Print this Post

Fort Mississauga – The small Niagara fort that played a role in the defence of Upper Canada

May 2023

The Niagara Region was on the front line of the defence of Upper Canada, with many historic forts along the Niagara River, from Fort Erie in the south, to Newark (present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake) in the north. Fort Mississauga was one of the forts at Point Mississauga in Newark, named in reference to the Mississauga Indians, whom once occupied the land.

Fort Mississauga was built near the end of the War of 1812, beginning in December 1813, as a replacement for nearby Fort George. The American army seized the fort during the Battle of Fort George, which began on 25 May 1813. Fort George commander Brigadier John Vincent and his force of 560 men, which included Mohawk warriors under command of John Norton, were forced to withdraw. The American army then began a seven-month occupation of the fort, intending to use it as a bridgehead for an American invasion of the Niagara peninsula.

The Americans abandoned their invasion plans after facing several setbacks; including disease, increased desertion rates, continued risk of ambush outside the confines of the encampment, and defeats at the battles of Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams. With word that 1500 British soldiers and 700 First Nations warriors were advancing on Fort George, in December 1813, the Americans withdrew.

Once they had regained control of Fort George, the British began working on building a temporary barracks, officers’ quarters, guardhouse, and another magazine, replacing those that had been destroyed by the retreating Americans. Nine days later, British forces attacked and eventually captured Fort Niagara, directly across the Niagara River from Fort George, from the Americans.

With Fort Niagara remining in British hands for the rest of the war, there was little interest in a more permanent reconstruction of Fort George, which was seen as poorly designed anyway. Although the Fort George property was retained for training purposes up to the end of World War I, it was decided to build a new fort, Fort Mississauga, a little to the north-west, directly across from Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River.

The new fort was built at Mississauga Point, replacing a lighthouse that was built at the in 1804, which was the first lighthouse on the Great Lakes. A variety of barracks and social buildings were built inside the historic star–shaped earthworks, but the main feature was an all-brick Block House, 25-feet high, eight feet thick at the base, tapering to a seven-foot thickness at the top. Bricks from the demolished lighthouse were used in its construction.

The Block House interior consists of two casemated rooms, which would have served as a barracks and living space during a bombardment. Two rooms in the basement contained a storehouse and powder magazine. Cannons could be mounted on the flat roof of the Block House.

Fort Mississauga had a regular garrison until 1826, after which it was used intermitted, including in response to the Rebellion of 1837 and to respond to border disputes until 1854.

In 1855, the fort was turned over the Canadian Militia and it continued to be manned during the American Civil War and the Fenian Raids of 1866. By the 1870s, the fort saw regular use for Militia summer training, along with serving as one of several training camps in the Niagara area during World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

In addition to being a Militia training camp, the property surrounding the fort was also used as a golf course, the Niagara-on-the-lake Golf Course, which opened in 1875 and is the oldest surviving golf club in North America.

The only original building that remains at Fort Mississauga is the brick block house. All the other buildings were log buildings and have long since been demolished.

Fort Mississauga was designated a National Historic Site of Canada on 30 May 1960.  It is the only remaining star-shaped earthwork in Canada.

The Mississauga Point Lighthouse itself, was designated a National Historic Site in 1937 and is commemorated by a historic plaque within the fort.

A replica of Fort George was built from 1937-1939 by the Niagara Parks Commission and is currently a popular tourist attraction.

Sources: Fort Mississauga – Wikipedia, Fort George, Ontario – Wikipedia, Fort Mississauga National Historic Site – Fort George National Historic Site (canada.ca), Fort George National Historic Site (canada.ca).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/fort-mississauga-the-small-niagara-fort-that-played-a-role-in-the-defence-of-upper-canada/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>