Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York

Photo by Michael Kleen

This magnificent fort at the mouth of the Niagara River preserves the scene of several battles, including a 20-day siege during the French and Indian War.

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The Battle of Fort Niagara was fought from July 6 to July 26, 1759 between French forces under the command of Captain Pierre Pouchot and British forces under the command of Brig. Gen. John Prideaux and their American Indian allies at the confluence of Lake Ontario and the Niagara River during the French and Indian War. The 20-day siege ended in British victory and French capitulation after French reinforcements were scattered at the Battle of La Belle-Famille.

In early July 1759, Brig. Gen. John Prideaux marched approximately 3,500 British and Iroquois forces along Lake Ontario to Fort Niagara, floated a battery of artillery across the Niagara River to Montreal Point, and began to lay siege. Captain Pierre Pouchot had sent away most of his troops, so he had about 520 French regulars, militia, and Seneca Iroquois allies on hand to defend the fort. Unfortunately for him, many of his Seneca allies deserted when the British arrived.

To make matters worse, the British ambushed and destroyed a relief column under the command of Col. François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery at La Belle-Famille on July 24. Pouchot sent an officer to British lines to meet the wounded Lignery and confirm reports of the ambush. Seeing little hope, he surrendered on July 26.

The British victory was bittersweet. Brig. Gen. Prideaux was killed on July 19 when an artillery shell exploded prematurely in the barrel. The British sustained 239 casualties during the siege, and the French lost 109 killed or wounded. 377 were captured, including Captain Pouchot.

The French and Indian War, part of the larger Seven Years’ War, was fought between Great Britain and France and their American Indian allies from 1754 to 1763. It ended in complete victory over the French, and France ceded her North American colonies to Great Britain and Spain. Many American Colonists felt their contribution to the war entitled them to equal status in the British Empire, setting the stage for the Revolutionary War and Declaration of Independence 13 years later.

Today, the land around Fort Niagara is preserved as Fort Niagara State Park. The fort itself is run by the Old Fort Niagara Association under license from the New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation. The Old Fort Niagara Association took over management of the site from the U.S. Army in 1931. They regularly hold tours, events, and reenactments. Visitors can take a self-guided tour, and interpretive signs tell the story of the fort, which saw action in several wars. Fort Niagara is remarkably well-maintained.

Old Fort Niagara, at 102 Morrow Plaza in Youngstown, New York, is open July through Aug, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm the rest of the year. Closed New Years Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Admission is a reasonable $12 for adults, $8 for children ages 6 to 12, and children 5 and under are free. Discounts are available for senior citizens, military, and more. Contact eschrader@oldfortniagara.org or (716) 745-7611 for more information.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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