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BOOK - The Fortifications of Île Aux Noix, A portrait of the defensive strategy on the Upper Richelieu Border in the 18th and 19th centuries
By André Charbonneau
Published by Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 1994

Softcover... 24.95 (C$)

As a key element in Canada's defense strategy during the past two centuries, Île aux Noix has been the stuff of myth making. André Charbonneau, an historian with Parks Canada, has set the record straight with the first-ever detailed study of Île aux Noix and other military positions along Quebec's Richelieu River. His research casts new light on defence strategies that helped define our nation.

Brief background on Île aux Noix
    Île aux Noix is a 210 acre island in the Richelieu River in Quebec, just inside the Canadian border. The French and Indian War caused the French to build a fort in 1759, named fort de l'Isle aux Noix, to slow the British advance on Montreal, but were forced to surrender it in 1760. In 1775, the island was taken by American forces, and used as a base by the American generals Philip Schuyler and Richard Montgomery for attacks on Montreal and Quebec. The Americans used the island again in 1776 during their retreat from Canada. Their army spent 10 days on the island: more than 900 American soldiers died and were buried in two mass graves on Isle aux Noix. The British then built a new fort in 1778 and named it the fort of Isle aux Noix. During the War of 1812, the British used the island to supply their operations against the American fleet on Lake Champlain. The present Fort Lennox was built from 1819 to 1829, when the old fortifications were completely demolished. It remained a military post until 1870 and is now a popular tourist location.
    The author of this book is concerned with three topics; why fortifications were built at Ile aux Noix, the design of these forts, and how the forts at this site were built. This book looks at why both the French and the British chose to build forts on Ile aux Noix. The last and best known of the forts built on this site was Fort Lennox. The author points out that, despite some siting problems, Ile aux Noix also had some military advantages. It is located at the head of the Richelieu River. This is the spot at which the waters of Lake Champlain become a river that eventually empties into the St. Lawrence, at a point a few miles downstream from Montreal.

    The book first examines how the fortifications proposed for Ile aux Noix were designed. The author shows this to be a complicated process, for the purpose for fortifying Ile aux Noix changed over time. At times, the fortifications were to serve as a supply point from which troops would advance south to raid the enemy. At other times, the fort was to serve as a defensive work to hold back the attacking force until a field army could be mobilized to protect Canada. The questions that were consonantly asked where; what are we trying to protect, why are we trying to protect this object, from what direction is the attack going to come, how much manpower can we station at the site, what materials are available to build with, what is the budget, how much time do we have to build the fortifications, and from what type of force are we preparing to defend against. The problem was that the answers kept on changing.

    The French in building their fort at Ile aux Noix designed it first as a fortified supply point for raids south into the Hudson River Valley. Then, they redesigned it as a major blocking point against a British attack down Lake Champlain against Montreal. When the British eventually attacked the fort, the French fort would prove too large for the garrison and orientated in the wrong direction to defend against the attack made on it. The British asked the same questions posed above when they went to build their fort at Ile aux Noix. It was at first to serve as a fall back position if the French launched an overwhelming attack down the St. Lawrence and recaptured Montreal. Then, it became the front line fort to defend against an American attack against Montreal. The result was a wealth of different designs proposed for the fortification at He aux Noix.

    The author discusses and illustrates a compendium of designs proposed by various British engineers for Ile aux Noix. He then traces the design and building of the fortification eventually approved for the island. Fort Lennox. Construction of Fort Lennox started in 1819 and was completed in 1829. Protected by a wet moat and encased within the earthen ramparts were six stone buildings: officer quarters, barracks, guard house, magazine, and store rooms. The fort would be garrisoned by the British Army until 1870.

    This book is a must for those interested in the design and building of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century fortifications. There are over 100 drawings plus photographs and maps that bring life to the text. An army of footnotes delve deeper into the story of Fort Lennox. Those who peruse the bibliography will find listed a gold mine of little known Canadian sources on fortifications. A great addition to any library that seeks to tell the story of fortifications.
    Review by CHARLES H. BOGART
This book is now available from us once again after being unavailable for some years. A popular title, used copies are selling online for $39.90 and up (Amazon, Apr 18 2011).

The books offered here are new and uncirculated originals.

382 Pages
6" X 9"
Fold out Fort Lennox plan/cross-section
Appendix items (A-F)
Published by Department of Canadian Heritage, Ottawa, 1994
ISBN-10: 0660151944
ISBN-13: 978-0660151946

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