Common menu bar links

Fort George National Historic Site

Overnight Programs


*Workshops are 40 minutes in duration.


Did you know that cannons could fire a 24 pound cast iron ball over a one mile distance in 1812? That Fort George was destroyed by oven-heated hotshot (red-hot cannonballs) fired from the Fort Niagara complex? That whether the shot was solid, came apart, spun end to end, burned or exploded depended on what you were shooting at?

The Royal Artillerymen were amongst the first professional soldiers in the British Army. The specialized skills they needed to safely use the expensive, cast metal artillery pieces required that they trained extensively in schools, learning complex mathematics and memorizing many and varied complex tables. Artillery, when used by trained men, was one of the greatest assets an army could possess. When cannons were poorly made or the crews poorly trained, the results could be disastrous.

During good weather days the class learns to move and load a large garrison gun. Using simple machines (pulleys and levers) the class learns how to move a cumbersome one and a half tonne cast iron cannon. Students learn how British Artillerymen safely loaded and fired one of the most dangerous weapons (to both sides) of the 1812 period. Fort George has a wide variety of artillery to show and train on (inside) for inclement days.


Do you know why British soldiers wore red and fought in long, straight lines? How do you move 100 people in a line and keep it organized? How do you load and fire a musket in a small amount of space without endangering yourself or those around you?

Drill teaches the fundamental steps of soldiering in the 19th century, from the simple standing, turning and marching, to loading and firing a musket, to performing a bayonet charge. Students work with cutout muskets to learn the concepts of early 19th century soldiers' skills, in a fun, (outdoor or indoor) hands-on activity.


Although there were hundreds of Forts in the British Empire, no two Forts were the same - do you know why? Why did the British build Fort George where they did? How could you prevent someone from breaking through the gate and what would you do if they succeeded? Why would you build a gunpowder magazine in a ditch?

Even though Fort George is a quickly built complex of wood and earth, it is a sophisticated, well-designed series of walls, platforms, ditches and buildings, each with its own specific role for defense. Explore the unique features of Fort George and examine how it was designed to be defended. (Outdoor activity)


Did you know that the British army traveled with families and children? How could you keep children entertained in a spartan military environment? What kinds of games do your kids play and what do they learn from them? How many games (that are still played today) are well over 200 years old?

Games were fun, learning and socialization exercises in the early 19th century. They were designed to improve coordination, memory skills, social skills and of course, to get some exercise. Students play historic indoor and outdoor games while learning about what the games might have taught a child in 1812.


Did flutes have keys or trumpets have valves in the 19th century? What did a piano look like 200 years ago? What did people use music for 200 years ago? Do you know any songs that are 200 years old? (Yes you do.) Why can you hear more 200 year old songs than most people who lived at the time?

In our music workshop students understand and appreciate how music was used in the military for signals ('Reveille' to wake soldiers up, 'the Troop' to assemble, 'the Roast Beef' at meals times, 'the Retreat' at the end of the day), for entertainment and ceremony. Learn about the difference between a band of Music and signal musicians, and learn how live entertainment was provided for all classes. See, hear and try reproduction rope-tensioned drums, a flute and a pianoforte. See and learn about bugles, bassoons, tin whistles, fifes, jaw harps and frame drums. Indoor activity.



Could you start a fire without matches or a lighter? Have you ever cooked a full meal over an open fire without burning something? Do you know how bricks could be used to bake food? Do you know what a clockwork spitjack does?

No fort could survive without skilled, civilian tradespeople. Working in the officer's kitchen was very difficult work for the civilians who filled that role. These enterprising people worked long days in a cramped and dangerous kitchen to prepare rather fancy meals for demanding upper class gentlemen. Explore the tools, technology and techniques of cooking in the early 19th century.. Indoor activity.

Artificer's Shop

If there were no stores to buy from, and you need something as simple as a nail, could you make one? Do you know how the British army permanently marked its belongings? What is the 19th century equivalent of a drill press, wood lathe or jigsaw?

Being a tradesperson 200 years ago, meant specialized guild training (typically 12 years) from a very early age. Skilled tradespeople were in great demand on the frontier, where they were needed to repair items broken by the rigors of life in a harsh environment. In our wood shop/blacksmith building, students see a wide variety of trade tools with demonstrations of how the tools functioned. Indoor activity.


In terms of uniforms, would it matter to you if you couldn't tell the difference between a police officer, postal employee, Boy Scout, Macdonald's employee, or Hockey player? How many uniforms do people wear today and why? Did the British military men ever wear blue coats? With over a hundred different regiments wearing redcoats, how did they tell the regiments apart?

The Uniforms workshop examines the purpose of uniforms today and 200 years ago, and gives students a hands-on look at several (12 different coats) reproduction uniforms. This is a group work activity (3-4 students/group) where students record the details of their particular coat, and deduce what roles, duties (and the regiment) the wearer of the coat was responsible for.


200 years ago, what was considered the best weapon: a musket, sword or spear? Why was an inaccurate weapon preferred to an accurate one? Did you know Americans used a virtually identical weapon to the British? Why do swords appear in so many different sizes and shapes? Why march in straight lines and fight in open fields?

How soldiers fight is always a product of the technology available to them. The weapons workshop explores the scope of military technology of the 1812 period, and explains why military conventions and war were so different then. The workshop is an opportunity to examine weapons up close, to understand how they work, and to fully appreciate the technological differences between 1812 and now. Understand the differences between rifles and muskets, swords, bayonets and pikes.

Do you need more information?

For further information on Education Programs:

Gavin Watt
Education Coordinator
Fort George, Niagara National Historic Sites