One of the best parts about writing historical fiction is researching the sites where my characters might have walked. This past weekend my partner-in-research and I visited Niagara-on-the-Lake, yet again. This time we were tracking the location of Fort Mississauga, a fort whose existence I have only recently discovered. Ah, the history one finds.
To get to this fort we had to walk through the golf course along Lake Ontario’s shore in Niagara-on-the-Lake, keeping a sharp watch for flying golf balls. Talk about anachronisms! As we approached we noticed the star ditch formation around the fort. Apparently this was not a water-filled trench, just a dry barrier against attackers.
Built into the raised barrier were several reinforced openings. With no guide we were left on our own to decide how they might have been used.
Standing on the raised wall with my back to Lake Ontario, I took this picture of the fort. It is not really very impressive when compared with Old Fort Henry or Fort Saratoga but interesting in its own way. In my research yesterday I found another fort which looked like this except it had several of these stout buildings which were used as powder magazines. Then I found an early picture of this fort with many tents on the grass surrounding the building. This made me wonder if the soldiers slept outdoors as much as possible. Maybe they didn’t want to sleep with the ammunition.
I turned around and there was Fort Niagara (on US soil) with its famed ‘French Castle’ which we visited three years ago on an earlier research mission. In the foreground is the Niagara River.
We approached one of the bunkers in the hill. This is as far as I was willing to go. I can only assume that soldiers stayed down there for extended periods of time. There seemed to be rooms on either side of the opening. Hah! Maybe that idea will find itself into my sequel novel.
I took one last picture before leaving Fort Mississauga. This is one of the gates, now fixed open to all. It is wood with huge hand-shaped spikes driven into it. Breaking this down would take some kind of battering ram, I thought.
Today as I sit at my computer researching more of this early Canadian history, the fact that I walked and wandered all around Fort Mississauga, will help to fix the place in my mind and, ultimately, in my story. And, besides, my husband and I had another interesting excursion.