Lévis Forts National Historic Site of Canada
Humoristic drawing of the British
garrison's departure in 1871
© Recollections of Canada / W.O. Carlisle & C.B.
Martindale / 1873
Construction finally began on the detached forts just at the moment
when the American threat tapered off. The risk of armed reprisals against
Canada soon subsided. To put an end to its controversial quarrels with the
Americans, London used its strongest arm: diplomacy. In 1871, negotiators
signed the Treaty of Washington, while in Europe the conflict also subsided
due to the English talent for mediation.
The strategy for the defence of Point Lévy, which involved heading
off any invasion from the south, was no longer relevant. Great Britain left
the government of Canada the task of protecting its own borders. In accordance
with the dictates of the Empire's military strategy, Québec's role
was taken over by Halifax. British troops finally left the Québec region
for good on October 11, 1871.
Picture of the soldiers from the B Battery at the militia
camp in 1897
© National Archives of Québec / P585, P162
Thus, these three forts, built at such great cost, would never house
a garrison and would never fire a shot in war. They were soon to become practice
grounds for the artillery school (Battery B) of the Canadian Army, whose
headquarters were in the Citadel at Québec.
Since Canada no longer had to worry about conflict with its neighbours
to the south and since the Canadian Army was faced with budget cuts, the
forts were not armed until 1878. In that year, Great Britain feared that
the expansion of Russia towards Turkey and India would have repercussions
in the colonies. Canada was poorly equipped in terms of armament and modern
facilities to face such attacks using battleships.
Armstrong-type rifled cannon
© Parks Canada
In the end, the Russian threat did not materialize, but it did force
the Canadian government to rethink its defence strategy to include the possibility
of a naval offensive from overseas. This climate of tension made them fear
possible raids and naval bombardments on Canadian ports. So in reaction to
the Russian threat, each fort received a piece of breach-load rifled artillery
of approximately 17 cm. This Armstrong canon was the only piece of artillery
ever to be mounted on the terreplein at Fort No. 1. It was able to fire a
40-kg shell over a distance of 5 km.
From Warehouse to National Historic Site
Fort No. 1, before restoration
© Public Works
According to a testimony, Fort No. 1 vonce served as a munitions
warehouse and barracks for troops waiting to be sent to Europe in World War
I. It continued as a munitions warehouse between the two wars and into World
Despite the fact that the fort was never used to its full potential,
it nonetheless has great historical interest. As an integral part of the
defence complex of Québec, it bears witness to the evolution in fortification
techniques and marks the transition from classical to modern military art,
from the concept of the continuous rampart to the detached fort.
From an architectural standpoint, the quality and beauty of the work
are admirable. The underground passageways, the caponiers vaulted in brick,
the stairs in the gorge caponier perched over corbels, are just some of the
architectural features sure to interest visitors.
Under the leadership of Mr. Paul Théberge, a group of volunteers called Les Compagnons du vieux fort (Friends
of the Old Fort) put a great deal of energy into saving the fort in the 1960s.
In 1972, a century after the construction of the fort, Parks Canada undertook
the sizeable task of stabilizing and restoring the fort. Since 1982, the site
has been open to the public every summer.