Fort Niagara

Fort Niagara is a three hundred-year-old fortification originally built to protect the interests of New France in northern North America. It is located near Youngstown, New York on the eastern bank of the Niagara River at the river mouth on Lake Ontario. The first structure, called Fort Frontenac, was built in 1674 by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. Called a trading post to appease the Seneca tribe, in 1725 a two-story stone building was constructed, initially called Magazin Royale, later called the French Castle. Two years later, cannons were smuggled to the top floor, which was then enclosed by a roof after the French gave the Indians a generous gift of brandy and intoxicated them, making it de facto a fortification.

The fort played a significant part in the French and Indian War, and fell to the British in a month-long siege in July 1759 that was decided in a battle near the fort at a cove on the Niagara River named La Belle Famille. French relief forces were routed by British regulars, colonial militia and Indians. The French officers were saved after intervention by the British commander Sir William Johnson, but part of his bargain with the Indians was ignoring their unfettered scalping and enslaving of the French enlisted men.

Though Fort Niagara was ceded to the United States after the Treaty of Paris ended the American War of Independence, the region remained effectively under British control. Only after signing of the Jay Treaty did American forces occupy the fort in 1796. In the interim, United Empire Loyalists fleeing persecution in the new USA were given land grants in Upper Canada and some were sustained in the early years partly by aid from the military stores of the fort. The British captured Fort Niagara during the War of 1812, relinquishing it to the United States with the Treaty of Utrecht. It has remained in US custody ever since.

Fort Niagara has been renovated and now serves as a park and museum called Old Fort Niagara. The restored fort is the scene of frequent historical recreations of 18th century battles that took place on the site. During WWII it was a training base for US soldiers.

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