Fort Ontario, Oswego, NY
I had spent the night in my tent at Selkirk Shores State Park which is located about 20 miles to the east of Oswego, NY. While checking out in the morning, park staff had told me that there was a fort in Oswego that was operated by the New York State Parks and Historic Preservation organization. With only that information, and no specific directions, off I headed for Oswego, NY stopping along the way to photograph a fire hydrant or two :-).
Lake Ontario is one of the Great Lakes and shares its shoreline with the United States to the south and Canada to the north. Over the years, there have been a number of skirmishes along the shores of the lake with French, English and American commanders all wanting to establish a fort at strategic locations or wanting to capture or destroy a fort if one was standing in the way of progress (such moments are subject to biased interpretation!).
This is the year that the governments and other organizations on both sides of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence River have been discussing the War of 1812 and have been putting up informational signs and placards at various points along the highways. The one below, which I found between the campground and Oswego, outlines very nicely who was in charge during the various campaigns but I particularly like the following two passages from the sign.
The British: The British were focused on defeating Napoleon in Europe; at the same time they had to defend Canada against repeated American attacks. British commanders were ultimately successful. Canada remained a port of the British Empire until 1867.
The Americans: The Americans were intent on conquering Canada but one plan after another failed due to poor leadership. By the time the American leaders got organized, it was too late; the British had defeated Napoleon, freeing up 1000’s of reinforcements for the war in America.
The forts around the harbor in Oswego have been located in various places and have had a variety of names but the fort that is currently being maintained is Fort Ontario, a fort located on the north-west of embankment of the Oswego River at its entrance into Lake Ontario. Of course, I originally went looking for something named Fort Oswego and ended up at the other locations first and only found placards, but a few questions eventually got me back across the river to the place that I was actually looking for.
In the past few years, I have photographed the French and Indian War reenactment activities at Ogdensburg and then this year photographed Civil War reenactment activities at Massena. In each of these cases, as well as in relation to the war of 1812, mention had been made of the battles at Oswega but this was the first time that I had been to this site. Fort Ontario has had various iterations and been occupied by the British, then by the French, then by the British, then by Americans, etc since it was first established as a palisade in 1755 just in time for the French and Indian War. The current fort, which is now a part of the New York State Parks and Historic Preservation responsibilities, is being restored to resemble how it looked in the later period of about 1861 – 1865. Restoration continues but at a slow pace due to lack of funding.
The fort has had a number of names during its existence including being called Fort of the Six Nations and the East Fort during the early days of its existence.
The fort only has one formal entrance and is star-shaped with indents as was common for forts of this vintage.
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