Fort Henry Blasts You Back in Time
(For the audio version click the play button below.)
Thing 1 and I were in Kingston recently to explore and attend the Queen’s University orientation for new students. ( Click here to read all about it. ) It was a whirlwind trip planning for the future but we managed to spend a good chunk of our time looking back in the past.
We had an amazing day of exploring Fort Henry topped off by massive explosions and fireworks – what more could you ask for? A beautiful lake view you say? Or maybe some good old fashioned sherry trifle at the Battery Bistro? How about lunch overlooking some of the 1000 islands? The same ones the salad dressing was named after? ( Not even kidding. )
I have to tell you that when we first decided to go to Fort Henry, I was less than enthusiastic. I’d been to forts before and wasn’t really that into it. Thing 1 is a big history fan though so I thought he’d enjoy it. Plus, most people I asked for advice on things to do and see in Kingston invariably included ‘Fort Henry’ in their list.
The fort is on the banks of Navy Bay to the west and Deadman’s Bay to the east. Fort Henry is built on a peninsula called Point Henry which was named after Henry Hamilton, 1st Lieutenant Governor of Quebec from 1782-85. Originally, the fort was built in defence against our good neighbours in the United States – throughout the 1800’s.
We had the chance to go on one of the many guided tours with a very informed Private. He introduced us to the important sections of the fort, structural details, facts about living in the fort back in those times, day to day things like food and shelter, the roles women played, and military facts.
I found it interesting that the moat around the fort was a ‘dry moat’ intentionally so that water wouldn’t freeze during the winter and become a bridge. Good thinking! Plus, there were secret passageways under the fort where soldiers could place themselves to fire upon enemies advancing in the moat. The walls were formed in such a way that the cannon balls and bullets would be redirected for maximum effect, onto the enemy. The rooms within the walls of the fort were built with rounded ceilings, with layer upon layer of dense materials to help strengthen the fort if damage occurred. It sounds like a very clever built in repair system.
The people working at the fort are in character and they take their jobs seriously. Everyone we spoke to was dedicated to making us believe we were visiting a living, breathing fort in the 19th century.
Talk about shock and awe – I found the tour very interesting but was especially blown away by the Sunset Ceremony. Wednesday evening, we were able to see the first one of the year. It was riveting for all ages.
To begin with the children in the audience were invited to ‘enlist’ and received a brief lesson on what they should expect as soldiers in the British Forces. The parade/marching training was hilarious and enjoyable for everyone. The drill sergeant showed no mercy. ( Even to the preschooler who couldn’t quite make up his mind. )
There was a military parade display so precise you could hear the metal plates in their boots striking the parade ground at the same time. The guns and cannons were fired during the display and there was a simulated full blown battle at the end. The time flew by. I don’t want to ruin any surprises but I’ll share a brief video with you that we took:
Thing 1 is planning to return to the fort in October for their award winning “Fort Fright” event. Just in time for Halloween, it is allegedly scarier than any other venue of it’s kind.
I’d love to go back with Hubs and the other Thing. I think there will always be new parts of the fort to discover. We hope to visit Upper Canada Village next time we visit. You should too! Below is the link to a video made by Canada Explore with an overview of the fort.
If you do end up going let me know what your favourite part is!