As part of the preparation for putting the entire project into book form, I’ve been going around and re-shooting many of the fortifications that were involved in the War of 1812 using large format film (4 inch by 5 inch), simply for practice and the quality it gives. Here are the first group of forts.
Completed at the start of the war to protect the dockyard at Prescott a critical point in the movement of supplies between Upper Canada, Lower Canada and Halifax, Fort Wellington was never outright attacked during the war, rather troops from the garrison would only participate in the battles of Ogdensburg and Crysler’s Farm. Abandoned after the war, it was rebuilt in 1830s in response to the Upper Canada Rebellions. It was one of the first historic forts to be turned over to Parks Canada, today it stands restored to how it would look in 1846.
Constructed in 1793 to defend the newly established capital of York for Upper Canada, expanded in 1807 to answer the threat of war between the United States and Great Britain. The Fort was destroyed during the disastrous battle of York in April of 1813, and remained in ruins until later in 1813 when it was rebuilt and was able to repel a third attack in 1814. The fort continued to see military use well into the second world war, even though it had been officially purchased by the City of Toronto in 1903. Today it holds the largest collection of War of 1812 buildings in Canada.
Fort Niagara has two unique distinctions, the oldest collection of brick buildings west of Quebec City and being the longest occupied military post in this part of North America. Fort Niagara today was first established by the French in 1687, the French Castle (pictured) was constructed in 1729 in response to rising tensions between the French and British empires. British forces laid siege to the Fort in 1759 during the Seven Years War (French-Indian War) capturing it. Under British control the fort was expanded and remained a loyalist strong hold during the American Revolution, eventually being turned over to the United States in 1796. The British recaptured the Fort in 1813, holding it until 1815. The United States Army maintained control of the Fort seeing use as an Army Base during the major conflicts in the 20th century. The restoration of the masonry fort (which had fallen into disuse) began in the 1920s. The Army turned the entire area over to the State in the 1960s, however the Coast Guard remains on the site even today.
Constructed in the later part of 1812 and into the Winter of 1813 as part of a series of supply forts stretching up from Cincinnati to the Michigan border to provide lodging, defense, and supply points for the Army of the Northwest. Fort Meigs was the largest and key rally point for the army. The palisade enclosing 10 acres, 7 blockhouses, 2 magazines, 5 additional batteries, and support buildings for a garrison of 2,000 men. The fort came under siege in the spring of 1813 however the British were never able to breach the walls. When Harrison’s army marched in the fall of 1813 the entire fort was dismantled and reduced to a simple square palisade and single blockhouse. When the war finished the fort was abandoned and burned in 1815. The new owners of the land used it as a grazing pasture as they realized the importance of the area. It was visited in 1840 by William Henry Harrison during his run for the Presidency (which he eventually won). The fort was rebuilt and opened to the public in 1974 by the Ohio Historical Society after they purchased the land in 1960.
Fort George was completed in 1802 to provide the British Army a headquarters in Upper Canada after turning over Fort Niagara to the United States. There is an urban myth that the officers from Fort George and Fort Niagara were dining there when the declaration of war was received in 1812. The two forts exchanged cannon fire until the massive assault at the end of May of 1813 saw the fort captured by the Americans and the British driven out of the Niagara Region. When the Americans pulled back across the river in December of 1813 they destroyed much of the fort along with the town of Newark (Niagara-On-The-Lake). Rather than rebuild Fort George the British began construction of Fort Mississauga. By the 1820s only the original powder magazine was left standing. The land was used for farming purposes and even a golf course. However at the start of the First World War it was again used as a part of Camp Niagara which including Butler’s Barracks and Fort Mississauga. The fort was rebuilt in the 1930s to original plans.
The fort as it stands today is based off the third Fort Erie. The first two were destroyed during winter storms before the British moved it further away from the river in 1803. But the British never completed the fort and by the time war started in 1812 there was only a small garrison present. The British destroyed the fort in 1813 after the capture of Fort George. Construction again began in the Spring of 1814 however it was surrendered to the Americans in July. It was under American control that the fort saw completion and expansion. General Drummond laid siege to Fort Erie through August and September of 1814 but failed to dislodge the the American force stationed there. The Americans destroyed the fort and left it in ruins in November. British troops reoccupied the ruins in 1815 but never rebuilt the fort itself. It continued to see use as a military base through the rest of the 19th century. By the 20th the land became a popular picnic destination. Restoration efforts commenced in the 1930s and the fort was rebuilt to how it would have looked in 1813, and plays host to the largest 1812 reenactment event in Canada.