The Great Fortifications

A Modest Beginning

Officer, 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry), 1825

Caption: Officer, 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry), 1825

The estimated cost of this ambitious programme caused the authorities to scale it down to the essentials. At the insistence of the Duke of Wellington, funds were immediately made available to the army and in 1819 several works were begun: construction of Fort Lennox on Île-auxNoix and another fort on Île Sainte-Hélène, facing the port of Montreal, which would house the "military stores and buildings" 87 of the city. In 1820 work was begun on the Quebec Citadel.

The years went by, and in April 1825 the Duke of Wellington became impatient and sent a military commission to Canada under the command of Colonel James Carmichael-Smyth to identify the reasons for the delay and to recommend solutions. After carrying out inspections during the summer and fall, the commissioners returned to England and submitted their report. Fort Lennox and the fort on he Sainte-Hélène were virtually complete, but the Quebec Citadel was only one third built. And nothing had been done along the Rideau River nor at Kingston. Not only had the 1819 plan not been completed, according to the commission, but a citadel remained to be built at Halifax. They found it unacceptable that this city, the home port of the Royal Navy in the North Atlantic, should be so poorly fortified. On the basis of the report, the Duke of Wellington approached the government once again, maintaining that not two but three large citadels were required, in Halifax, Quebec City and Kingston; he also felt that the Rideau Canal should be built, whatever the cost. Although apprehensive, with good reason, about the exorbitant costs of such works, the government approved the plan in 1826.

Additional Images

Fort Lennox, 1896
Aerial view of Fort Lennox