POINT FREDERICK AND THE KINGSTON DOCKYARD
Recent articles in the Spring and Summer 2012 issues of Veritas have explored aspects of the War of 1812 with a focus on Point Frederick, the site of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC). Arguably the most important military site of the War in Upper Canada, the existence of the Kingston Dockyard had enormous strategic impact – without it, the War might well have been lost as it was the key to the resupply of the British forts to the west, and to the battles on Lake Ontario.
In the latter part of the Eighteenth Century, the Provincial Marine established a shipbuilding facility on the Point, making it the first Canadian naval establishment in Canada, which might, therefore, be claimed as the birthplace of the Royal Canadian Navy. Appropriated by the Royal Navy in 1813, the demands of creating and maintaining the Lake Ontario Fleet required the construction of extensive dockyard facilities. From these facilities, warships were launched (including the 112-gun HMS St Lawrence) in what became the ‘shipbuilders war’; the opposition was located close by at Sackets Harbor in New York. The aim was to gain strategic dominance of the Great Lakes waterway as both sides knew that losing control of the Great Lakes could determine the outcome of the inland War.
This story is a vital part of Canada’s history. Ships of the Fleet lie in adjacent waters, and the peninsula is an active, archeological treasure trove of material relating to the War. Now part of the UNESCO Rideau System World Heritage Site, National Historic Site plaques describe the Naval Yard, the Point Frederick Buildings and the Kingston Fortifications. Two others honour Commodore Sir James Yeo, RN, at 31 the eventual commander of all of the Great Lakes Squadrons, and the Rush-Bagot Agreement of 1817. As a group, the plaques draw attention to the historical importance of the Point. In addition, there is a Memorial, erected by Fort Henry at the foot of Fort Henry Hill in 1937:
In Memory of the officers and seamen of the Royal Navy and Provincial Marine; and the officers and soldiers of the Royal Marines, Royal Newfoundland, Kings 8th, and 100th Regiments, who served on Lake Ontario in Defence of Canada in 1812-14.
Yet today most Canadians know little of this. The current Naval and Officer Cadets are otherwise busy, the joggers who run the Point seldom stop, and those tourists who visit the grounds are unaware – in short, the history of the Dockyard is an unknown quantity because it has never been told in a user-friendly manner. To help rectify this, in October 2012, the RMCC Museum Committee, with the Marine Museum, applied to Heritage Canada for Federal funding to create a self-guided walking tour of the Point Frederick sites, to tell the story through twelve illustrated, permanent story boards, supplemented by a bilingual brochure and access through QR Codes to additional information.
The link between the boards is the state of the art of naval warfare of the time, with a description of the ship-building capabilities available for a fresh-water navy. The stories include coverage of the Flight of the Royal George; the strategic importance of sea power on the Lakes; the projection of force; the Dockyard buildings and facilities; the Naval Hospital, and the burial ground.
The Point Frederick War of 1812 Commemorative Walk:
The Point Frederick War of 1812 Commemorative Walk opening ceremony will take place at RMC on 5 September 2013 at 1530h, in front of Panet House; followed by a reception with cash bar in the Senior Staff mess.