Fighting for the Fortress: Commemorating the 250th Anniversary of the Siege of Fort Niagara

Old Fort Niagara celebrates largest battle on its grounds since 1759

The precursor to the fight for American independence, the French & Indian War was a clash of empires that decided the fate of a contiOld Fort Niagaranent and played a pivotal role in shaping the United States and Canada. This summer, the Niagara region will commemorate the 250th anniversary of one of the war’s most dramatic episodes – the siege and capture of Fort Niagara, located just miles from Niagara Falls.

A summer of activities is planned, including the main attraction – a full scale reenactment of the siege. This event will mark the largest battle on the grounds of Old Fort Niagara since the original siege in 1759.

Beginning in 1754, Frenchmen, Native Americans and the British fought the final colonial war for control of North America. The outcome of the conflict determined that English institutions, not French, would be dominant in North America, a legacy that still lives on almost three centuries later. It also laid the groundwork for the American Revolution.

The signature event of “Fighting for the Fortress” is the Re-enactment of the Siege of Fort Niagara, July 3-5, 2009, and will be the largest such event ever held on the grounds of Old Fort Niagara. The three-day event will recreate the 1759 siege of Fort Niagara with more than 2,000 re-enactors, fireworks, large scale battle re-enactments, living history camps, colonial merchants, Native American councils and musical entertainment. The New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission has designated Fort Niagara’s “Fighting for the Fortress” as the signature event for summer 2009.

Old Fort Niagara Celebrates 250th anniversaryOn July 6, 1759, British Brigadier John Prideaux and his army of 2,300 soldiers and 1,000 Iroquois warriors surrounded the post held by French Captain Pierre Pouchot and 600 men. The siege continued for 19 days as batteries of cannon and mortars from the British bombarded Fort Niagara both day and night. The last hope for the French was an army of 1,500 from the Ohio Valley, but on July 24 they encountered the British a mile south of the fort. On July 25, 1759, Captain Pouchot surrendered Fort Niagara to the British.

In addition to the signature event, “Fighting for the Fortress” begins with a re-enactment of the burning of the small French Fort du Portage near the brink of Niagara Falls on May 30, 2009.  Interactive living history programs will be offered daily at Fort Niagara from June 20 – August 31.

Living history interpreters portraying people on both sides of the siege will bring those who lived through this event dramatically to life. British cannon crews will bombard Fort Niagara as French soldiers defend it with musketry. Visitors can also take part in siege activities by helping to build fortifications, practice cannon drills, prepare rations, handle a musket and try on clothing like that worn by the Fort’s defenders 250 years ago.

Fort Niagara will also mark the anniversary of the surrender on July 25 with music, food, entertainment, artillery and musketry salutes from all of the cultures that played a role in the 1759 siege.

Note: Old Fort Niagara is a National Historic Landmark and State Historic site operated by the Old Fort Niagara Visit Old Fort Niagara near Niagara FallsAssociation, a not-for-profit organization, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Located on Lake Ontario in Youngstown, NY and 14 miles north of Niagara Falls, Old Fort Niagara has stood at the entrance to the Niagara River since 1726.

Today, the fort features the “French Castle,” the oldest building on the Great Lakes and offers a unique collection of original military architecture and fortifications from the 18th and 19th centuries. Welcoming more than 100,000 visitors a year, the Fort opens at 9 a.m. daily year round. Adult admission is $10, children 6-12 is $6 and children under 6 are free. For this year’s Re-enactment of the Siege of Fort Niagara, July 3-5, 2009 there will be a special admission price in effect. For information, including hours of operation, can be found at www.oldfortniagara.org or by calling 716-745-7611.