Fort Wellington on the St Lawrence river at Prescott in Canada is the best preserved, British Military Fort of the 1812 War with the United States.
Located just a kilometre across the river from US soil, and today it tells many stories of the role that it played around that time of conflict in the region.
Its role was to protect and stop shipping sailing further up the St Lawrence River and its strategic position was important to the British at that time.
Later in 1820 when peace had long returned to the area it was abandoned and in 1838 rebuilt in response to the Upper and Lower Canada rebellions.
This very popular visitor attraction operated by Parks Canada also houses a rare example of a British gun boat that was dredged up from the river, dried and preserved and housed in a special climate-controlled gallery.
Today visitors to the fort will see it as it was around the time of 1846 when the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment was stationed there.
Touring the site, you can experience how the soldiers and indeed their families too lived within the fort complex.
The three storey Blockhouse is the best preserved in the country.
Even the former latrines can tell a story of life at the fort. Archaeologists carried out a detailed examination of the remains of the soil pit and found a time line of relics within it which is displayed too!
The costumed and very knowledgeable staff bring to life the revealing history of the fort and role it played before and after 1846.
Like a key raid and capture of the US fort at Ogdensburg on the opposite river bank. It was launched from the fort by Lieutenant Colonel ‘Red George’ Macdonell on February 22nd 1813.
He took around 500 men of the Glengarry Light Infantry and some from the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles over the frozen river on his own initiative destroying the barracks and three ships stuck in the river ice. Taking military stores and artillery back with them, but later returned plundered private goods.
He was criticised by his commanding office Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost who had told him only to attack the fort if was much reduced in strength, but ‘Red George’ it seemed wanted to make a name for himself.
However, the result went in his favour as the US forces never again re-garrisioned the fort which then also removed a key threat to British supply lines around this border area. Lt/Gen Prevost wrote “Although you have rather exceeded my orders. I am rather pleased with what you have done”.
The large wooden gun boat relic was found about 30 miles from the eastern end of Lake Ontario. Historians believe this boat was built during the War of 1812. Parks Canada Underwater Archaeology Service raised the remains of the shipwreck in 1967.
This exhibit within this best-preserved fort is also a very well-preserved artefact too of some importance. There are no examples of such a boat from that period.
Although the hull is mostly there, the upper areas are likely to have been torn away or damaged by river ice over the years.
A British naval commander Commodore Sir James Lucas Yeo set up gunboat stations along the upper St Lawrence at Prescott, Gananoque and Kingston with three such boats at each port. These boats help to protect convoys from American attacks with the majority of convoys getting through to Montreal and Kingston safely.
The fort is brought to life most days by a team of re-enactors who will demonstrate loading and firing rifles and even a cannon.
Visitor are encouraged to dress up uniforms of the period and get instruction from the team who will prepare them to load and fire the cannon.
Touring the main blockhouse visitors can see how over 20 families would have lived within its three-storey fortified walls.
With limited space and about the size of a double bed was allocated to each family with often the child sleeping under the bed of their parents.
The fort complex is being maintained constantly by the Park’s organisation currently the palisades around the earth defences are being replaced. This design of fort is in very good condition and is well worth visiting as it’s such a good example.
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Adult fee $3.90 (Can) Senior $3.40 (Can) Youth Free.
Nearby places to stay include Brockville, Rockport, Mallorytown Landing and Gananoque.
I stayed at Maplehurst Manor, Mallorytown landing and The Comfort Inn at Gananoque.
The whole area is easy to explore and places like Brockville are very visitor friendly offering free parking for visitors contact their tourism office in the city. (10 Market St W, Brockville, ON K6V 4R7)