Many Americans think of Canada as a friendly extension of their own country, but a visit to historical sites such as Fort Chambly in Quebec, Canada, which was built to protect the residents from the aggressive, attacking neighbors to the south, may change their perspective on who are the good guys.
Friendly and helpful locals.
We were so taken with the setting and so enthusiastic about the great views of the Richelieu River as it joined the St.Lawrence, and the expanse of grass leading up to Fort Chambly, that we didn’t notice our car beeping to tell us we had left the lights on. We later figured that we really didn’t need to have our lights on all the time while driving in Canada, but that mistake served us well by introducing us to the hospitality and friendliness of our Canadian neighbors.
A young couple walking past our car, with its raised hood to show distress, stopped to offer their help. While they didn’t have a car, they found a truck driver who was arriving for a family picnic and talked him into jump starting our car. They noticed our license plate, and perhaps our accents, and asked where we were from. “Americans!” they exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
The fort changes hands several times.
As we toured Fort Chambly, which was built to protect the area from American colonists who were expanding their Revolutionary War to the north, we understood their surprise. However, this small museum is so well preserved, the displays so well presented, and the setting so lovely, that anyone interested in history, museums, or just a delightful place along the river for a picnic, should trek north for a visit.
Fort Chambly was built and rebuilt several times over the years, changing hands from New France, to England and back. The first two wooden forts were built on the site beginning in 1665 to protect the French from the Iroquois. By 1709 a stone fort was built to protect New France from England. The waterway from the Hudson River to Lake Champlain to the Richelieu River made it an ideal location, and the rapids along the river at this point gave some protection from attack and weapons coming up the river.
While the fort was never actually attacked, it was acquired by the English when they took all the French forts after the capture of Quebec. When the colonies began their revolt, the Americans attacked Canada and occupied Fort Chambly in 1775-76. The English defeated the Americans, who retreated, leaving the fort once again in British hands. After the War of 1812, there seemed less likelihood of the USA invading Canada and the fort fell into disrepair.
Restoration of Fort Chambly.
The savior of the fort was a local Chambly man, Joseph-Octave Dion, who dedicated 35 years, beginning in 1875, to its restoration. The interior of the fort is populated with life sized “manikins” representing the occupants of the fort. They are engaged in the normal activities of the day, eating, cooking, shaving, working, and sleeping, and we almost felt like we were observing real people.
Clambering up and down, and then peeking out through the narrow slits to see views of the rivers which meet at this point, we tried to imagine all the lives which had passed through these thick stone walls. We saw kayakers happily shooting the rapids on the Richelieu River, rapids which were part of the protection from foreign attack of the fort. Families were enjoying picnics on the lawn, touring groups of bicycle riders were zipping by, and the only foreigners around were a few tourists.
Perhaps more Americans will visit and enjoy the beauty of the area and learn something of their own history as told from another perspective, so that our neighbors to the north will continue to welcome us with the same hospitality, but not with such surprise.
Source: Personal experience.