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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 15

A History of Martello Towers in the Defence of British North America, 1796-1871

by Ivan J. Saunders


Martello towers were a distinctive and popular form of light permanent artillery defence in British North America from 1796 to 1846, where sixteen of them were built in that time, After 1848 their value diminished in the face of a variety of changing political and technological conditions until they were finally rendered obsolete by major advances in ordnance technology in the 1860s. This type of tower originated largely by accident, but it quickly found a wide and enduring acceptance in British North America because it met a great variety of political, military and economic needs. Martello towers often offered the only practical means of beginning or augmenting the permanent defences of important colonial centres. Throughout the whole era of the construction of masonry fortifications in British North America, Martello towers were a substitute for larger and more desirable but financially impracticable works of defence.

Submitted for publication 1972 by Ivan J. Saunders, National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Ottawa

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