|Youngstown, New York|
Fort Niagara 1728
New France 1678-1759 |
Great Britain 1759-1796
US Army 1815–1963
US Coast Guard 1963-present
|Commanders||John W. Heavey (1916-1917)|
|Battles/wars||the war of 1812|
Fort Niagara is a fortification originally built to protect the interests of New France in North America. It is located near Youngstown, New York, on the eastern bank of the Niagara River at its mouth, on Lake Ontario.
Origin[edit | edit source]
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle built the first structure, called Fort Conti, in 1678. In 1687, the Governor of New France, the Marquis de Denonville, constructed a new fort at the former site of Fort Conti. He named it Fort Denonville and posted a hundred men under the command of Capt. Pierre de Troyes, Chevalier de Troyes. The winter weather and disease was severe, and all but twelve perished by the time a relief force returned from Montreal. It was decided in September 1688 to abandon the post and the stockade was pulled down. In 1726, a two story "Maison a Machicoulis" or "Machicolated House" was constructed on the same site by French engineer Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry. It was called the "House of Peace" or trading post to appease the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois. The name used today, "The French Castle" was not used until the 19th Century. The fort was expanded to its present size in 1755 due to increased tensions between French and British colonial interests.
British control[edit | edit source]
The fort played a significant part in the French and Indian War, and fell to the British in a nineteen day siege in July 1759, called the Battle of Fort Niagara. The French relief force sent for the besieged garrison was ambushed at the Battle of La Belle-Famille, and the commander of the post, Francois Pouchot, surrendered the fort to the British commander, Sir William Johnson, who initially led the New York Militia. The Irish-born Johnson was not the original commander of the expedition, but became its leader when General Prideaux literally lost his head, stepping in front of a mortar being test-fired during the siege. The fort remained in British hands for the next thirty-seven years.
Fort Niagara served as the Loyalist base in New York during the American Revolutionary War for Colonel John Butler and his Butler's Rangers, a Tory militia in the command of the British Army. Lt. Col. William Stacy, a high-ranking officer of the Continental Army, was captured at the attack on Cherry Valley, New York by Butler's Rangers. He was held captive at Fort Niagara during the summer of 1779. Niagara became notorious for drinking, brawling, whoring, and cheating. Crude taverns, stores, and bordellos sprouted on "the Bottom", the riverside flat below the fort.
Though Fort Niagara was ceded to the United States after the Treaty of Paris ended the American War of Independence in 1783, the region remained effectively under British control for thirteen years. Only after signing of the Jay Treaty did American forces occupy the fort in 1796. In the interim, United Empire Loyalists fleeing persecution in the new USA were given land grants, typically 200 acres (81 ha) per inhabitant in Upper Canada, and some were sustained in the early years partly by aid from the military stores of the fort. The British captured Fort Niagara during the War of 1812, on the night of December 19, 1813. British forces relinquished it to the United States with the Treaty of Ghent. It has remained in US custody ever since.
Nine currently active battalions of the Regular Army (4-1 FA, 1-2 Inf, 2-2 Inf, 1-3 Inf, 2-3 Inf, 4-3 Inf, 1-4 Inf, 2-4 Inf and 3-4 Inf) are derived from American units (Leonard's Company, 1st Regiment of Artillery, and the old 14th, 19th and 22nd Infantry Regiments) that were at Fort Niagara during the War of 1812.
Later use[edit | edit source]
The name "Old Fort Niagara" which is associated with the fort today does not refer to its age but to distinguish the colonial-era fortress from its more modern namesake. The post-Civil War era saw the building of "New Fort Niagara" outside the original walls of the fort. Following the Civil War, masonry forts were abandoned for the style of military camp we now know (masonry fared poorly under bombardment). The newer Fort Niagara contained a thousand-yard rifle range, access to rail lines, and access to large industrial areas (Niagara Falls and Buffalo). Fort Niagara was used to train troops for the Spanish-American War and World War I, and during World War II as an induction center and later a POW camp for 1,200 German soldiers captured in North Africa. After WWII, the fort served as emergency housing for returning veterans. During the Korean War, the fort was used for the headquarters for anti-aircraft artillery and later Nike missiles. The US Army officially deactivated Fort Niagara in 1963. Military presence on the site continues with the United States Coast Guard still operating at "The Bottoms" making Fort Niagara one of the longest continuously run military bases in the United States, 1726–present day.
In 1931, after nine years of lobbying for repairs and preservation by local citizens, a formal operating license between Old Fort Niagara Association and the U.S. War Department established rights to preserve and operate the fort. In 1949, Congress transferred Father Millet Cross National Monument (a small memorial at Fort Niagara) to the State of New York. In 1960 the fort was among the first sites designated as National Historic Landmarks. 
Today[edit | edit source]
Fort Niagara has been renovated and now serves as Fort Niagara State park and museum. The restored fort is the scene of frequent historical reenactments of 18th century battles that took place on the site, as well as period dances, fundraisers and other special events. Fort Niagara is a State Historic Site known as Old Fort Niagara State Historic Site. There are persons who believe the site to be haunted; this was investigated by the Discovery Channel show Ghost Lab which aired on October 21, 2010. On October 5, 2011, Ghost Hunters investigated the site during their sixth season. Fort Niagara was designated a National Historic Landmark on October 9, 1960 as "Old Fort Niagara" and the Colonial Niagara Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It is a major contributing element to the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Military of New France
- List of French forts in North America
- Fort Erie National Historic Site - at the source of the Niagara River
- Fort George National Historic Site - also opposite Fort Niagara, in Ontario
- Fort Mississauga - opposite Fort Niagara, on the Ontario side of the Niagara River
Footnotes[edit | edit source]
- Campbell, William W.: Annals of Tyron County; or, the Border Warfare of New-York during the Revolution, J. & J. Harper, New York (1831) pp. 110–11, 182.
- Taylor, pg. 102
- National Park Service. "Antiquities Act: Monument List". http://www.nps.gov/history/archeology/sites/antiquities/MonumentsList.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- "Colonial Niagara Historic District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-12. http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=400&ResourceType=District.
- National Park Service; National Historic Landmark Survey, New York. Retrieved June 6, 2007.
- John H. Conlin (1986). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Fort Niagara" (PDF). National Park Service. http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NHLS/Text/66000556.pdf. Retrieved 2009-06-22. and PDF (3.55 MB)
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- "History and Culture". Niagara Falls National Heritage Area. National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/nifa/historyculture/index.htm. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
References[edit | edit source]
Taylor, Alan, The Divided Ground, 2006, ISBN 0-679-45471-3
[edit | edit source]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fort Niagara.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Niagara, Fort.|
- Official Website
- State historic site: Old Fort Niagara
- Virtual tour
- "Old Fort Niagara", by Ann Kelleran, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, Adventures in Western New York History, volume I (downloadable from http://bechsed.nylearns.org/, click on Adventures in WNY History)
- Administration building (1 photo), Entrance gun tower (1 photo), Hot shot battery oven (1 photo), East gun tower (1 photo), Various (7 photos), French castle (1 photo), at Historic American Buildings Survey.
- The Storming of Fort Niagara, 1813
- USGS aerial image of fort and surroundings
- Historic Lewiston, New York
- Local Article on Fort Niagara
- "The FORT of FOUR Nations" Popular Mechanics, December 1934, pp.867-869
- Fort Niagara in 1856, from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
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