This Week in History


Waging War on Wilkinson: Action at Fort Wellington in 1813

For the week of Monday November 4, 2013

On November 6, 1813, British forces stationed at Fort Wellington in Prescott, Upper Canada (present-day Ontario), fired their cannons at an American fleet passing on the St. Lawrence River. The Americans were on their way to capture Montréal, but the British forces at the fort would soon intercept their efforts.

Postcard depiction of Fort Wellington
© Parks Canada
United States Major General James Wilkinson hoped to link up with Major General Wade Hampton’s force and seize the city of Montréal. Unbeknownst to Wilkinson, Hampton had just been defeated on October 26 at the Battle of Châteauguay, so the offensive was no longer viable.

Built during the War of 1812, Fort Wellington was one of the main defences along the St. Lawrence River in Upper Canada. During their St. Lawrence Campaign to capture Montréal, the Americans had no choice but to go past the fort. Rather than risk his army from being destroyed by the British guns before reaching their destination, Wilkinson stopped his flotilla and brought his troops ashore, above Prescott on the American side of the river, on the evening of November 6, 1813. The Americans sneakily marched around the fort, while the transport ships continued their journey down the river. The British spotted the ships and fired upon them, but the Americans made it past the fort.

Map showing the placement of Fort Wellington along the St. Lawrence River at Prescott.
© Parks Canada
Over the next two days, British reinforcements from Kingston arrived at Fort Wellington. Led by Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Morrison, the British troops confronted Wilkinson and his men near Morrisburg during the Battle of Crysler’s Farm on November 11.

Fort Wellington played an important role throughout the War of 1812, and was called into action during subsequent conflicts, including the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. In 1838 the fort was rebuilt and used to defend the region from more American attacks. Fort Wellington was designated a national historic site in 1920.

This year is the second of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. For more stories about the War of 1812, read The Invasion of CanadaVictory at Fort Detroit! and The Battle of Beaver Dams in the This Week in History archives. To learn more about Fort Wellington, see the Fort Wellington Visitor Information page.

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