The Defence Of Canada And the War of 1812 At Fort Henry

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Everywhere I turn history comes alive in front of my face.

History is everywhere in Ottawa and the 1000 Islands. In my few short weeks here I’ve gotten a refresher course in early Canadian history and I love it! Buildings that once housed the economic engines of the region are now restaurants and jails are hostels for travelers from all around the world. In Kingston we have Fort Henry which helped defend Canada, the naval shipyards and the Rideau Canal from the invading Americans during the War of 1812. It’s time I got a lesson in our military history as part of my 30 Days In Ottawa.

Fort Henry from the air

entrance to Fort Henry

Kingston is just a short 30 minute drive from Gananoque so it’s a great morning or afternoon escape if you get tired of sailing the river or lounging on the docks Smile Did you know that Kingston was actually the our first Capital City before Ottawa? Bet ya didn’t know that.

Before I actually get a tour of the Fort I visit the brand new Fort Henry Discovery Centre. Built for all generations the Discovery Centre is full of information and best of all it’s interactive. You can actually test your aim and shoot a cannon at approaching ships.

Shooting an enemy ship

What’s really cool at the Discovery Centre is that you get to see 2 view points. Ours of course and what it was like to be in the British/Canadian army during that time. You can ask questions of the British Commander, see what they would have eaten and even “talk” with a family in the army.

British army viewpoint

Interactive display of a meal from the 1800's

Meet a soldiers family

interact with the soldier about his children

The other viewpoint you get to see from is the Americans.

American viewpoint of Fort Henry

It’s very cool and a great place to start before you actually get to see the Fort in all it’s glory. This Fort is actually an improvement on the one used to protect Canada in 1812. The one I will show you here in pictures was built between 1832 and 1837 to beef up our presence and most importantly protect our shipping lanes from the Atlantic through the Great Lakes.

My tour guide through the Fort knows it inside and out, backwards and forwards. He’s worked there for over 30 years and from the look on his face he has enjoyed every minute of it.

We start with a walk past the guards on duty and descend into the main part of the Fort where the Regimental Guard is on parade. More about them later I promise.

Guard on duty

Regimental guard

Straight into te Fort we go and the first site we see is a jail cell. I guess even back then soldiers could get out of hand. I wouldn’t want to spend much time in there. It’s so small you can barely change your mind.

Jail Cell

Next up we get to see how the Officers lived at the Fort. The higher your rank the more luxurious your accommodations including a private dining room just for the Officers.

Officers quarters

Captain's quarters

Officers Dining Room

By contrast look at what the enlisted soldiers received for quarters and keep in mind there was no separate dining room for them.

soldiers quarters and dining room in one

Kitchen where all the food was prepared

We now get to descend deeper into the Fort into the very thick walls that contained cannons and firing holes to bring down the enemy should the Fort be attacked.

Descending into the Fort

Underneath the walls at Fort Henry

a real cannon used to defend the Fort

Back up top you can tour rooms filled with memorabilia from the era. All authentic and fascinating to see in person. I tried to snap some pics for you but the reflection from the glass was too much. You are just going to have to go and see for yourself.

When we emerge from the Fort we are treated to a  great display by the regimental guard. It is truly an amazing site to witness and in high tourist season the stands are packed with watchers. Some school students are even lucky enough to overnight at the Fort and get to take part in the parade the next day.

Regimental Guard on the parade grounds

marching regimental guards

Regimental Guard Gun Salute

Something I didn’t get to witness is the new light show that they have created. During the evening Parade the walls will be awash in images from the era adding another layer to the whole experience. If that isn’t enough to convince you to visit Fort Henry then how about their soon to be opened Battery Bistro which will offer great food overlooking the walls of the Fort into Lake Ontario, A Million Dollar View!

What a visit. I have to be honest I had no idea that Canadian history would excite me so much but it has. I love Vancouver and the west coast but what 30 Days In Ottawa is showing me is how amazing other parts of our country is. Hmmm I think I might have to do 365 In Canada next so I can truly appreciate every inch of this great country I call my home Smile

If you are ever in the area you must visit Fort Henry. It has to be on the top of your list, I promise you won’t regret it.

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About Author

Marc Smith is a single, 45-year-old, gay urbanite, living in high-rise heaven in Vancouver’s chic Yaletown neighbourhood. After a ten-year career as one of Vancouver’s pre-eminent event planners, he decided it was time for a change and posted on his Facebook page “I am ready for a change. What shall I do with my life?” 30 Day Adventures was born from that status update.

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