This Week in History


Americans Take Fort George

For the week of Monday May 27, 2013

On May 27, 1813, United States naval and military forces seized Fort George, an important British base at the mouth of the Niagara River. The Battle of Fort George was decisive, for it risked leaving the entire Niagara region in the possession of the Americans during the War of 1812.

Attack on Fort George, by Peter Rindlisbacher
© Parks Canada
In February 1813, almost a year into the War of 1812, American forces revised their strategy to invade Canada by focusing attacks on the Niagara Peninsula with a force of about 7,000 soldiers. The plan called for an initial attack on York (present-day Toronto) followed by a thrust at Fort George. In April, 4,000 American soldiers departed from Sackets Harbor, New York, to attack York. In late May, the second group of Americans departed from Buffalo on a mission to capture Fort Erie, before helping with the offensive on Fort George.


Aerial view of present-day Fort George
© Parks Canada
British commander Brigadier-General John Vincent stationed at Fort George, was aware that an attack was imminent, but did not know from which direction. Two days prior to the capture of the fort, American forces at Fort Niagara – a mere kilometre away and across the Niagara River – began to bombard the fort. At 9 a.m. on May 27, the battle began in earnest, when an American force of about 4,000 landed on the shore near Fort George. There were about 1,300 British regulars and Canadian militia at the fort, but they were greatly outnumbered by the continuous waves of American soldiers. The situation was bleak, and Vincent's troops were forced to retreat to Burlington Heights (present-day Hamilton, Ontario), after sustaining heavy casualties. Though the British retreated on May 27, Vincent’s troops won the Battle of Stoney Creek 10 days later, which prevented the Americans from taking the entire Niagara Peninsula.

Fort George was important to the British and Canadians during the War of 1812, due to its proximity to the Niagara River and the United States border. It also served as the headquarters for the Central Division of the British Army during the war. Fort George was designated a National Historic Site in 1921 and was reconstructed at Niagara-on-the-Lake between 1936 and 1940.

This year is the second of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. For more stories about the war, read This Means War!, Action at the Canard River!, and The Battle of Beaver Dams in the This Week in History archives. Commemorative events will take place at Fort George and across Canada. For more information about the War of 1812, visit Commemorating the War of 1812 on the Parks Canada website.

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