Fort Frontenac

Fort Frontenac

Infobox Military Structure
name= Fort Frontenac (formerly Fort Cataraqui)
partof= chain of French forts throughout Great Lakes and upper Mississippi region.
location= Mouth of Cataraqui River, Kingston, Canada

caption= Plan of Fort Frontenac, 1685
built= 1673
used=1673 - present. Periods of abandonment.
builder= Louis de Buade de Frontenac
materials=Original: wood palisade, rebuilt with stone in 1675.
demolished=1689 but later rebuilt. Destroyed by British, 1758. Partly rebuilt, 1783.
condition= Present fort: military barrack buildings. Remnants of original stone fort can be seen.
controlledby= Original: New France
occupants=French, British, Canadian
battles= Iroquois siege, 1688, Battle of Fort Frontenac, 1758

Fort Frontenac was a French trading post and military fort built in 1673 in what is now Kingston, Ontario, Canada. It was strategically positioned at the mouth of the Cataraqui River where the St. Lawrence River leaves Lake Ontario in a location traditionally known as Cataraqui. The original fort, a crude, wooden palisade structure, was called Fort Cataraqui but was later named for Louis de Buade de Frontenac, Governor of New France (Count Frontenac), who was responsible for building the fort. The fort, however, was still often referred to as Fort Cataraqui.

Establishment and early use

The intent of Fort Frontenac was to control the lucrative fur trade in the Great Lakes Basin to the west and the Canadian Shield to the north. It was one of many French outposts that would be established throughout the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi regions. The fort was meant to be a bulwark against the English who were competing with the French for control of the fur trade. A secondary function of the fort was the provision of supplies and reinforcements to other French installations on the Great Lakes and in the Ohio Valley to the south. Frontenac hoped that the fort would also help fulfill his own business aspirations.

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the original administrator and commander of the fort, built many additional buildings and even brought in domestic animals with the hope of inducing settlers to come to the Cataraqui outpost. He replaced the wooden fort with a more secure stone fort in 1675. A description of the fort written in the 17th century mentions that:

La Salle used Fort Frontenac as a convenient base for his explorations into the interior of North America.

The Iroquois wars

Fur trade rivalries resulted in the Iroquois Wars. The French and Iroquois were never on very friendly terms. A peace treaty was signed in 1667, but the war was renewed in the 1680s, and this renewal of war affected Fort Frontenac. In 1687 several Iroquois, many of them friendly to the French, were captured and imprisoned at Fort Frontenac under the orders of the Marquis de Denonville [Parkman 1877, ch. VIII, p. 67-68.] Some were sent to France to be used as galley slaves. Denonville's troops and native allies went on to attack the Seneca Iroquois south of Lake Ontario.

In retaliation for these incidents and other "treacheries", the Iroquois attacked a number of French settlements, including Fort Frontenac. The fort and the settlement at Cataraqui were besieged for two months in 1688. Although the fort was not destroyed, the settlement was devastated and many defenders died, mostly from scurvy. The French abandoned and destroyed the fort in 1689, claiming that its remoteness prevented proper defense and that it could not be adequately supplied. The French again took possession of the fort in 1695 and it was rebuilt.

The Seven Years' War

In the early 1700s the French upgraded the fort's defensive capabilities by adding new guns, building new barracks and increasing the size of the garrison. These improvements, however, would be futile.

During the Seven Years' War the British considered Fort Frontenac to be a strategic threat since it commanded transportation and communications to fortifications and outposts along the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes water route and in the Ohio Valley. The British wanted French communications severed along this route. The fort was also regarded as a competitive and military threat to Fort Oswego, which was built by the British across the lake from Fort Frontenac in 1722 to compete with Fort Frontenac for the Indian trade, and later enhanced as a military establishment. Indeed, General Montcalm used the Fort as a staging point to attack the fortifications at Oswego in August 1756. The British wanted it put out of action. The British also hoped that taking the well-known fort would boost troop morale after their demoralizing battle defeat at Fort Ticonderoga (Fort Carillon) in July 1758.Chartrand, 2001.] And so, in August 1758, the British under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Bradstreet left Fort Oswego with a force of a little over 3000 men and attacked Fort Frontenac. Bradstreet destroyed the fort, and the fort's garrison of 110 men surrendered. Bradstreet quickly departed to avoid further conflict with any French support troops.

The fort's destruction secured Fort Oswego for the British but it did not succeed in severing French communications and transportation to the west since other routes were available (e.g. the Ottawa River-Lake Huron route). Supplies could be moved west from other French posts. Since the fort was no longer important to the French, it was never rebuilt and was left abandoned for the next 25 years.

French imperial power was waning in the late 1750s, and by 1763 France had withdrawn from the North American mainland. Cataraqui and Fort Frontenac were in the hands of the British.

Reconstruction and modern times

United Empire Loyalists who had fled the United States after the American War of Independence formed a community in the vicinity of the fort and along the waterfront. To protect the growing population of Cataraqui (eventually to be called Kingston) from attack from the United States, the British partly rebuilt Fort Frontenac in 1783 to accommodate a military garrison. By October 1783, a lime kiln, hospital, barracks, officers' quarters, storehouses, and a bakehouse were completed on the site of the old fort. [Mika 1987, p. 21.] In 1789, the rebuilt fort became known as Tête-de-Pont Barracks. Many of the present barrack buildings were built between 1819 and 1824. [ Canadian Forts: Forts of Kingston] ]

After British troops were withdrawn from all Canadian locations except Halifax in 1870-71, the militia authorized the creation of two batteries of garrison artillery which provided garrison duties and schools of gunnery. "A" " Battery School of Gunnery was established at Tête-de-Pont Barracks and other locations in Kingston ("B" " Battery was located in Quebec). These batteries were known as the Regiment of Canadian Artillery. This regiment evolved into the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA), with headquarters at the Tête-de-Pont Barracks until 1939. In 1939 the site of the fort again became known as Fort Frontenac.
Canadian Army staff training began at Fort Frontenac when the Canadian Army Staff College moved to the fort from the Royal Military College in 1948. The college is now known as the Canadian Land Force Command and Staff College. Fort Frontenac was also the location of the National Defence College until 1994.

The fort has undergone extensive archaeological investigation and partially reconstructed remains of the northwest bastion and other walls can be seen.

Fort Frontenac was designated a National Historic Site in 1923.



* Anderson, Fred. "Crucible of War - the Seven Years'War and the Fate of the Empire in British North America, 1754 - 1766". New York: Alfred A. Knopf Ltd., 2000. ISBN 0-375-40642-5.

* [ Chartrand, René. "Fort Frontenac 1758: Saving face after Ticonderoga". Osprey Publishing Military Books. 2001.]

* Finnigan, Joan. "Kingston: Celebrate This City". Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1976. ISBN 0-7710-3160-2.

* Mika, Nick and Helma et al. "Kingston, Historic City". Belleville: Mika Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN 0-921341-06-7.

* Parkman, Francis. "Count Frontenac and New France Under Louis IV". Boston, 1877. [ Project Gutenberg]

* [ Canadian Forts: Forts of Kingston]

External links

* [ Biography of Louis de Buade de Frontenac at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [ Biography of the Marquis de Denonville at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [ Biography of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [ The Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation - Fort Frontenac History and Archaeology]
* [ The Founding Of Fort Frontenac]

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