Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada

The second Citadel

In 1761, the first Halifax Citadel was in shambles, but it had not been attacked. Years of neglect and Nova Scotia’s damp climate had taken their toll. Work began on a new fort, but a series of setbacks meant it was not completed for several years.

A fort delayed

Image of oil painting depicting the Second Citadel Second Citadel, 1776
© Parks Canada/K.E. Grant

Plans for a new Citadel called for the hill to be cut down by 40 feet. Yet there were very few soldiers stationed in Halifax at the time to do the work. Though 1,000 soldiers came from Massachusetts in 1761 to aid in the effort, little progress had been made by summer’s end. Plans to continue the following summer were set aside when the French attacked St. John’s, Newfoundland. Instead, the British were forced to strengthen the harbour’s defences on Georges Island and the Halifax and Dartmouth shores for fear of an attack.

It took the outbreak of the American Revolution in the 1770s to shift the focus back to Halifax’s land defences and the Citadel. Many Halifax residents had come from New England, and supported the revolution. Fearing the Americans would launch a land attack, British troops, led by Captain William Spry, constructed a new fort, using an expanded version of the plans from 1761. The highlight was a large octagonal tower, which served as a barracks for 100 soldiers.

Like the fort before it, the second Citadel never saw battle. By 1784, it was also in ruins due to neglect and Nova Scotia’s climate. It would take renewed hostility between British and French forces to lay the groundwork for a third fort atop Citadel Hill.