Queen's Battery

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Queen's Battery (1796-1870) - Queen's Battery was a Colonial era coastal gun battery established in 1796 on Signal Hill above St. John's, Newfoundland. Deactivated in 1870.

Queen's Battery Atop Signal Hill overlooking St. John's.

History

Part of the Harbor Defense of St. John's.

Construction of the 9 gun battery began in 1796 and was virtually complete in 1797. The battery was located at a strategic point overlooking the narrow harbor entrance some 350' below and directly opposite the Chain Rock Battery. About the same time that the battery was complete a guard house (barracks) and a gunpowder laboratory were also completed.

The armament at the battery fluctuated over the years but by 1812 it was shown to have two brass 8" howitzers, six iron 24 pounders and one iron 9 pounder, for a total of nine guns and was reported to be "...in tolerable good repair...".

War of 1812

In 1813 the battery underwent repairs and was then reported to be "in order". The armament had been upgraded by 1816 to, two 8" brass howitzers, six iron 24 pounders and three French 18 pounders.

Construction (1830s-1840s)

In the 1830s, the Queen's Battery became the most important defense work in St. John's. The wooden laboratory was rebuilt in 1830. The new labratory was a wooden shingled structure divided into an artillery storeroom and an expense magazine. But in 1831 the Commanding Royal Engineer decided that, instead of repairing the old wooden guard houses at Queen's Battery, Chain Rock Battery, and Waldegrave Battery, he would erect one solid stone and brick barrack at Queen's Battery.

In 1833 the battery was described as: mounting nine heavy pieces of Ordnance en barbette and is in excellent order: with its Barracks for an officer, and 13 men; and sheds for the use of the Artillery, it is a powerful Battery for the defense of the narrows.

In the summer of 1837 the officer's room was modified to accommodate six men so the entire building now contained barracks space for 19 men. The new barracks was located in the upper level of Queen's Battery. By 1839 the battery was armed with two 8" howitzers and eight 24 pounders.

In the 1840s and 1850s the value of the Queen's Battery declined because of the introduction of steam powered vessels who could power their way through the narrows sheltered by the steep cliffs without regard to the winds. Emphasis shifted to the lower batteries. Political change came into play when the Royal Artillery was replaced by the Royal Newfound Companies in 1852-54. By 1859 only the Queen's Battery,Chain Rock Battery, Waldegrave Battery and the Quide Vidi Battery were armed, the strongest being the Queen's Battery still with it's 1839 armament.

U.S. Civil War (1861-1865)

The British favored the South during the U.S. Civil War and when Union forces forcibly removed two Confederate envoys from a British ship in 1861, the British rushed 11,000 troops to British North America to protect their interests. In January 1862, 120 men of the Royal Artillery arrived in St. John's along with two 68 pounders and six 32 pounders destined for the Queen's Battery.

The cost of the expedition forced the British house of commons to decree that self-governing colonies should be responsible for their own security and internal order. In 1870 the last of the British garrison was withdrawn from St. John's.

The U.S. Civil War brought about great technology change that obsoleted all the defenses of St. John's just as it obsoleted all of America's coastal defenses. The two biggest changes that affected St. John's were the development of rifled cannon and the development of ironclad warships.

The withdrawal of the British garrison in 1870 marked the end of the Queen's Battery in the defense of St. John's

Current Status

Part of the Signal Hill National Historic Site. Restored as a tourist attraction and armed with six display canons.


Location: Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

Maps & Images

Lat: 47.56855 Long: -52.68585

See Also:

Sources:

  • Prowse, D. W. Q.C., LL.D., A History of Newfoundland from the Engish, Colonial, and Foreign Records, 2nd Ed., 1896, London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, Pdf
  • Candow, James E., A Structural And Narrative History Of Queen's Battery, Manuscript Report No. 343, Parks Canada, Signal Hill National Historic Park, 1980, Pdf

Links:

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