It's an exciting time at Old Fort Niagara as they prepare to welcome thousands of visitors to the French and Indian War Encampment, July 2, 3 and 4. Hundreds of French, British and Native re-enactors will realistically recreate the events of the 1759 Siege of Fort Niagara.
If you've been before, you know it's not to miss. If you've never been, this is the year to make it happen, because this year will be new and different.
|Courtesy Old Fort Niagara|
They brought in 25 dump truck-loads of dirt and are sculpting the British sap, or trench, to portray the offensive strategy used by the British to approach and attack Fort Niagara during the 19-day siege. You will see how it was constructed using dirt, gabions and fascines, with interpretation by knowledgeable re-enactors.
Each day will present new battles, tours, vignettes, programs and activities to offer visitors a chronological sampling of actual events from the conflict, spread over three days. As a result, they are offering a $30 three-day pass (available July 2 only) for multiple-day admissions for those of you who don't want to miss any part of the story. Otherwise, daily admission remains $13 per person per day.
Program activities include:
Saturday, July 2
9:30 am Siege Tour: The French Rebuild Fort Niagara 1755-59. This tour will explore the physical history of the Fort during the French and Indian War. The tour will explain military engineering practices of the mid-18th century and how they were employed to defend Fort Niagara.
10:00 am The Fur Trade: Natives and French traders gather to barter furs for European-made goods.
10:30 am: French Colors Ceremony: The French garrison assembles in front of the French Castle to troop the colors. A small hunting party leaves the fort.
11:00 am: The British Advance: This program explains how the British army got to Fort Niagara and who composed the force. Soon the French hunting party appears and British forces open fire. The French are reinforced and a battle ensues. French forces withdraw to the Fort under cover of artillery.
11:30 am: The Interrogation: British officers interrogate several French prisoners they took during the previous skirmish.
12:30 pm: Preparing the Fort for Siege: French defenders move trade bales and barrels into the outer works to provide cover. Artillery is also moved into the outer works and French forces conduct a musket and artillery demonstration. This is followed by on ongoing siege demonstration through 4:30 pm.
1:00 pm: Rutherford's Embassy: British Captain Walter Rutherford requests a parley with the French commander, Captain Pouchot. He is escorted into the Fort where he presents a surrender demand.
1:30 pm: Opening the Sap: A British engineer explains how his forces are going to approach the Fort by digging trenches toward the post.
2:00 pm: French Sortie: (Battle Demonstration) French forces exit the Fort and attack the British trenches.
3:00 pm: British Mortars: The British present a mortar demonstration in the sap. French guns return fire.
3:15 pm: Kaendae's Embassy: The Seneca chief Kaendae stops the fighting and calls a council with the French.
4:00 pm: French Bombardment: French artillery batteries resume fire.
4:30 pm: Music Demonstration. Listen to fifes and drums.
Sunday, July 3
|Courtesy Old Fort Niagara|
10:00 am: Kaendae's Embassy, Part Two. With Sir William Johnson in attendance, Kaendae holds council in the British camp. Six Nations warriors agree to withdraw from the Siege and camp nearby at La Belle Famille. Ongoing siege demonstrations through 4:30 pm.
11:00 am: Siege Tour: British and New York Provincial troops advance the sap and trade fire with the French, who fire artillery at the approaching trench.
11:30 am: Music Demonstration. Listen to fifes and drums.
Noon: Foodways: A Demonstration of camp cooking in the British Camp.
1:00 pm Siege Tour: The British advance their artillery and open up on the Fort. Artillery and military engineering demonstrations.
2:00 pm: British assault the Fort (Battle Demonstration) British forces attempt to storm the Fort as French defenders stand firm.
3:00 pm; Women's Program: French women sew sandbags and gunpowder bags and treat the wounded.
4:00 pm: Kids Drill: Hands on program for children of all ages. Join the Fort's garrison and learn how to handle a (wooden) musket. Children's games.
Monday, July 4
9 am: Lacrosse Game
10:00 am: Siege Tour: Both sides enter their lines and trade musket and cannon fire. Ongoing siege demonstrations through 2:30 pm.
11:00 am; The Battle of La Belle Famille (Battle Demonstration) A French relief force tries to break through, but is defeated by British troops.
Noon: Artillery Demonstration: British guns pound the Fort. French return fire.
12:30 pm: Music Demonstration. Listen to fifes and drums.
1:00 pm: Desperate Measures: British musket fire and artillery continue to pound the Fort. Many French guns are put out of service and defenders refuse to fire over the parapet. Officers try to motivate their men to continue the Fort's defense.
2:00 pm: British Assault the Fort: (Battle Demonstration) The British successfully assault the outer works. The French sue for terms.
2:45 pm: Surrender Ceremony: British troops enter the Fort, French troops form on the parade ground. Natives help themselves to French goods and the Fort surrenders with the partial honors of war.
The Officers' Club, which opened in 1938 and served the 28th Infantry Regiment that fought in World War I, will be open daily from 11am to 4pm.
In the 18th century, New France's Fort Niagara occupied a strategic gateway to the inner continent of North America via the Niagara River's connection to the Great Lakes region and subsequent waterways. From 1754 through 1760, France and Britain battled for control of these areas while also fighting the Seven Years' War on European soil. Following a 19-day British siege on the fort in July 1759, France finally lost their hold on Fort Niagara and thereby lost the western gateway to the heart of the continent.
Under the terms of the treaty that ended the war, Britain took control of Canada and the Great Lakes region. The war's cost led to new taxes on the King's American subjects that spawned political unrest in the 13 colonies. Colonists like George Washington gained their first military experience during the conflict. This experience would serve them well during the subsequent War of American Independence.