, as well as providing barrack accommodations.

American Civil War[edit]

The soldiers at the Halifax Citadel were on alert when Nova Scotia became the site of two international incidents during the American Civil War: the Chesapeake Affair and the escape from Halifax Harbour of Confederate John Taylor Wood on the CSS Tallahassee.[19]

78th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot[edit]

The renowned 78th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot were stationed at Halifax for almost three years (1869-1871). The regiment arrived in Halifax on the afternoon of May 14 aboard the troopship HMS Crocodile. A total of 765 men disembarked in full dress uniform. The Regiment was divided into two depots and eight service companies, consisting in all of 34 officers, 49 sergeants, 21 drummers, 6 pipers, and 600 rank and file.[20]

For two years, the regiment spent its time billeted at the Halifax Citadel and at Wellington Barracks. The latter is now known as Stadacona and is part of Canadian Forces Base Halifax. Each summer, men from the regiment camped at Bedford to practice musketry at the military range.[21]

78th Highlanders - Contemporary Re-enactors, at Citadel Hill

On their departure in 1871, a farewell ball complete with a musical tribute was composed in their honour. It was hosted by the famous brewmaster and then Grandmaster of the Mason Lodge of Nova Scotia and mayor of Halifax, Alexander Keith.[21]

On November 25, the regiment set sail for Ireland on board the troopship Orontes. With them went 17 young Nova Scotian women who had married members of the regiment.[21]

The Halifax Citadel has a living history program featuring animators portraying life in the fort where soldiers of the 78th Highland Regiment and the 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) Pipe Band who re-enact life in 1869.

This re-enactor is showing the tourists how the rifles of the 19th century worked.

First and Second World Wars[edit]

Though never attacked, Citadel Hill's various fortifications were garrisoned by the British Army until 1906, and afterward by the Canadian Army throughout the First World War.

When the Great War began in 1914, there was widespread suspicion in Canada that immigrants from enemy countries might be disloyal. In response, the federal government passed regulations allowing it to monitor and intern anyone who had not become naturalized British subjects. These people were labelled "enemy aliens." In total 8,579 men were prisoners of war in 24 camps across the country.[22]

There were three Internment camps in Nova Scotia: Amherst Internment Camp (April 1915 to September 1919); one on Melville Island in the Northwest Arm of Halifax Harbour and in Citadel Hill (Fort George) (September 1914 to October 1918).[23] Unlike the rest of Canada, where internees were mostly of Eastern European origin, the internees in Nova Scotia were mainly German reservists.[22]

Fort George's final military role was to provide temporary barracks, signaling and the central coordinating point for the city's anti-aircraft defences during the Second World War.


In 1935, the hill and fortifications were designated a National Historic Site and received some stabilization as a works project during the Depression.[24] However, the fort was not restored and began to decay after the end of the Second World War. In the late 1940s, Halifax downtown business interests advocated demolishing the fort and leveling Citadel Hill to provide parking and encourage development.[25] However, recognition of the fort's historical significance and tourism potential led to the fort's preservation and gradual restoration. Research by historian Harry Piers published in his final book The Evolution of the Halifax Fortress, 1749-1928 in 1947 played a key role in making the case and providing resources to restore the Citadel.[26] In 1956, the partially restored fort opened as a historic site and home to the Halifax Army museum and, in the years before they constructed their own museums, as home to the Nova Scotia Museum and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The Citadel was finally fully restored to its 1869 appearance in the 1990s by Parks Canada.

Present day[edit]

The hill in the summer of 2015.

Today the site is under the responsibility of Parks Canada. The Citadel has been restored to the mid-Victorian period. The fort is amongst the most visited National Historic Sites in Atlantic Canada.

The grounds of the Halifax Citadel are open year round, and from spring to fall has a living history program featuring animators portraying the 78th Highland Regiment, (stationed at Halifax between 1869 and 1871), the 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) Pipe Band, the Third Brigade of the Royal Artillery, soldiers wives, and civilian tradespersons. Parks Canada also hosts several re-enactment events each year by volunteers of the Brigade of the American Revolution and the Atlantic Canadian World War Two Living History Association.

Guided and self-guided tours, and audio-visual presentations and exhibits communicate the Citadel's role in the history of Halifax and North America. The Halifax Citadel's role in shaping Halifax is celebrated in a year-round daily ceremonial firing of the noon gun. The artillery is also used for formal occasions such as 21-gun salutes.

The "Army Museum", located in the Citadel's Cavalier Block, displays a rare collection of weapons, medals, and uniforms exploring Nova Scotia's army history. It is an independent non-profit museum but works in close partnership with the Citadel staff of Parks Canada.

In July 2006, Halifax Citadel celebrated the 100th anniversary of the withdrawal of the last British military forces from Canada. The Citadel hosted over 1,000 re-enactors from around the world. Approaching the Christmas season, Citadel Hill annually hosts a "Victorian Christmas". Visitors are treated to crafts, carolers, and games.

Army Museum Gallery[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The Halifax Citadels were an American Hockey League team that played from 1988 - 93 at the Halifax Metro Centre, just below Citadel Hill.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada". Parks Canada. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Johnston, A.J.B. (2013). Louisbourg: Past, Present, Future. Nimbus Publishing. 
  3. ^ Grenier, John. The Far Reaches of Empire. War in Nova Scotia, 1710-1760. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 2008; Thomas Beamish Akins. History of Halifax, Brookhouse Press. 1895. (2002 edition). p 7
  4. ^ Wicken, p. 181; Griffith, p. 390; Also see Fort Vieux Logis Archived May 14, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Bell Twatio. Battles without Borders. p. 157
  6. ^ Cornwallis letter 11 September 1749
  7. ^ a b Thomas B. Akins. History of Halifax City. Brook House Press. 2002 reprint. p. 209
  8. ^ Named after a member of the Nova Scotia Council.
  9. ^ Thomas Atkins. History of Halifax City. Brook House Press. 2002 (reprinted 1895 edition). p 334
  10. ^ Piers, Harry. The Evolution of the Halifax Fortress (Halifax, PANS, Pub. #7, 1947), p. 6 As cited in Peter Landry's. The Lion and the Lily. Vol. 1. Trafford Press. 2007. p. 370
  11. ^ Thomas Atkins. History of Halifax City. Brook House Press. 2002 (reprinted 1895 edition). p 209
  12. ^ Fischer, L. R. (1979). "Francklin, Michael". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. IV (1771–1800) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 
  13. ^ J.S. McLennan. Louisbourg: From its foundation to its fall (1713-1758). 1918, p. 190
  14. ^ Earle Lockerby. Pre-Deportation Letters from Île Saint Jean. Les Cahiers. La Societe hitorique acadienne. Vol. 42, No2. June 2011. pp. 99-100
  15. ^ Beamish Murdoch. History of Nova Scotia. Vol.2. p. 366
  16. ^ Piers, p. 16-17
  17. ^ "The Third Citadel", Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, Parks Canada
  18. ^ Thomas Raddall, Halifax: Warden of the North (1948), p. 153-154
  19. ^ Marquis, Greg. In Armageddon's Shadow: The Civil War and Canada's Maritime Provinces. McGill-Queen's University Press. 1998.
  20. ^ Electric Scotland
  21. ^ a b c Halifax Citadel Regimental Association (HCRA)
  22. ^ a b
  23. ^ "Internment Camps in Canada during the First and Second World Wars, Library and Archives Canada". 
  24. ^ Halifax Citadel. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  25. ^ Thomas Raddall, Halifax: Warden of the North (1948), p. 336
  26. ^ "Who was Piers", Harry Piers Museum Maker, Nova Scotia Archives


External links[edit]