Fort Frontenac today...

Established: 1673
Established by: France

The site started as simple palisaded trading post constructed in 1673 called Fort Cataraqui.  The post was located at a strategically important location, e.g. The place where the Lake Ontario feeds into the St. Lawrence River.  The post was later renamed Fort Frontenac in honor of the newly appointed governor of New France.  In 1675, significant improvements to the fort were made in the hope of encouraging settlement.

The fort prevetned English fur traders from competing with the French in the area.  Also, the fort served as a middle-point whereby forts/posts further inland could be supplied from the main ports of Montreal and Quebec City.  In addition to the fort’s official reasons for existing, the installation was used by Governor Frontenac to further his own business aspirations (at the expense of the merchants of Montreal).

Fur trade rivalries in the Lake Ontario region led to the outbreak to wars with the Iroquois.  The war began in the 1660s and continued into the 1680s.  In 1687 several Iroquois, many of them friendly to the French, were captured and imprisoned at Fort Frontenac under the orders of the Marquis de Denonville. Some were sent to France to be used as galley slaves. Denonville's troops and native allies went on to attack the Seneca Iroquois south of Lake Ontario. In retaliation, the Iroquois attacked a number of French settlements, i.e. Lachine.  Fort Frontenac was also attacked (1688).

Although the fort was not destroyed, the French abandoned and destroyed the it in 1689. The French took possession of the site again and rebuilt the fort in 1695.  In the early 1700s the French upgraded the fort's defensive capabilities by adding new guns, building new barracks and increasing the size of the garrison.  Despite these improvements the fort's strategic significance gradually decreased.  Other forts such as Fort Niagara, Fort Detroit, and Fort Michilimackinac became more important.

During the French-Indian War, the British attacked Frontenac in an attempt to sever French communications along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence.  Fort Frontenac was also regarded as a competitive and military threat to Britain’s Fort Oswego (located south-west across Lake Ontario).  In 1758, an English-American force laid siege and captured Fort Frontenac.

The surrender of Fort Frontenac lowered France’s prestige in the eyes of its native allies.  The result of this diminished respect was an unwillingness on the part of the natives to support the French in 1758.  This led directly to the ultimate defeat of New France and its removal from North America in 1759.