Fort Oswego was located at the mouth of the Oswego River on the southeast shore of Lake Ontario. The citadel was, for much of its history, a complex of related military installations.
This area of present-day New York State was visited by Samuel de Champlain in 1616 and later became a center of French missionary and fur-trading activities. In 1722, the English exerted their influence on the Oswego River by constructing a log palisade structure to serve their fur-trading interests. Five years later, the English constructed the first fort on the site in response to continuing warfare with the French; several names were applied to the structure in its early years, but as time passed the title, Fort Oswego, was accepted.
Fort Oswego saw some action in King George's War (1740-1748), but played a more prominent role in the French and Indian War (1754-1763). In the early stages of the latter conflict, the British erected two forts in the area. Fort Oswego emerged as a major installation; it was located on the earlier fort site on the east side of the river; Fort Ontario was built on the west side and was a less impressive structure, an outpost of the main fort.
In August 1756, General Montcalm and a 3,000-strong force of French regulars, Canadian militia and Indian allies, marched from Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga) to the Oswego River. In the face of this advance, the British withdrew their soldiers from Fort Ontario on August 14 and prepared to make a stand at Fort Oswego. On the following day, Montcalm opened fire on the British position, using cannon taken earlier from Braddock’s fleeing forces. The British commander was killed in the fighting and the garrison surrendered shortly thereafter. Montcalm rewarded his Indian allies by allowing them much of the victory spoils and hoped to placate other local natives by destroying both of the forts. The general and his force then departed for the St. Lawrence, taking with them 1,700 prisoners and captured British flags that would soon be displayed in the churches of Montreal and Québec.
The French victory at Fort Oswego was important to the overall war effort, thanks to a deep impression it made on many of the Indian tribes who then believed that the British were likely to lose the conflict. Some members of the Six Nations decided to maintain their neutrality and others, the Seneca and Oneida, moved to the French side.
The forts remained in disrepair for much of the remainder of the war, but in 1759 the British began reconstruction efforts. They continued in possession until 1796, when Jay's Treaty provided for the fort to be turned over to the United States.
In 1766, the capitulation of Pontiac occurred on this site, which formally ended Pontiac's Rebellion.
See French and Indian War Timeline .
See also Indian Wars Time Table .