Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The War of 1812 . . . Year Two, Part 3 . . . Kingston

As our third day of the trip was devoted to non-War of 1812 tourism, we will skip that for the time being and come back to it and many other sites we visited after covering the battles, forts, and other sites pertaining the war in Ontario.  So, in this installment we move west a bit . . . to the town of Kingston.  We had no previous notion of what to expect of Kingston and were pleasantly surprised at how scenic (at least the downtown area) Kingston is.  Oddly enough, much of that ambiance is due to the fortifications that had been built to defend the area from American encroachment.  Let's just say this threat lasted far longer than the end of the War of 1812.
While some of this entry is not directly tied to the War of 1812, it does cover military endeavors that are a direct result of the war and the continued tensions our nations shared . . . apparently, that lasted up to at least WWII (look up the War Plan Red).  All that to say, we visited several Martello towers! Dudeboy had been fascinated with these defensive fortifications ever since he read about them in the M.R. James story "A Warning to the Curious."  

The four Martellos in Kingston (six if you count the two towers part of the larger Fort Henry) were built in response to the Oregon Crisis ("Fifty-Four Forty or Fight").  The first one we visited was the Murney Tower built in 1846.  It now houses a museum and is a National Historic Site of Canada.

Dudeboy in one of the four caponiers in the Murney Tower.  These structures jut out at the base of the Martello and allowed for the added protection of enfilade fire.

The 32-pounder cannon on a 360 degree rotating carriage located on the top level . . . originally there would not have been a roof.

I doubt Dudeboy would have made much of a Powder monkey.  Monkey, yes.  Powder monkey, no.

Fort Frederick Tower at Fort Frederick.  The original fort was built 1812/13 in response to US naval threats on Lake Ontario.  That blockhouse was destroyed in 1846 and replaced with this massive 3-story Martello.

The caponiers are easily seen in this photo.

The reverse "L" shape structure in the foreground is all that remains of the original 40' square blockhouse from the War of 1812.

In 1812, a US flotilla under the command of Commodore Isaac Chauncey forced the British ship the Royal George to seek the protection of the Kingston harbor and its land forces at Fort Frederick. After which the US controlled Lake Ontario for a time.

It was then the British realized the seriousness of the situation and began to build ships at Royal Navy Dockyards, located near this place, which helped swing control of the lake back to the British.

One of the three 32-pounders situated on the upper level.  With emergence of rifled cannon the Martellos were rendered obsolete.  But these structures were so substantial that they were not going anywhere . . . for that matter, neither were these cannons!

"Pieces of rib from the HMS St. Lawrence."  According to this pdf, the St Lawrence was "the largest warship ever built on the Great Lakes during the age of sail," and "She was the only Royal Navy ship-of-the-line ever to be launched and operated entirely in fresh water."

The original Fort Henry was built during the War of 1812.  It was rebuilt in the 1830s, and this is what you see today.  The interpreters in the fort portray soldiers from 1867 . . . the time right at the Confederation.

We went on a guided tour, and watched a band parade and and a bit of precision drilling.  Our guide was fairly amusing, for he would make sly remarks mocking the British . . . especially their adherence to the rigid class command system.

As far as the War of 1812 is concerned, Fort Henry was only a blockhouse at this location (nothing of the massive fortress you see today), and from what I understand there is dispute whether it was completed at the time of  Commodore Chauncey's pursuit and attack on the Royal George.  Due to the strategic location of the fort (St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario and the Royal Naval Dockyards are all situated near this point) upgrades continued throughout the remainder of the war.

For a detailed view/tour/history of the fort, take the time to view the info at the official website.

At Fort Henry with two of the Martellos in the background.

Fort Henry West Branch Tower and Cathcart Tower on Cedar Island in the background.  Both are closed to the public.  Fort Henry West Branch Tower and Fort Henry East Branch Towers are both part of Fort Henry.  Many sources do not list these as Martellos as they are considered a part of the fort as a whole.

Shoal Tower is located downtown right in Kingston's harbor.  It is also closed to the public.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mane said she liked seeing the results of old Sawbone's operations. In other words, she thought the pile of arms and legs were sweet. She wanted to know if there were any Kentuckians in those body parts. Said she enjoyed her trip to Canada and that she is going to bed.