Rare French & Indian War era map of the fortifications at Fort Niagara, from Pierre Pouchot's Memoires sur le derniere guerre de L'Amerique Septentrionale.
The map identifies in fine detail the construction and fortification of Fort Niagara, by the officer charged with improving its fortifications.
Fort Niagara was first built by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, when it was called Fort Conti, in 1678. In 1687, the Governor of New France, the Marquis de Denonville, constructed a new fort at the former site of Fort Conti. He named it Fort Denonville and posted a hundred men under the command of Capt. Pierre de Troyes, Chevalier de Troyes. The winter weather and disease was severe, and all but twelve perished by the time a relief force returned from Montreal. It was decided in September 1688 to abandon the post and the stockade was pulled down. In 1726, a two story "Maison a Machicoulis" or "Machicolated House" was constructed on the same site by French engineer Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry. It was called the "House of Peace" or trading post to appease the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois. The name used today, "The French Castle" was not used until the 19th Century. The fort was expanded to its present size in 1755 due to increased tensions between French and British colonial interests.
The fort fell to the British in a 19 day siege in July 1759, called the Battle of Fort Niagara. The French relief force sent for the besieged garrison was ambushed at the Battle of La Belle-Famille, and the commander of the post, Francois Pouchot, surrendered the fort to the British commander, Sir William Johnson, who initially led the New York Militia. The Irish-born Johnson was not the original commander of the expedition, but became its leader when General Prideaux literally lost his head, stepping in front of a mortar being test-fired during the siege. The fort remained in British hands for the next thirty-seven years.
Pouchot, a professional French soldier and engineer, came to Canada in 1755, with the Bearn regiment. He was initially posted to Fort Frontenac (Kingston, Ontario), where the superior quality of the entrenchments which he constructed, led Governor Vaudreuil to entrust him with the rebuilding of the defences of Fort Niagara. Following exemplary service in the capture of Chouagüen (Oswego) in 1756, Pouchot was appointed by Vaudreuil, on the advice of Montcalm, commandant of Fort Niagara, to be the first officer in the French regular army to hold the post. The first two volumes are the history of the war from 1754 to 1760, including details of Indian warfare and accounts of their manners and customs. The third volume is devoted to a topographical account of Canada.
Streeter calls Pouchot's 3 volume work, published posthumously in Yverdon in 1781, a "contemporary authority of the first importance from the French point of view." Justin Winsor calls this work, "Foremost among the special histories of the war . . . ," and points out its usefullness "in the study of topography, so far as it was known and of the geographical nomenclature of the frontier just previous to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War . . ."