This Week in History


British Capture Fort Frontenac

For the week of Monday August 24, 1998

On August 28, 1758, Lieutenant-Colonel John Bradstreet captured Fort Frontenac (today in Kingston, Ontario) from French forces on Lake Ontario. This was part of the British campaign against New France during the Seven Years' War, when European armies and their First Nations allies struggled to control trade and territory in the interior of North America.

Map of North America before the Seven Years' War

Map of North America before
the Seven Years' War **

The French built Fort Frontenac in 1673 to control the fur-rich lands of the Great Lakes basin. Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle used the fort as a base to explore the interior of North America. By 1701, a string of French forts and trading posts had sprung up along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to help contain Anglo-American settlement east of the Appalachian Mountains. Supplies for these posts came principally from Fort Frontenac. The French also worked hard to retain the assistance of the Aboriginal people of the territory, especially the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Mohawk and Oneida). By 1701, the Iroquois Confederacy exerted influence over much of the interior east of the Mississippi River.

The British fought back, building Fort Oswego on the south shore of Lake Ontario in 1722. Adding to the tension between the mother countries was the westward expansion of American colonials from the east coast. When Americans tried to settle in the French-controlled Ohio Valley in 1754, war broke out.

Archaeological excavation of the foundations of Fort Frontenac

Archaeological excavation of the
foundations of Fort Frontenac

© Cataraqui Archaeological
Research Foundation

In the early battles and skirmishes, the French and their Native allies fared much better than the British. After 1758 the tide turned. With the fall of Fort Frontenac, the French could no longer supply their other inland forts. Furthermore, New France could no longer supply trade items to its Aboriginal allies and the alliances began to fall apart. France ultimately lost the war and ceded New France to Britain in 1763. A new rivalry, however, sprang up between Great Britain and her 13 seaboard colonies, leading to the American Revolution.

In recognition of Fort Frontenac's strategic importance to the fur trade, the fort is commemorated as a national historic site by a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque in Kingston, Ontario. Archaeological work has revealed the remains of the fort. Robert Cavalier de la Salle, the first French explorer to reach the mouth of the Mississippi, is recognized as a person of national historic significance.

** Map based on information taken from the GeoAccess Division maps
©1998. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada with permission of Natural Resources Canada.
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