Québec

More improvements and the Citadel

Two British-American Wars
Led to More Improvements
and to the Citadel

(1761 to 1831)

The Intercolonial Wars between the British and the French had ended. During the first 14 years of British rule in Québec City, Great Britain limited the amount of money spent on the defensive system for Québec City and its Fortified Wall. Despite countless proposals by local engineers to construct a permanent Citadel on the heights of Cap Diamant, not much was done for the Fortified Wall until troops from the American colonies attacked Québec City and its Fortified Wall in 1775.


This painting dates from 1825. From Lévis, opposite to Québec City on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, it shows Cap Diamant in all its splendor. With cliffs as high as 328 feet (100 meters) above sea level, Cap Diamant was considered to be the perfect location for the permanent Citadel. Once again, the "natural fortress" was a big factor.
Image Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Access number R9266-321 / Peter Winkworth Collection of Canadiana / Reproduction reference number C-150280 / Painting by Thomas William Ogilvie McNiven in 1825, entitled "View of Québec from Lévis".

1763 — The signing of the Treaty of Paris marked the end of the Seven Years' War in Europe. It also marked the official end of the fourth Intercolonial War and drastically redrew the map of North America.

1768 — The north wing of Château St. Louis and the terrace in front of Château St. Louis overlooking the St. Lawrence River had been heavily damaged at the end of the fourth Intercolonial War, so much so that they had to be demolished. The British authorities restored Château St. Louis between 1765 and 1768. In fact, Château St. Louis remained an important symbol of political power under the British Regime, as it represented prestige that the British wanted to preserve.

1774 — The British Parliament in London adopted the Act of Québec. According to that Act, the French civil law was maintained in Québec, plus religious rights and property of the French Canadians were recognized. They were also allowed to hold public office. Soon after, the British would need the loyal support of the French population in Québec City, and those concessions would help a great deal in getting that support.

1775 — Québec City's Fortified Wall faced its fifth big test, during the American War of Independence and the first British-American War. Relations between the American colonists and the British had deteriorated so much during this year that the American revolutionaries sought to free all of North America from British rule.

1775 — Led by Generals Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery, American troops landed in Québec City with the intention of taking the city and its Fortified Wall. The American revolutionaries wanted to prevent the British from deploying reinforcements to the 13 colonies south of Canada. Arnold was joined by Montgomery, who had already conquered the city of Montréal, southwest of Québec City, in early December of this year.

1775 — The two American generals and their troops besieged Québec City during most of the month of December. On December 31, they launched a major attack against Québec City and its Fortified Wall, during a snowstorm. Once again, the harsh climate in that area during winter would prove to be a formidable adversary. And that major attack would prove to be the key battle of the first British-American War, with Québec City's Fortified Wall playing a very important role.

1775 — On December 31, General Montgomery launched an attack on the Cap Diamant side, which cost him his life. His death led to his men panicking and retreating. General Arnold attacked near Rue Sous-le-Cap, at the Sault-au-Matelot Barricade, on the other side of Québec City, in the Lower Town. General Arnold succeeded in seizing several barricades, but one of his legs was hit by steady fire coming from the Fortified Wall of the Upper Town. In the end, the Americans had to retreat after several hours of fighting and the British won that key battle.


This illustration shows American (at left) and British (at right) soldiers facing each other in the middle of a snowstorm, on December 31, 1775. That key battle was won by the British and the Canadian militiamen who fought with them, as General Montgomery was killed and General Arnold was wounded for the Americans. It was a hard-fought battle that involved fierce street fighting for both belligerents in the Lower Town of Old Québec.
Image Credit: Illustration by Charles William Jefferys / Published in 1916 / Cover Art for "The father of British Canada: A chronicle of Carleton", Volume 12, by William Wood.
Image Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/?File:Canadian_?militiamen_?and_?British_?soldiers_?repulse_?the_?American?_assault?_at_Sault?-au-Matelot?.jpg.

1775 — Following the concessions made to them a year before with the Act of Québec, the French population in Québec City remained loyal to the British and helped them defeat the Americans. If they had rebelled against the British at that time and helped the Americans, it is possible that the Americans could have won that key battle and been victorious at the end of their long siege. The British then would have had to fight the French from inside the Fortified Wall as well as the Americans from outside the Fortified Wall.

1776 — The siege of Québec City by the Americans would last a few more months, but with no significant gains. Thanks in large part to Chaussegros de Léry's Fortified Wall, in which General Montcalm and his officers had shown so little confidence, the British were able to resist their enemy during winter, in December 1775 and the first four months of 1776.

1776 — On May 6, the British received major reinforcements (around 9,000 men) and the American besiegers had to retreat for good. It marked the end of that American military drive on Québec City and its Fortified Wall. Afterward, the British would prepare for the worst and would finally build a temporary Citadel, between 1778 and 1783. That temporary Citadel would eventually be replaced by a permanent Citadel, between 1820 and 1831, then making Québec City's Fortified Wall known worldwide as the "Gibraltar of North America".

1776 — Shortly after the end of that American siege on Québec City and its Fortified Wall, France took sides with the American revolutionaries in the American War of Independence, which made the British authorities of Québec City even more fearful. Their old enemy and their new enemy were allied.

1778 — The British authorities rebuilt the terrace in front of Château St. Louis overlooking the St. Lawrence River. By the end of the fourth Intercolonial War, it had been heavily damaged and had to be demolished. It took almost 20 years before it was rebuilt.

1778 — British Governor Frederick Haldimand put engineer William Twiss in charge of building a temporary Citadel to improve Québec City's defensive system and its Fortified Wall. The word "temporary" was used in this case because of the wood and earthen materials from which that version of the Citadel was built, contrary to the earth and masonry materials that would later be used for the "permanent" Citadel. But it occupied about the same amount of space as the permanent Citadel would after 1831. And it would take five years to finish the construction of that temporary Citadel.

1783 — The construction of the temporary Citadel was completed. It marked the end of the era when Fort St. Louis and the Fortified Wall without a temporary Citadel were used as a defensive last-resort stronghold.


This 1784 painting shows the temporary Citadel on top of the high cliffs of Cap Diamant, which was finished in 1783. It already had a star-shaped form. It occupied about the same amount of space as the permanent Citadel would after 1831.
Image Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Access number 1989-217-3 / Reproduction reference number C-001514 / Watercolor by James Peachey dated from October 29, 1784 / Entitled "A View of the Citadel at Québec".

1783 — The Americans were officially granted their independence from Great Britain with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in Europe, which officially ended the war between the Americans and the British. The 13 American colonies became the United States of America. The Treaty of Versailles also drew up the new territorial boundaries between the U.S. and what was at that time British Canada.

1787 — Feeling that Château St. Louis was too cramped for the needs of administrative services and too small to receive the representatives of the British monarch, Governor Frederick Haldimand ordered the construction of a new official residence. Château Haldimand was built between 1784 and 1787, behind Château St. Louis. It was used afterward for official government balls and receptions.

1789 — In the context of the French Revolution and border conflicts with the Americans, engineer Gother Mann proposed new and major additions to Québec City's defensive system and more particularly to its Fortified Wall. He decided that the first priority should be the completion of the Fortified Wall's enceinte surrounding the Upper Town, on the northeast side and on the south side, between Château St. Louis and the temporary Citadel. He also felt it necessary to repair the ramparts constructed by Chaussegros de Léry on the west side of the Fortified Wall and to add outworks to those west ramparts. Finally, Mann planned the construction of a permanent Citadel to consolidate the temporary Citadel and to be used as a formidable last-resort stronghold in case of a major attack on Québec City and its Fortified Wall.

1790 — As part of Gother Mann's overall plan, during this year:

  • De Hope Gate was built and lasted until 1823, when it would be restored. While the French had a total of three gates for Québec City's Fortified Wall (Du Palais Gate, St. Louis Gate and St. John Gate), the British would at one time or another have as many as eight different gates forming sections of that Fortified Wall.
  • Du Palais Gate, first built in 1691 and restored in 1720, was restored again. The restored structure of that gate in Côte du Palais would last until 1823, when it would be rebuilt.

1791 — As part of Gother Mann's overall plan, during this year:

  • St. Louis Gate, first built in 1693 and restored in 1720, was demolished and rebuilt. The rebuilt structure of that gate would last until 1823, when it would be replaced again.
  • St. John Gate, first built in 1693 and rebuilt in 1720, was restored. The restored structure of that gate would last until 1823, when it would be replaced again.

1791 — The Constitutional Act was an act of the British Parliament creating Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Québec) as the two provinces (one English and one French) of Canada at that time. It came into effect on December 26.

1797 — As part of Gother Mann's overall plan, Prescott Gate was built by Governor-in-Chief Robert Prescott and named after him. It was constructed in Côte de la Montagne to better control access to the Upper Town from the Lower Town, in Old Québec.

1811 — While the Napoleonic Wars were raging in Europe, Sir James Henry Craig, the Governor General of Canada from 1807 to 1812, decided to keep Château St. Louis as the principal residence for the Governor General of Canada. So, he had Château St. Louis renovated and redecorated in neoclassical style, between 1808 and 1811. It was raised one floor and expanded toward the front. The architecture of Château St. Louis adopted a Palladian style (after the name of architect Andrea Palladio), which was very popular in England at that time. For example, it had triangular gables decorated with oculi (eye-shaped openings), a porch with rows of columns and Palladian windows. The front entrance of the building had a large and beautiful window over the doors. Also, not unlike large English estates at the time, numerous secondary buildings were built in its courtyard, in order to add to the comfort of the Governor General of Canada (including a bakery, a kitchen, a laundryhouse, a greenhouse, an icehouse, stables and sheds).


This is what Château St. Louis looked like after 1811, as viewed from its north side, the side that did not face the St. Lawrence River. This illustration was created after Château St. Louis had been renovated and redecorated in neoclassical style, between 1808 and 1811.
Image Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Reproduction reference number C-6305 / From Canadian Illustrated News, February 26, 1881 / Entitled "Québec — The Château St. Louis — (1620-1834)".
Image Source: ameriquefrancaise.org/fr/recherche.html?recherche=Chateau+Saint-Louis&envoyer_recherche=&filtre-image=on

1812 — On June 18, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the United States declared war on Great Britain and attacked Canada, beginning the second British-American War. Most of the fighting took place in the Great Lakes region, which was the most contested area between these two belligerents, along with border issues. However, if it had been called upon during that conflict, Québec City's Fortified Wall would have been up to the task, because it had been considerably improved after the first British-American War of 1775.

1814 — The American advance was stopped, and this year saw the official end of the second British-American War, with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in Europe, on December 24. Peace had returned to North America, but the British authorities did not want to take any risks, and planned a new defensive system for Québec City and its Fortified Wall, of which a permanent Citadel would be the cornerstone.

1815 — In Europe, the Napoleonic Wars came to an end, after having proved very costly for Great Britain. However, the lucrative lumber trade between Canada and Great Britain necessitated the protection of Québec City, the main port toward Europe. That is precisely why Great Britain accepted the high expense of building a permanent Citadel, as a formidable last-resort stronghold for Québec City and as part of its Fortified Wall.

1820 — The permanent Citadel had to be integrated into the existing Fortified Wall. That new fortress had to serve both as a major link in the existing chain of reinforced ramparts and as a structure capable of standing alone, as the ultimate refuge in case of a major attack on Québec City and its Fortified Wall. It was not meant to be the central element of Québec City's defensive system. It was designed to play more of a supporting role while at the same time serving as the cornerstone of that defensive system.

1820 — A century after French engineer Chaussegros de Léry's overall plan had included a Citadel and about 30 years after British engineer Gother Mann's overall proposals had included a permanent Citadel, the construction of the permanent Citadel began in May. Engineer Elias Walker Durnford was entrusted with this huge project, which would continue until 1831 for the exterior works and until 1851 for the interior buildings. The fortress that Durnford began working on during this year was the last in the series of improvements envisioned by Mann.

1820 — The earth and masonry work for the permanent Citadel was star-shaped (or polygon-shaped), in the form of an irregular pentagon, with bastions, half-bastions and curtains facing both the exterior and the interior of Québec City. This structure was also reinforced with outworks, ravelins and counterguards built in front of the main wall. The interior of the permanent Citadel was designed to withstand a long siege and to become a redoubt for the Fortified Wall as a whole. Soldiers of the British garrison did the lion's share of that construction work.


The plans for the permanent Citadel in 1820 clearly defined its star-shaped (or polygon-shaped) structure, in the form of an irregular pentagon, that is still visible today. The construction of its exterior structure would be completed in 1831 while the construction of its interior buildings would be completed in 1851. We can see here that it was designed to dominate its surroundings: Old Québec and the St. Lawrence River.
Image Credit: Photo by Alain Montambault / Photo selected for Google Earth / ID 15975998 / Entitled "Vue aérienne de la Citadelle de Québec" (Aerial view of Québec City's Citadel).
Image Source: panoramio.com/photo/15975998

1823 — As part of a major effort by the British to improve Québec City's Fortified Wall, during this year:

  • De Hope Gate, first built in 1790, was restored. The restored structure of that gate would last until 1840.
  • Du Palais Gate, first built in 1691 as well as restored in 1720 and 1790, was demolished and rebuilt. The rebuilt structure of that gate in Côte du Palais would last until 1864.
  • St. Louis Gate, first built in 1693, restored in 1720, demolished and rebuilt in 1791, was replaced. The replaced structure of that gate would last until 1871.
  • St. John Gate, first built in 1693, rebuilt in 1720 and restored in 1791, was replaced again. The replaced structure of that gate would last until 1865.
  • Prescott Gate, first built in 1797, was modified and fortified. The modified and fortified structure of that gate would last until 1871.

1827 — As part of the construction of the permanent Citadel begun in 1820, Dalhousie Gate was built by the British as the main entrance to this permanent Citadel. The structure of that gate still survives today, pretty much as it was built in 1827, with the same kind of narrow opening as all the other gates that were built for strategic defense purposes.


This painting dating from around 1829 shows Dalhousie Gate, the main entrance to the permanent Citadel, shortly after its construction was finished, in 1827.
Image Credit: Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec / Access number 1953.70 / Permanent collection / Réserve 2, V.26 / Watercolor by James Pattison Cockburn dated from around 1829 / Entitled "La porte Dalhousie, Québec" / Reproduced with the permission of Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

1831 — This year marked the end of the construction of the exterior of the permanent Citadel, the end of the construction of its star-shaped (or polygon-shaped) exterior structure. The construction of its interior buildings would not be finished until 1851.