The Canadian Fort Series

Originally published December 17, 2011.

On June 30, 1983, Canada Post issued a set of 10 stamps depicting Canadian forts for Canada Day. The “Forts Across Canada Series” continued in 1985 when on June 28, a further 10 stamps were issued for Canada Day concluding the series. Both sets of stamps are perforated 12½ x 13 and were printed by Ashton-Potter Limited based on the designs by Rolf P. Harder.

Castle Hill, located in Newfoundland and Labrador was established by the French in 17th Century at present-day Placentia. The fort and settlement was built to ensure a claim on the Grand Banks fishery. Under the command of Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville, the French marched from Placentia and destroyed 36 British settlements and captured boats, cod and prisoners.

Even with Castle Hill’s excellent defences, the British were able to blockade Placentia which led to the failure of the French Colony there. When Newfoundland was ceded to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht, France retained certain fishing rights and left the island and built the Fortress of Louisbourg. Castle Hill was briefly used by the British during the Seven Years War.

The site of many battles between the French and British, Fort Anne, Nova Scotia was initially built by the early Scottish settlers to the Annapolis Valley in 1629. When Nova Scotia reverted to French control in the 1630’s a series of 4 forts were built followed by 2 make shift forts. In 1702 construction of the Vauban earthworks began. These earthworks still survive today.

During the war of Spanish Succession in 1710 the British conducted a successful week long siege of the fort and colony. In the 1740’s war resumed and the French launched 3 unsuccessful attempts to regain the fort. Named Fort Anne in the first half of the 19th century, it became Canada’s first administered national historic site.

The Fort at Cote-du-lac, Quebec was built to defend the St. Lawrence and border areas against attack from the Americans and prevent the Americans from cutting the lines of communications between Upper and Lower Canada. Heavily reinforced with troops and expanded over both sides of the Canal. The western side defended against land attack and the eastern controlled the St. Lawrence.

A magnificent example of period military defence works; it was never tested in battle.

Constructed by the French in 1751, Fort Beausejour in New Brunswick was intended to protect French interests in the area. Captured by British Forces in 1755 it was renamed Fort Cumberland and played a role in the deportation of the Acadians in the 1750’s and 60’s.

In 1776 American Patriots, English speaking inhabitants of the area, Acadians and natives attacked the fort. The attack was repelled and many of the attackers were captured. The fort was reinforced during the war of 1812 and finally abandoned in 1885.

Designed by Vauban, Fort Chambly, Quebec built in 1711 was used to protect New France from the British. Fort Chambly was taken over by the British in 1760 after their successful conquest of New France. In 1775 it was occupied by American forces until the spring of 1776 after the Americans suffered defeat at Quebec.

During the War of 1812, the British built a military complex around Fort Chambly and at one point 6000 soldiers were stationed there.

The original Fort Erie, Ontario was the 1st British fort constructed after the 7 years war. It served as a supply depot and port until the elements dictated that a new fort be built on the heights behind it. Unfinished at the outbreak of war in 1812, the fort was held by American forces in 1813 before they withdrew. American forces again occupied the fort in 1814. After an unsuccessful attempt by the British to re-occupy the fort, they conducted a siege from August 15 to September 17. The Americans broke the siege and withdrew after destroying the fort. Fort Erie is the site of the Bloodiest Battlefield in the history of Canada.

The remains of the Fort were used as a base by the Fenians in their 1866 attack on Canada.

Located in Kingston, Ontario, Fort Frederick consists of a Martello tower and earthworks. Completed in 1792 the Naval Base was further fortified during the War of 1812. On November 10, 1812 the guns of Fort Frederick’s battery took part in the defence of the area by repelling an American naval force.

It was constructed as one of a series of defenses to protect the Royal navy Dockyard and the entrances to the Rideau and St. Lawrence rivers. It is now part of the campus of Canada’s Royal Military College.

Originally built during the War of 1812, Fort Henry was built to guard the Kingston Navy Yards and the outlet of the St. Lawrence River. It became more important after the completion of the Rideau Canal and was rebuilt between 1832 and 1837 to better defend the southern end of the canal. It was the largest and principal fort in Upper Canada and was garrisoned until 1891.

During World Wars I and II it was used to house prisoners of war and in 1936 it was leased to the government of Ontario. The provincial government restored the fort and as Great Depression Public Works Project and opened it to the public. Today the fort is managed by Parks Canada, operated by the government of Ontario and houses a museum and during the summer months the Fort Henry Guard which performs precision drill routines based on 1800s drill regulations.

Situated on île aux Noix, Fort Lennox was built between 1819 and 1829. It was constructed to defend the colony from an American invasion via the Richelieu River. The Island, it is situated on, was used as a base by Americans to attack Montreal after they Declared war on Great Britain in 1775.

Île aux Noix was then seen as important for the defence of the colony and various fortifications were built on the Island. Most notably during the War of 1812 the British constructed a naval base and dock yard on the Island. The current Fort was named after Charles Lennox, who was Governor in Chief of British North America.

Fort number 1 at Point Lévy, Québec was one of 3 forts constructed between 1865 and 1872 by the British. These forts were completed to protect the city of Québec and its Port from invasion by the Americans.

Fort number 1 is on the highest point in the region and has commanding views of the city of Québec and surrounding areas. The defence of the Port of Québec was important for the British Empire, not just the colony.

On Hudson Bay, Prince of Wales Fort is situated across from Churchill, Manitoba. Originally constructed as a log fort by James Knight, of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1717, it was called the Churchill River Post. Renamed Prince of Wales fort 2 years later, it was intended to protect and control the Hudson’s Bay Company’s access to the fur trade. The current fort structure was built beginning in 1731 and had 42 cannons with a battery across the river intended to have 6 more cannons.

In 1782, 3 French warships sailed into the Bay and the fort’s Governor, Samuel Hearne, surrendered immediately with out a shot being fired. After being partially destroyed the fort was returned to the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1783.

A Coast artillery fort located near Esquimault, British Columbia, Rodd Hill was intended to defend both the Esquimault Naval Base and the city of Victoria. It is located with Fisgard Lighthouse, which was the first light house on Canada’s West coast.

Built in the 1890s Fort Rodd Hill contained 3 gun batteries, barracks, searchlights and underground magazines. It overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in the distance the Olympic Mountains in Washington State can be seen.

Named after and built by Inspector James Morrow Walsh and his ‘B’ troop of the North West Mounted Police, Fort Walsh was built in 1875 to bring law and order to the Cypress Hills. This area of what is now Saskatchewan was known as a hotbed of illegal activity.

Only existing for 8 years the Fort was the largest, most important and heavily armed fort during the early years of the North West Mounted Polices early presence in the West. It was the Mounties base for chasing whisky traders, horse thieves, welcoming refugees from the United States war with the Sioux and serving the Canadian Governments Indian Policy.

Fort Wellington was originally built during the War of 1812 to protect the shipping route between Montreal and Kingston from an American attack. A second Fort Wellington was completed in 1839 and used the refurbished earthen ramparts of the original fort.

Located near Prescott Ontario, the Fort was used as a staging and assembly area for British regular troops and Canadian militia after an Invading force from New York landed and invaded Windmill Point about 1.5 kilometres down river from Prescott. 5 days of heavy fighting saw the regulars and militia defeat the attacking force.

Located near present day Lethbridge, Alberta Fort Whoop-Up was built by John Healy and Alfred Hamilton of Montana and served them in the illegal trade of whisky for bison robes. After the first trading season the original fort (named Fort Hamilton) burned down and in 1870 a larger fort was constructed.

Fort Whoop-Up as it became known was the largest and most notorious of the American whisky posts in Alberta. In 1874 with the arrival of the North West Mounted Police, the trade in illegal whisky diminished and part of the fort was used by the police. It fell into disrepair and was burned, the remains being used as a supply of lumber and metal by settlers to the area. A replica of the second fort was constructed in 1967.

Originally a fur trading post located at Grand Portage, Minnesota it was forced to move after the area was ceded to the United States after the War of Independence.

Fort William was primarily a transport depot for the North West Company’s fur trade outposts. Due to its central role the fort was made larger and had many more functions associated with it than the typical fur trade post. Today it is a living history site with 42 reconstructed buildings, an Ojibwa village and a small farm.

Located in Modern day Toronto, Fort York was authorized to be built by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe. When the fort was built it guarded the only entrance to the docks and was located just west of the parliament buildings.

During the War of 1812, Fort York was overrun and abandoned by the British forces. As they were abandoning the fort they set the powder magazine to blow up killing and wounding hundreds of American soldiers. The US forces burnt down much of the town of York and its fort. The fort was rebuilt by the British and in 1814 the garrison successfully defended itself against another US invasion attempt. Much of the re-built fort still exists today.

The current Citadel at Halifax is located on a hill overlooking the city and harbour of Halifax. Earlier fortifications were built at this location in 1749-50, 1776-81 and 1795-1800. The present fort was approved in 1825 and work began on it 1828. After about 30 years, the fort was finally completed in 1856.

During the 1860s and 70s the citadel had to be rearmed as rifled artillery made the original armaments obsolete. It was used as a barracks by the British until 1906 and was then handed over to the Canadian Militia. It was declared a National Historic Site in 1951 and is a popular tourist attraction with close to a million visitors annually.

Finished in 1830, Lower Fort Garry was built by the Hudson’s Bay Company on the banks of the Red River to replace the original Fort Garry that was destroyed by a flood in 1826. The location was selected by George Simpson, the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at the time, as it was on higher ground and eliminated the need to portage as it was below the St. Andrews rapids.

Used predominantly as a supply depot for the Red River Settlement and surrounding natives, Metis and European settlers, it traded in essential manufactured goods and sent any furs received on to England via York Factory. The goods provided to the fort by local farmers and hunters were then used to provision company treks. By the 1860s the fort had become an industrial centre.

Lower Fort Garry is North America’s oldest intact stone fort and was the location of the first treaty signed between the native population and the crown.

Located on a bluff overlooking the entrance to Halifax Harbour, York Redoubt was established in 1793 and was expanded in up to the end of the World War II. Constructed at the outbreak of war between revolutionary France and Britain it was built to repel any attack on Halifax by sea. Reconstructed in the 1860s, taking on a totally different appearance York Redoubt’s role in protecting Halifax remained unchanged.

During World War I, it was used as a barracks for troops waiting to go overseas. During World War II the Fire Command Post for harbour defences was built on its site and it was also the command centre for harbour defences. York Redoubt remained in military use until 1956.

The individual forts depicted on this series played vital roles in the shaping of what became Canada, whether defending its citizenry or aiding in settling of lands the forts of Canada are integral to her history.

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