Everyone in Niagara knows about Fort George and its American counterpart Fort Niagara. The historic sites have been meticulously restored and are quite well marketed during the annual tourist rush. Not as many would be familiar with Fort Drummond and Fort Riall, despite the fact that they’ve probably been there countless times on family picnics or walking the dog.
Fort Drummond was an earthwork fortification from the latter years of the conflict we collectively call the War of 1812. The site featured a redoubt and artillery battery tasked with guarding Portage Road and maintaining the strategically essential heights of Queenston.
Built in June of 1814 by the British, Fort Drummond was named for Gordon Drummond, then commander of the Niagara based troops and the first Canadian-born officer to hold such a post. Following their defeat at the Battle of Chippawa on July 5th of 1814 the British chose to abandon Fort Drummond. They took five days to dismantle their equipment and retreated to Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, leaving the fortifications at Queenston to the Americans. They regained the ground by July 25th following the brutal Battle of Lundy’s Lane and held it for the remainder of the war.
The horseshoe shaped artillery battery that was a part of the Fort Drummond installation no longer exists (thanks for Jim Brown of Niagara History and Trivia for the picture from the Niagara Falls Public Library’s collection). The nearby battery which still exists at Queenston was known as Fort Riall, named for Drummond’s predecessor Phineas Riall. Stone letters in the side of the hill keep the name alive, although no plaque or marker gives the full story of Fort Riall on the site today.
By the 1920s Fort Drummond had become a popular picnic site for locals and tourists in Niagara. A children’s wading pool was constructed within the earthen walls of the old fort. At Canada’s centennial in 1967 the pool was upgraded to be a splash pad, with a tall mushroom-shaped fountain sitting at its centre. It remains in use by children and families every summer.