1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Niagara, Fort

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NIAGARA, FORT, an American fortification, on the E. side and at the mouth of Niagara river, opposite the Canadian village of Niagara, or Niagara-on-the-Lake. Fort Niagara has a reservation of 288 acres, with fairly modern equipments, several historic buildings of the time of French and of British possession, in one of which, the old magazine (1737), William Morgan was imprisoned in 1826. Fort Niagara was long, especially during the French occupation of Canada, one of the most important forts in North America, being the key to the Great Lakes, beyond Lake Ontario. “This immense extent of inland navigation,” says Parkman, “was safe in the hands of France so long as she held Niagara. Niagara lost not only the lakes but also the valley of the Ohio was lost with it.” René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, wintered here in 1678-9, built his ship the “Griffon,” and established a trading post and Fort Conti, destroyed not long afterwards. Fort Denonville, built in 1687 by Jacques René de Brésay, marquis de Denonville, governor-general of Canada, in his cruel campaign against the Iroquois, was abandoned in 1688, after the garrison, commanded by Pierre de Troyes (d. 1687), had been wiped out by an epidemic. The first Fort Niagara, to be so named, was built in 1725-1727 at the instance of Charles le Moyne, 1st baron of Longueil (1656-1729), and became a very important military and trading post; the fort was rebuilt by François Pouchot (1712-1769) in 17 56, but in July 1759, after a siege of about sixteen days, it was surrendered to Sir William Johnson by Pouchot, who wrote a Memoir upon the Late War (translated and edited by F. B. Hough; 2 vols., 1866). On the 14th of September 1763 a British force marching from Fort Schlosser (about 2 m. above the Falls; built 1750) to Fort Niagara was ambushed by Indians, who threw most of their captives into Devil's Hole, along the Niagara river. In July 1764 a treaty with the Indians was signed here, which detached some of them from Pontiac's conspiracy. Joseph Brant, John Butler, and, in general, the Indians of north-western New York favouring the British during the American War of Independence, made Fort Niagara their headquarters, whence they ravaged the frontier, and many loyalists and Indians took refuge here at the time of General Sullivan's expedition into western New York in 1779. The fort was not surrendered to the United States until August 1796. In the War of 1812 it was bombarded by the guns of Fort George (immediately across the river in the town now called Niagara, then Newark[1]) on the 13th and 14th of October 1812; was the starting-point of the American expedition which took Fort George on the 27th of May 1813; and on the 19th of December 1813 was surprised and taken by assault — most of the garrison being killed or taken prisoners — by British troops under John Murray (1774-1862), who had previously retaken Fort George. After the close of the war, on the 27th of March 1815, Fort Niagara was restored to the United States, and a garrison was kept there until 1826. The fort was regarrisoned about 1836.

See F. H. Severance, Old Trails on the Niagara Frontier (Buffalo, 1903), Parkman's works, especially Montcalm and Wolfe (2 vols., Boston, 1884), and The Conspiracy of Pontiac (2 vols., Boston, 1851), and a pamphlet by Peter A. Porter, A Brief History of Old Fort Niagara (Niagara Falls, 1896).


  1. On the night of the 10th of December 1813 the American general George McClure (1771-1851), upon abandoning Fort George, set fire to Newark, almost destroying the town and causing great suffering among the inhabitants. McClure attempted to justify this act by a strained construction of a letter to him from the secretary of war, but it was promptly disavowed by the United States government. The burning of Newark led to severe reprisals on the part of the British.