Forts in Oswego County

An Overview

Oswego Past and Present  –  This 1902 article from The Daily Palladium explains the growth and development, including the role of forts in Oswego.

The Forts

Over the centuries, the mouth of the Oswego River has been a sought after location by many people. The area offered a route for transporting and trading goods as well as security.

Fort Oswego: Around 1722, a fur trading post was built by Great Britain.  In 1727, a stone blockhouse was built and was named Fort Burnet. In 1741, a stone wall just ten feet tall and three feet thick was constructed around the stone house and was named Fort Pepperrell around 1745. In 1756 Fort Pepperrell was destroyed by the French. France named the fort Fort Chouaguen.

Fort Bewerton: British General Abercrombie selected the site for Fort Brewerton because it’s location was vital on the water route between  Albany and all points west through the Great Lakes. Just 300 feet from the Oneida River, the location was a perfect defensive spot. The fort was named after British Major George Brewerton, Jr.

Fort Ontario: In one form or another, Fort Ontario existed for military service from 1755 to 1903, and used from 1903 to 1946 on an “as needed” basis. Originally, Fort Ontario was only 800 feet in circumference and was knowns as Fort of the Six Nations. In 1756, the French abandoned the fort. In 1758, another fort was built in its place only to be deserted in 177o. In July 1778, the Patriots burned down the deteriorating fort and it was used sporadically by the British from 1780-81. In February 1783, Patriots failed to attack the fort. As a result of the Jay Treaty in 1796, the Americans assumed control of the fort only to have the British capture and burn it down in 1814. Another fort was built in that location around 1840 and used for training between 1905 and 1946. In 1949, Fort Ontario became a state park.

Fort George: At today’s West Schuyler and 8th Streets in the city of Oswego, NY, the fort known as Fort George was built in 1755. In 1756, the French destroyed it before it was ever completed.

Educational Materials: 

A Brief History of Fort Oswego and Fort Ontario

Ancient Fortifications of Oswego 


The Beginning:

“The first military post was established here in 1724 by the English. It was not a real post, more like a trader’s station, and it angered the French, who claimed this territory as their own, and De Louguenil was sent out to order the English away. When he arrived he found 100 English at a portage four leagues from Lake Ontario, not Fulton, but shortly afterward they left. For many years after this Oswego was a bone of contention between these two nations. Much blood was shed and many lives were lost in the struggle which followed.

The English had had one glance of the deep-flowing river, its natural harbor and its vantage point for trade with the West, and prepared to lay claim to this territory. In 1726 Governor Burnot sent men here to build a stone house and trading post and with this fortification was able to retain possession until 1744. In 1741 £600 was appropriated to build a stone wall and block houses here.

In 1744, when France and England declared war, Oswego was deserted and neither the French or the English had possession for a time, but Governor Clinton being aware of the importance of this place, sent Lieutenant John Linsdley, founder of Cherry Valley, and a company of soldiers here, and for five years he maintained this post.”  (The Daily Palladium, July 2, 1906, page 9.)

Mid 1700’s

“The first Fort Ontario was built in 1755 by the British to prevent the expansion of French power in North America. A French army led by Marquis de Montcalm destroyed the first fort across the Oswego River in 1756.

The second Fort Ontario, a larger and stronger post was built in 1759 and from her the British carried on expeditions against Niagara and Montreal ending the French domination in this continent.”  (Emily Hoyt, Let’s Reminisce, Fort Ontario, Oswego County Weeklies, December 14, 1967.)

Attack on Fort Ontario, Robert Havel ( 1793-1878)

“Another war cloud was seen to be approaching in 1755 and General Shirley, who came here, left Colonel Mercer in charge with instructions to build two new forts, one on the high ground on the east side of the river, to be called Fort Ontario, and the other on the hill top, southwest of the first fortification, which was called Fort Oswego, Chouaguen, or Fort Pepperell, and to call it New Fort Oswego or Fort George.

Mercer set to work and his men carried out the instructions of General Shirley to the best of their ability. Fort Ontario was completed. It was 800 feet in circumference, with outer walls fourteen feet high, a ditch fourteen feet wide and ten feet deep, with barracks for 300 men. Fort George was located where the Allen castle now stands, corner Montcalm and Van Buren streets, but was never completed. It was 170 feet on each of its four sides, with a rampart of masonry and earth twenty feet thick, twelve feet high.”  (The Daily Palladium, July 2, 1906, page 9.)

These forts were vulnerable to attacks by the French during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). In 1756, Oswego was captured by the French. One hundred years later, the Oswego Daily Palladium published the conflict as written in a London edition of Wynne’s History, printed in 1770.


Reminiscences of Oswego, a Hundred Years Ago, Its Capture by the French in 1756

Sir William Johnson’s Relations to Oswego – A lecture by Dr. Griffis, 1899.

Col. Bradstreet in the Colonial Wars

Fort Ontario During Colonial Times – An excerpt from an article written by Dr. John W. O’Connor for the Oswego County Historical Society, 1946.

Later 1700’s

“The Fort served in the Revolutionary War as a site of large Anglo-Iroquois conference and as a base for Loyalists and Indian residing parties and for St. Leger’s campaign. The Fort was occupied by the British until 1796.” (Emily Hoyt, Let’s Reminisce, Fort Ontario, Oswego County Weeklies, December 14, 1967.)

July 11, 1776: Congress directs Gen. Schuyler to build forts

Fort Ontario in Revolutionary Times: An excerpt from an article presented to the Oswego County Historical Society, 1946.

War of 1812

“In the War of 1812 the fort (Fort Ontario) was used by United States troops to protect the supply route to the main naval base at Sackets Harbor. ” (Emily Hoyt, Let’s Reminisce, Fort Ontario, Oswego County Weeklies, December 14, 1967.)

Attack on Fort Oswego, Lake Ontario, N. America, John Hewitt artist, Robert Havell engraver,  aquatint, 1815; From the New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Recreation of 1814 Battle of Oswego, Fort Ontario (Filmed on July 2014 by Demitri Andritsakis) NOTE: This link will take you to YouTube.

Oswego’s Role in the War of 1812

Attack on Oswego: Copy of a letter from Major General Brown to the Secretary of War, May 12, 1814.

One of the Last Forts: An excerpt from a paper presented to the Oswego County Historical Society, 1946.


“The third Fort Ontario was begun in 1839 because of tension arising from Canada’s Patriot War in dispute over the Maine boundary. There was also fear of British intervention in the Civil War.” (Emily Hoyt, Let’s Reminisce, Fort Ontario, Oswego County Weeklies, December 14, 1967.)

Old Stone Fort – During the early 1900’s the buildings inside the old stone fort were abandoned and fell into ruin until renovated in 1928. This c. 1918 photograph shows the conditions during World War I.  Source: Fort Ontario State Historic Site photograph.

“The Old Fort”: A poem written by the son of Colonel George Wright fro 1848-1852, in remembrance of his boyhood at Fort Ontario

Fort Ontario – 1837 to 1900: Excerpt of an paper presented to Oswego County Historical Society, 1946.

Early 1900’s

In the early 20th century, Fort Ontario served many purposes including a movie set and hospital.

World War I medical staff at Fort Ontario on the parade ground. The officer’s row and the stone fort are in the background. Photograph was taken from the area now used as batting cages by the Oswego Little League. (Source: Fort Ontario State Historic Site)

Efficient Corps of Army Nurses at U.S.A. General Hospital No. 5, Fort Ontario, N.Y. World War I. Source: Fort Ontario State Historic Site photograph.

Fort Ontario from 1903 to 1921– An excerpt from a paper presented to the Oswego County Historical Society, 1946.

World War II

During World War II, Fort Ontario served as a refugee shelter, the only one in the United States.

Fort Ontario Barracks, World War II

Fort Ontario During the Early 1940’s – An excerpt from a paper presented to the Oswego County Historical Society in 1946 and a few articles from local newspapers that demonstrate the importance of the fort to the community.

Fort Ontario and the Arrival of the Refugees – An excerpt from a paper presented to the Oswego county Historical Society in 1946.

Late 1940’s to mid 1950’s

During this time

Late 20th Century to Now

Fort Ontario