Fighting for the Fortress: 250th Anniversary of the Siege of Fort Niagara

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Jul 02, 2009 / 1 comments

Over 2,300 Re-enactors to Commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the Siege of Fort Niagara

Old Fort Niagara celebrates largest battle at historic site since 1759

YOUNGSTOWN, NY – This summer, the crackle and smoke of muskets, the roar and explosion of cannons and the shouts and charges of French and British soldiers will echo across Old Fort Niagara’s grounds just as they did 250 years ago.  Old Fort Niagara, in conjunction with the New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission, has planned a summer long commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the siege of the historic fort.  A large scale reenactment of the siege involving over 2,300 re-enactors from across the United States and Canada is set for July 3-5, 2009, marking the largest battle on the grounds since the original siege in 1759.

“At the time, the capture of Fort Niagara was one of the most significant military events in North America, as its strategic location was the key to controlling the entire North American continent,”
said Robert Emerson, executive director at Old Fort Niagara. “The events and programs planned this summer illustrate 18th century life and colonial battles like nothing we have ever done before.”

During the weekend, a living history encampment will recreate the siege with re-enactors portraying British and French forces and American Indian warriors. Programs and reenactments over the three days closely follow the course of events as they unfolded during July 1759.  The re-enactment activities begin at 10:00 a.m. on Friday and run from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Old Fort Niagara

Highlights include a nighttime artillery bombardment and fireworks display, extensive battle re-enactments on both land and sea, hands-on demonstrations for all ages, local craftsmen goods, military music and children’s games. Advance sale tickets can be ordered at or by calling 1-800-838-3006 through June 30. Weekend passes for a family of four are $45 and $25 for individuals. Tickets will be available the weekend of the event for $13 per person per day.

In the 1750’s, Frenchmen, British and American Indians fought the French & Indian War, the final colonial war for control of North America. The original siege of Fort Niagara began on July 6, 1759 as British Brigadier John Prideaux and his army of 2,300 soldiers and 1,000 Iroquois warriors surrounded Fort Niagara, which was held by French Captain Pierre Pouchot and his 600 men. The French defenders held out for almost three weeks as the British bombarded Fort Niagara with batteries of cannon and mortars both day and night. The last hope for the French was an army of 1,500 from the Ohio Valley, but on July 24 they encountered the British a mile south of the fort. On July 25, 1759, Captain Pouchot surrendered Fort Niagara to the British.

The July weekend has been named the signature event for 2009 of the New York State French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. It has also been designated as the Grand Encampment of the French and Indian War for 2009 by the reenactment community. The reenactment of the siege will be the world’s largest event of its kind this year.

“This summer we shift focus to Old Fort Niagara in the six year commemoration of the French & Indian War in New York State,”
said Nicholas Westbrook, director emeritus, Fort Ticonderoga and vice chair of the New York State French & Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. “Visiting Old Fort Niagara to experience this fascinating re-enactment will provide a one of a kind experience into an era when nations fought for world dominance right here in our own backyard.  It is an international and multi-cultural story about the birth of nations and it truly was America’s first participation in a world war.”

In addition to the main event, Old Fort Niagara will recreate the burning and destruction of a French fort, Fort du Portage, which once stood near the brink of Niagara Falls on May 30 at the eastern boundary of Prospect Park.

Daily interactive living history programs will take place from June 20 through August 31 at Old Fort Niagara and living history interpreters portraying people on both sides of the siege will bring those who lived through this event dramatically to life. Visitors can take part in siege activities by helping to build fortifications, practice cannon drills, prepare rations, handle a musket and try on clothing like that worn by the Fort’s defenders 250 years ago.

Fort Niagara will also mark the anniversary of the surrender on July 25 with music, food, entertainment, artillery and musketry salutes from all of the cultures that played a role in the 1759 siege.

Old Fort Niagara is a National Historic Landmark and State Historic site operated by the Old Fort Niagara Association, a not-for-profit organization, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Located on Lake Ontario in Youngstown, NY and 14 miles north of Niagara Falls, Old Fort Niagara has stood at the entrance to the Niagara River since 1726 and today features the “French Castle,” the oldest building on the Great Lakes. The Fort offers a unique collection of original military architecture and fortifications from the 18th and 19th centuries in additional to living history events and education programs.  Welcoming more than 100,000 visitors a year, the Fort opens at 9 a.m. daily year round. For information, including hours of operation, can be found at or by calling 716-745-7611.

Old Fort Niagara

Fighting for the Fortress: 250th Anniversary of the Siege of Fort Niagara

EVENTS SCHEDULE – July 3-5, 2009

Friday, July 3

10:00 am: Battle on the Beach - A French hunting party from Fort Niagara discovers that British forces have landed east of Fort Niagara. Rangers, Native American warriors, and French troops engage in combat. Both sides are reinforced until a major battle unfolds on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Noon:  L'Iroquoise Attacked - British boats attack the French schooner Iroquoise, anchored in the cove below Fort Niagara.

1:00 pm: Parade and Pageantry - The armies pass in review with over 2,300 reenactors, dressed as Native American warriors, French, British, and American Provincial soldiers.

2:30 pm: Wilderness War - The armies' light troops clash as the siege begins. British rangers, light infantry and Iroquois allies spar with French milice (militia) and Native allies.

4:00 pm: Rutherford's Embassy - Following 18th century European practice, Captain Walter Rutherford calls upon the French to surrender the fort and avoid bloodshed.

5:00 pm: First Bombardment - British artillery opens fire on the Fort and French guns reply.

9:30 pm: Night Bombardment/Grand Feu de Joie
- French and British artillery exchange fire, accompanied by a grand fireworks display. Soldiers perform a feu de joie.

Saturday, July 4

9:00 am: Artillery Bombardment/Opening the Trenches - French and British guns exchange fire. Rangers, provincials, and riflemen snipe at French sentries.

10:30 am: First Sortie - French troops attack the British trench

11:00 am: Kaendae's Embassy -A Seneca chief sets out to reestablish Seneca loyalty to the French.

Noon: French-Native Council - The Fort's commandant reproaches the Seneca for supporting the English and wins Iroquois withdrawal from the siege.
7/4 continued

1:00 pm: Death of General Prideaux - The British commander accidentally steps in front of a mortar and is killed.

2:00 pm: British-Native Council - Iroquois warriors gather to confer with Sir William Johnson.

3:00 pm: British Assault the Fort - British regulars and provincial troops attack Fort Niagara's outer works.

4:30 pm: The Parley - The British demand the surrender of the weakened fort.

Sunday, July 5

8:30 am: Period Church Services - 18th century Catholic and Protestant church services in their respective camps.

9:30 am: The Final Bombardment - French and British artillery exchange fire.

11:00 am: Battle of La Belle Famille - A French relief force attacks a British roadblock in an attempt to relieve the fort.

1:00 pm: The Final Assault - British forces capture the fort's outworks.

3:00 pm: Memorial to Those Who Fought/Surrender of the Fort - British forces march into the Fort. Both armies pay tribute to those who took part in the 1759 siege. The French surrender the fort.

4:00 pm: Prisoners of War - French troops march out, board boats and are rowed away.

Ongoing Programs throughout the weekend:
•    Sutlers and Tradesmen
•    Hospitals
•    Hands-on demonstrations for all ages
•    Children's games
•    Art Show featuring works depicting the eastern frontier.
•    Demonstrations of 18th century engineering and fortification.
•    Military Musick of the French and Indian War
•    Camp guards and sentries
•    Book signings
•    Food

For more information, please see:

All information and photos courtesy and copyright of Old Fort Niagara.

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