History of Old Fort Erie
One of our most popular heritage properties, Old Fort Erie is a National Historic Site, located along the Niagara River in Fort Erie. Here, you can walk in the footsteps of history on the grounds of what is known as Canada’s bloodiest battlefield.
The early years
The original fort was built in 1764 and located on the river’s edge below the fort that stands today. For decades, Fort Erie served as a supply depot and a port for ships transporting merchandise, troops and passengers to the Upper Great Lakes.
The American Revolution
During the American Revolution (1775-1783), the fort was used as a supply base for British troops, Loyalist Rangers and Six Nations Warriors. Brutal winter storms damaged the original fort and in 1803, plans for a new fort were approved. The new fort would be more formidable and constructed of the Onondaga Flintstone that was readily available in the area.
The War of 1812
The new Fort Erie was unfinished when the United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. After American attacks in May 1813, a small garrison of British and Canadian troops dismantled the fort and withdrew. By late 1813, the American army were forced back across the Niagara River and attempts to rebuild Fort Erie had begun by returning British troops. On July 3, 1814, another American force crossed the Niagara River and captured Fort Erie. At the end of July, after fighting the Battles of Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane, the American army withdrew back to Fort Erie.
In the early hours of August 15, 1814, the British launched a four-pronged attack against the fortifications. U.S. troops were prepared and an explosion in the north-east bastion destroyed any hope of British success with the loss of over 1,000 men. Later, as winter approached, the Americans destroyed the fort and withdrew to Buffalo for the last time. December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the War of 1812-1814.
To this day, Fort Erie is the bloodiest battlefield in the history of Canada.
In the mid 1800’s, Fort Erie was a major crossing point into Canada for freedom seekers using the Underground Railroad. In 1866, a Brigade of Fenians used the ruins of Old Fort Erie as a base for one of their raids into Canada. These raids encouraged the move toward Confederation and Canada became a nation in 1867.
As the 20th century approached, the Old Fort was used as a park and picnic area by local families.
The early 1900's
In 1937 reconstruction began, sponsored by the Provincial and Federal governments and The Niagara Parks Commission. The fort was restored to the 1812-1814 period and officially reopened July 1, 1939.
The fort and surrounding battlefield are owned and operated by Niagara Parks.