Historical Development of the Fort
Fort Niagara, 1756
- 30 "The large House" (French Castle), 1726
- 31a Bakehouse, pre-1755
- 34a Provisions Storehouse, 1756
- 401c Addition to Castle
- 401d Addition to Castle
- 403 Quarters, pre-1755
- 404 Barracks, 1755
- 405 Barracks, pre-1755
- 406 Barracks, 1755
- 407 Quarters, pre-1755
- 408a Quarters, pre-1755
- 409 Unknown (Privy?), pre-1755
- 410a Blacksmith Shop?, pre-1755
- 416 Hospital, 1755-56
- 417a Barracks, 1755-56
- 418 Barracks, 1756
- 420 Guardhouse, 1756
- 421a Privies, 1756
The threat of attack by British forces in 1755 stimulated the greatest single change in the appearance of Fort Niagara. Between 1755 and 1757 the fort lost its simple frontier defenses and was transformed into a classic example of eighteenth century European fortification in the wilds of North America. The area of Fort Niagara was increased eight-fold, and the general outline and location of the new land-front defenses remains basically unaltered today.
Captain Pierre Pouchot had been ordered to render Fort Niagara tenable against artillery, and he effectively employed the natural advantages of the site. Rather than waste effort on the lake and river sides of the point, Pouchot erected the primary fortifications facing the east or land side since a British attack was certain to come from that direction. Pouchot laid out a simple trace, known as a "hornwork", which included only a "curtain" or wall with a "half-bastion" at each end. Pouchot's defenses were constructed of earth faced with sod. A dry ditch and outworks completed the fortifications. A new entrance, christened the "Gate of the Five Nations", allowed access to the expanded fort. The rotten old stockade was torn down sometime after the new walls had been completed.
Pouchot noted that, in 1755-56, his workmen "labored through winter on the new fort." They concentrated on the hornwork and less substantial earthworks to cover the river and lake sides. Pouchot's own Regiment de Bearn arrived in June 1756 to provide additional labor. By the end of July Fort Niagara had reached the point where the Governor of New France could praise the "regularity, solidarity, and utility" of its defenses.
Our sketch is based on Pouchot's "Plan de Niagara et des Fortifications faites en 1755 et 1756" , drawn about October 18, 1756 to document the first year's progress. It shows that the fortifications had been primary focus of his effort. It also indicates that the temporary barracks of 1755 had either been torn down or moved to other locations within the enlarged fort. Material from these buildings was perhaps used to construct a more substantial barracks (417a), a new temporary barracks (418) and a hospital (416). The latter was placed between the stockade and the gully in a position sheltered by the new earthworks. Three buildings in the southeast corner (34a, 418 and 420) were the only additions beyond the area of the old stockade, still shown enclosing the Castle. Although not indicated on our map, structure 410a might have by this time been doubled in size.