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    The Battle of Ridgeway (sometimes referred to as the Battle of Lime Ridge) was contested near Ridgeway, Canada West, currently Ontario, on June 2, 1866, between Canadian troops and an irregular army of Irish-American invaders, the Fenians. It was the largest skirmish of the so-called "Fenian Raids".

    The New York City-based Fenian Brotherhood was attempting to support related groups in Ireland to force the United Kingdom into negotiating toward the formation of an independent Irish Republic. They took advantage of the ready supply of arms in the United States after the recently concluded Civil War, and of the ample number of unemployed young men who had emerged from that conflict with some degree of military training. It was still a ragtag army, however, that assembled on the American shore of the Niagara River during the last weeks of May 1866. The Fenians had made little attempt at secrecy, and both American and British authorities were aware of the imminent military operation.

    Despite half-hearted American attempts to prevent the river crossing — the United States was loath to go out of its way to help the British after the failure of the US invasion of Canada during the War of 1812 and their (almost non-existent) support of the Confederacy in the Civil War — the Fenian troops, led by General John O'Neill, a former Union cavalry commander, secured boats and transferred some 800 men across the Niagara, landing just above Fort Erie, before dawn on June 1, 1866. O'Neill spent the first day trying to rally the local citizenry to the Fenian cause and to commandeer supplies for his mission, but his force was plagued by desertions almost from the outset. By nightfall O'Neill estimated he had perhaps 500 effectives remaining.

    Meanwhile, the British were mobilizing both local militias and British garrison troops to defend against the impending invasion. The Fenians night-marched north across Frenchman's Creek, then turned inland on the morning of June 2, taking up a defensive position near the present town of Ridgeway. There they clashed with 850 advancing Canadian militia commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Booker. Both forces were inexperienced and the skirmish that ensued was marked by confusion and ill-timed retreats by each side. Some of the Canadian militiamen mistook Fenian scouts on horseback for cavalry. Orders to defend against a cavalry charge, although quickly countermanded, led to chaos in the Canadian ranks and Booker ordered a withdrawal after only one to three hours of battle. The Fenians soon fell back to Fort Erie. Canadian casualties included 9 dead and 37 wounded. O'Neill said he had four or five men killed, but Canadians found six Fenian bodies on the field.

    The Ridgeway victory was complemented by a second successful engagement later that day at Fort Erie. The rapid and massive convergence of British and Canadian reinforcements continued to convince many of the Fenians to return in haste to the United States - some on logs, on rafts, or by swimming. O'Neill and his remaining 317 effectives surrendered their arms to waiting U.S. authorities.

    Fenian units involved in the battle were the 7th Buffalo (NY), 18th Ohio, 13th Tennessee, and 17th Kentucky Fenian Regiments, and an independent Company from Indiana. Canadian units included The Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto and the 13th Hamilton Battalion. Canadian Orangeman Alexander Muir, author of the unofficial Canadian anthem "The Maple Leaf Forever," fought with the Queen's Own at Ridgeway.

    The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada

    The Fenian Raid 1866

    In the fall and winter of 1865 and the spring of 1866 there were rumours in Toronto of an imminent invasion of Canada by the Fenian Brotherhood. The militia were put on a hightened state of readiness and the Queen's Own were called to active service on March 7th, 1866, in anticipation of a St. Patrick's Day attack. They stayed on active duty for three weeks until the threat of invasion subsided. This was the beginning of the Feinian Raids.

    The Feinian Brotherhood was an Irish American organization that was dedicated to freeing Ireland from British rule. Many of them were Civil War veterans who believed that if they captured Canada they could use it as a bargaining tool against Britain. In the fall of 1865 they organized themselves into an army and began their preparations to invade Canada. In March of 1866 they met in Cincinati and formulated their plan. Unfortunately their security was not very good and both the Canadian authorities and the American government knew what they were planning.

    In April, an invasion of New Brunswick was halted when American officials seized a shipload of arms headed for waiting Fenian troops in Maine. The American government would not permit a violation of the Neutrality Act.

    On June 1st, 1866, the Fenians invaded Canada. With 1500 men they crossed the Niagara River just north of Fort Erie. Upon landing they established a defensive position and sent out patrols. Their first operation was to occupy the town of Fort Erie where they demanded food and horses from the citizens. They offered Fenian bonds as payment but the Canadians refused to accept them. Telegraph wires were cut and railroad tracks were torn up.

    The Fenians issued this proclamation;

    To the people of British America:

    We come among you as foes of British rule in Ireland. We have taken up the sword to strike down the oppressors' rod, to deliver Ireland from the tyrant, the despoiler, the robber. We have registered our oaths upon the alter of our country in the full view of heaven and sent out our vows to the throne of Him who inspired them. Then, looking about us for an enemy, we find him here, here in your midst, where he is most vulnerable and convenient to our strength. . . . We have no issue with the people of these Provinces, and wish to have none but the most friendly relations. Our weapons are for the oppressors of Ireland. our bows shall be directed only against the power of England; her privileges alone shall we invade, not yours. We do not propose to divest you of a solitary right you now enjoy. . . . We are here neither as murderers, nor robbers, for plunder and spoliation. We are here as the Irish army of liberation, the friends of liberty against despotism, of democracy against aristocracy, of people against their oppressors. In a word, our war is with the armed powers of England, not with the people, not with these Provinces. Against England, upon land and sea, till Ireland is free. . . . To Irishmen throughout these Provinces we appeal in the name of seven centuries of British inequity and Irish misery and suffering, in the names of our murdered sires, our desolate homes, our desecrated alters, our million of famine graves, our insulted name and race -- to stretch forth the hand of brotherhood in the holy cause of fatherland, and smite the tyrant where we can. We conjure you, our countrymen, who from misfortune inflicted by the very tyranny you are serving, or from any other cause, have been forced to enter the ranks of the enemy, not to be willing instruments of your country's death or degradation. No uniform, and surely not the blood-dyed coat of England, can emancipate you from the natural law that binds your allegiance to Ireland, to liberty, to right, to justice. To the friends of Ireland, of freedom, of humanity, of the people, we offer the olive branch of these and the honest grasp of friendship. Take it Irishmen, Frenchmen, American, take it all and trust it. . . . We wish to meet with friends; we are prepared to meet with enemies. We shall endeavor to merit the confidence of the former, and the latter can expect from us but the leniency of a determined though generous foe and the restraints and relations imposed by civilized warfare.

    T. W. Sweeney.

    Major General commending the armies of Ireland

    From Fort Erie, the Fenians marched north along the river toward the town of Chippawa. They realized that the Welland Canal was the most important strategic asset in the area. Chippawa controls the north end of the canal.

    Meanwhile the alarm had sounded in Toronto and across the province. Thousands of militiamen were called out. The Queen's Own Rifles paraded 356 men at 04:00hrs on June 1st. They boarded the steamer City of Toronto and sailed for Port Dalhousie. From there they travelled by train to Port Colburne and waited three hours while orders were prepared.

    The plan called for Col Booker's column to travel by train to the town of Ridgeway and from there march north to meet Col Peacocke's column in the town of Stevensville. In Ridgeway they made their first mistake of the day. As they assembled at the station the train blew its whistle an buglers sounded assembly calls. This noise was heard by the enemy who took it as a warning and prepared to fight.

    Marching north out of Ridgeway that morning, Col Booker had under his command the Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto (that was our name at the time), the 13th Battalion (who later became the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry) and the York and Caladonia Rifle companies. They marched up ridge road with No 5 Company of the Queen's Own leading. Local inhabitants had warned Col Booker that the Fenians were near but he dismissed the reports because his intelegence told him that the enemy was camped at the Black Creek the night before.

    Indeed, on the evening of June 1st the Fenians had been camped at Black Creek, but when they learned that Peacocke's force was already in Chippawa, they decided to move against Booker's weaker column. The Canadians had conveniently divided their forces so Col O'Neil chose to defeat them in parts rather than allow them to unite into a stronger body. To this end, the Fenians broke camp at 03:00 on the morning of June 2nd and marched south along Ridge road. When they heard the train whistle and bugle calls coming from Ridgeway they prepared a hasty defense.

    It was hot that morning as the Queen's Own marched through feilds of new corn. As they approached Garrison Road, No 5 Company came under fire from Fenian skirmishers; the battle had begun.

    The Battle

    Initially the Fenian skirmishers fell back. They wanted to draw the Canadians toward their main line of defense. No 5 Company kept up the pressure as Col Booker deployed the rest of the column.

    The Adjutant of the Queen's Own was Captain William Dillion Otter. This was his first battle. He went on to found the School of Infantry (later the Royal Canadian Regiment) and to lead a column in the Northwest Rebellion. He led the Canadians in South Africa and was Canada's first home grown General. In the official account of the battle he wrote;

    Second June, 1866 (Saturday), paraded at Port Colborne at 12:30 a.m. and marched to a train, on which was the 13th Battalion of Hamilton and the York and Caledonia Rifle Companies, who had arrived the night before. At 4 a.m. a detachment of a 125 officers and men of our own corps arrived from Toronto.

    It was intended that the force should leave at 2 a.m., but further orders detained us til 5 a.m.. These orders were from Colonel Peacock, H. M. 16th Foot, who was to be in command, and was brought by Capt. Akers, R. E.

    At 5 a.m., in obedience to Colonel Peacock's orders, the force left Port Colborne, the strength being, Queen's Own 480, 13th Battalion, York and Caledonia Companies about 400, in all say 880, under the command of Colonel Booker, 13th Battalion. Moved to Ridgeway station on the B & L. H. Railway, where we left the train and marched toward Stevensville, for the purpose are forming a junction with Colonel Peacock's column.

    No. 5 Company, Q.O.R. (armed with Spencer repeating rifles), formed the advance guard, followed by the remaining companies of the battalion, the 13th Battalion and York Company, the Caledonia Company finding the rear guard. In this order the column moved about two miles, when at 7 a.m. the Fenians were discovered to our front. The advance guard was immediately extended from its centre, Nos. 1 and 2 on its left and right. No. 3 centre supports, No. 4 left, No. 7 as a flanking party to the left, supported by No. 8, and Nos. 6 flanking to the right, No. 9 and 10 in reserve. After an advance of say half a mile, No. 6 was sent as a support to No. 2 on the right, immediately the Fenians, who were extended behind the fences, their main body being well posted in a wood, opened fire, which was immediately returned by our men, who continued steadily advancing. The firing became general, being heaviest on our centre and right. At almost the first fire Ensign McEachren was hit in the stomach, and being taken to the rear, died in twenty minutes.

    We continued driving them for about an hour, when our skirmishers being reported out of ammunition, Nos. 9 and 10 companies were sent to the right, and the 13th Battalion order to relieve us, which they did by sending out three companies to skirmish, and who had not being engaged fifteen minutes, when the cry of "Cavalry" was raised at seeing two or three Fenian horsemen advancing towards us. Colonel Booker ordered the reserve (Queen's Own) to "Prepare for Cavalry" and the companies forming it, viz.: Nos. 1,2,3,5, and 8, formed square. The mistake was immediately seen, the order given to "Reform Column" and two leading companies (Nos. 1 and 2) to "extend." On re-forming, the reserve being too close to the skirmish line, was ordered to retire, the left-wing of the 13th who were in our rear, seeing our men retire and thinking we were retreating, broke and retired in a panic, on seeing which our men also broke and ran. Just previous to this the retire was sounded to Nos. 1 and 2 of the Queen's Own, who not seeing the necessity of the order, disobeyed, until it was again sounded, when they reluctantly moved to the rear,the remainder of the skirmish line doing the same, though not understanding the reason of their recall, but on seeing the reserve in disorder, they too became demoralized and fled. The fire of the now pursuing Fenians became hotter than ever, and the volunteers being crowded up in a narrow road, presented a fine market to their rifles, causing are poor fellows to fall on all sides.

    It was in vain the officers endeavored to rally the men, several times squads, and even a company were collected, but never in sufficient force to check the pursuit, though a constant fire was kept up until the Fenians ceased following. For the first two or three hundred yards it was a regular panic, but after that the men fell into a walk, retiring in a very orderly manner, but completely crestfallen.

    The enemy followed to Ridgeway Station and there gave up the pursuit, moving onto Fort Erie. We've returned to Port Colborne, arriving at about 1 p.m. very tired and hungry, not having had any sleep the previous night nor any food that day.

    Had the "retire" not been sounded we should have beaten them in 10 minutes more, for part of their force was actually retreating before we commenced to retire.

    General O'Neill in command of the Fenians, and other officers of their force, owned to some of our wounded whom they captured (owing to our not having ambulances or vehicles of any description) that we "behaved splendidly and were mistaken by them for regulars, owing to our steadiness, and that we had fought five minutes longer they must have succumbed, as their men were fast becoming demoralized."


    The Battle of Ridgeway

    On the morning of Saturday June 2nd, 1866, 800 men of the Canadian Militia met an invading army of the Fenian Brotherhood near the town of Ridgeway on the Niagara Peninsula. The Fenians routed the Canadian Militia and chased them back to Ridgeway. However, the Fenians did not pursue them any further and withdrew back to Fort Erie that very day. The Militia retreated and finally re-grouped at Port Colbourne.

    Lead by Colonel O'Neill, the Fenian forces crossed the Niagara River near Buffalo in the pre-dawn hours of Friday June 1st. By 5:00am the Fenian flag flew over the dilapidated walls of the long abandoned Fort Erie. This Fenian plan had been a poorly kept secret. On the evening of May 31st, the alarm was raised across the province and thousands of militiamen were called out. By 4:00am on June 1st the Queen's Own Rifles had 356 men on parade in Toronto. The steamer "City of Toronto" took them to Port Dalhousie and from there they took a train to Port Colbourne. By nightfall on June 1st, hundreds of militiamen had gathered at Port Colbourne on Lake Erie: the QOR from Toronto, the 13th Battalion from Hamilton (later to evolve into the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry) and rifle companies from Caledonia and York.

    The Canadian response to the Fenian invasion was to divide their forces into two positions: 1/ the Canadian Militia with 800 men were deployed at Port Colbourne with infantry only - no cavalry, no artillery, initially under the command of Lt. Colonel Dennis, 2/ A combined unit of British regulars and Canadian Militia, lead by Colonel Peacocke formed up in Chippawa (on the Niagara River south of the Falls) with 1450 infantry, a 6-gun battery and 55 cavalry. The plan Peacocke had in mind was that on the 2nd of June, the two forces would move against the Fenians and join forces at Stevenville, just outside of Fort Erie. Without Col. Peacocke's approval, Lt. Col. Dennis took 80 men on an independent action against the Fenians from Port Colbourne to Fort Erie by water. This unsanctioned manouver left Lt. Col. Brooker - an auctioneer from Hamilton - to lead the main group of volunteers to the rendevous at Stevenville.

    The plan had merit: Port Colbourne stood at the south entrance of the strategically important Welland Canal and could receive troops and supplies quickly by train. Chippawa had importance as a railway station and it lay between the Fenian invaders and the northern entrance to the Welland Canal at Port Dalhousie. The Fenians under the command of O'Neill made a faint to move against the Chippawa forces in the late evening of June 1st. The Chippawa contingent responded by deploying along the banks of the Black Creek that flowed east into the Niagara River. At dawn on the 2nd of June, the Fenian Army left Fort Erie and marched west along Garrison Road towards Ridgeway. At 7:00am that morning the Canadian Militia moved north along the Ridge Road heading towards Garrison Road. Blessed with superior scouting, the Fenians established their lines and waited for the volunteers. At 7:30am the first shots were exchanged between the Fenian skirmishers and the 5th Company of the QOR who were armed with the newly issued Spenser rifles. The skirmishers fell back to their entrenched lines in the face of the Militia's advance. All seemed to be going reasonably well against the Fenians until a few horsemen came to the battle.

    The crux of the Battle of Ridgeway was the Canadian Militia's ill advised formation of a square to defend against a perceived threat from Fenian cavalry. The Fenians never had a cavalry: just a few scouts on horses that were liberated from local farmers. The square formation provided a concentrated mass of soldiers making an easy target for the Fenian riflemen and leading to a number of casualties. Reversing the formation of this square, the movement of relief companies to the firing line and the massing of the Fenian Army started a process in the Canadian forces that moved quickly from falling back to retreat to panic and total rout. The Fenians chased the Canadian Militia back to Ridgeway but no further. The Militia regrouped finally at Port Colbourne but were never again a factor in the hostilities. By that afternoon, O'Neill and his army had returned to Fort Erie and dealt with the small group lead by Lt. Col. Dennis in a short but sharp encounter through the streets and docks of the town. Before the Fenians could encounter the main force, lead by Peacocke, the army abandoned Canadian soil and were then taken into custody by a contingent of American naval and army forces.

    Nine Canadians of the QOR died because of the battle, either immediately or some days later due to wounds:

    -Private William Smith 2nd Company

    -Sergeant Matheson 2nd Company

    -Corporal Lakey 2nd Company

    -Lance Corporal Defries 3rd Company

    -Ensign McEachern 5th Company

    -Private Alderson 7th Company

    -Private Tempest 9th Company

    -Private MacKenzie 9th Company

    -Private Mewburn 9th Company

    The 13th Company that evolved into the Royal Light Hamilton Infantry has a written history of the unit which indicates that three of their numbers (Cahil, Laker and Morrison) succumbed to heat exhaustion or disease sometime after the actual battle. Most of the dead soldiers were buried from Toronto's St. James Cathedral and were interred either in Toronto's Necropolis or the St. James Cathedral Cemetery. Mewburn was buried in Stanford - now a suburb of the Town of Niagara Falls - while MacKenzie's burial was in his home town of Woodstock



    History is a pattern of timeless moments.

    For weeks towns along the border with the United States had buzzed with wild rumours and false alarms about an imminent invasion of Canada by the Fenians. Fiery speeches in Buffalo by Fenians had fanned feelings of hatred toward the English occupiers of "dear ould Ireland." For its refusal to grant Ireland independence, Britain was going to pay and pay dearly.

    The Fenian Brotherhood was formed in Ireland in 1858. Its objective was to liberate Ireland from its British connection and establish the Republic of Ireland. An American branch of the Brotherhood was formed in the United States and its leader, an unstable demagogue named John O'Mahony [*] decided to conquer and Canada [**] and hold her hostage. The price demanded for her return: a liberated Emerald Isle. It was a crazy scheme to be sure, but the Fenians felt they could accomplish it and they heralded their hardihood in this 1866 Fenian battle song.

    Fenian John O'Mahony

    "We are the Fenian brotherhood, skilled in arts of war

    And we're going to fight for Ireland, the land that we adore.

    Many battles have we won, along with the boys in blue,

    And we'll go and capture Canada, for we've nothing else to do."

    At the end of the American Civil War nearly a million men suddenly found themselves unemployed. Among those hardest hit were thousands of Irish-Americans, some of whom decided to put their military might to good use by liberating Mother Ireland from its English occupiers. Where better to hit and hurt Britain than in its nearby colony, Canada. The city of Buffalo swarmed with fire-breathing Fenians simply waiting for the word to act. Arms and supplies from the demobilizing Union Army had been bought and shipped north to depots along the Canadian border.

    Meanwhile, across the narrow Niagara River Canadians watched, wondered and worried. On May 31 Premier John A. Macdonald had called out the Canadian militia. The Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto in their hot winter uniforms of green entrained and were sent to Port Colborne some eighteen miles west of Fort Erie. At Hamilton the 13th Battalion clothed in scarlet was called up and a force of regulars was assembled at St. Catharines. The units marched and counter-marched with nervous enthusiasm and feelings of loyalty they had not felt since being menaced by the Americans in 1812 and 1838.

    While the American government took no part in the Fenian foray they did nothing to stop it. Their inactivity in the face of this force about to cross into Canada reflected American hostility towards Canada because of Britain's support for the South in the Civil War.

    At dawn on Friday, June 1st, 1866 it happened. Sleepy-eyed residents of Fort Erie awakened to the sound and sight of strangers in their midst flying a foreign flag. It was the flag of the Fenians: a gold harp and crown on a field of green.

    Under the forbearing gaze of American authorities some thousand members of the Brotherhood had crossed the river and scrambled ashore unopposed at what today is the intersection of Bowen Avenue and the Niagara Parkway. They were, they proudly proclaimed to the locals, men whose mission was to rid the residents of Canada from "British tyranny." They had brought extra arms and uniforms for the flood of new recruits they expected to jump at the chance to join in the liberation of their country. When no Canadians responded to this crazy call to arms the Fenians were astounded and perplexed by these passive people.

    The Fenian leader, Lieutenant-Colonel John O`Neill, demanded and received food for his hungry heroes and following their meal of bread, ham and coffee provided gratis by the locals, the tired troops stretched out in the shade to take a nap. Their laid-back military manner seemed to suggest this was more of a picnic than an armed invasion. After a restful siesta O'Neill left a small force at Fort Erie and set out with the remaining Fenians along the river road for the confrontation to come for he knew two military columns were headed in their direction.

    The Fenians proceeded north along the Parkway past Frenchmen's Creek where they paused, peered about and pondered what lay ahead. It was their intention to keep Black Creek between them and the approaching British force which was led by Lieutenant-Colonel John J. Peacocke. In the vicinity of Townline Road the Fenians turned west and headed towards Black Creek where they camped for the night on June 1st. Early the next morning they were on the move again along Black Creek, then Beaver Creek, thence southwest on Ridge Road to a strong position on the high ground not far from Ridgeway at a point called Limestone Ridge.

    The Canadian troops numbering some 400 detrained at Ridgeway. They included volunteer militia of the Queen's Own Rifles, the 13th Battalion and the Caledonian and York Rifle Companies. The soldiers were chiefly young men with little training, no battle experience and led by an equally inexperienced and very nervous commander, Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Booker. At 7:30 a.m. on June 2nd, 1866 a clear, sunny, summer day the young soldiers moved off without breakfast up the Ridge Road, each bearing thirty-five rounds of ammunition and a rapidly beating heart. Ahead on the high ground awaited the foreign invaders. A witness to the battle to come is a neat, little brown brick farmhouse that after 140 years still occupies the corner of the battle site at the intersection of Hwy. 3 and Ridge Road.

    Battle of Ridgeway 2 June 1866

    On a day too beautiful for battle the militia moved forward firing as they sifted through farmers' fields filled with daisies and buttercups. "The line was well formed and their advance was brave." Neither side suffered much damage and with ammunition depleted the Canadian front rank retired and was replaced by fresh volunteers. After a short skirmish the Fenians, fearful of being surrounded by Peacocke's force of regulars and volunteers marching menacingly towards them from the north, decided to fall back to Fort Erie. Suddenly, to the bewilderment of both sides a militia bugler sounded retreat and the Canadians began to fall back. Then when the Fenian mounted scouts were mistaken for cavalry, Booker threw his forces into confusion by ordering them to form a square. Revitalized by their enemy's confused state the Fenians pressed forward firing and perceiving their plight drove them from the field with a bayonet charge. In the confused fighting that followed nine Canadians were killed and thirty-seven were wounded.

    The following account of this action is taken from the diary of militiaman Arthur James Moodie Tenny who fought in the field that fateful day.

    In His Own Words

    "The Queens Own Rifles of Toronto, 13th Battalion of Hamilton and two York Companies engaged about 1000 men. The Q. O. R. drive the Fenians from their position and about three miles when being out of ammunition, the 13th were ordered to relieve them. When this was done the Q.O. retired under cover. When it found out the 13th could not hold their own, the Q.O. were again ordered out. My company when passing thro an orchard heard the cry 'Prepare for cavalry'. We formed square when several were shot. The bugle then sounded the 'Retire' when returned to the reserve which had formed square to receive cavalry. Oh, that awful Square! Men falling all around us thick and fast with no chance to protect themselves. The order to reform for action was given but even the stern command of Major Gilmor and the officers could not prevent the terrible confusion which followed. When hark! What is that cry? A line of red coats is seen thro the trees some distance back. The cry is 'The 47th Regulars.' Hats fly up with loud hurrahs. Men are frantic with wild excitement and joy that the day is not lost thro their mistake. No use trying to reform! No use trying to regain command of the men. The excitement is too great, too wild to be brought under control. Many are coolly and independently firing at the Fenians, thus keeping them is check. A few start for the redcoated line, others follow. When it seems impossible to prevent it the whole body of 600 men retire to gain help from the supposed 'Regulars'. Lo! Phantom like it retreats and is lost sight of. Where is it? There is no one to answer. It was a terrible delusion. It was only the rear guard of our own brigade drawn up in line with fixed bayonets waiting the order to advance or retire. The Fenians then retreated to Fort Erie where they crossed the river at night. The fight lasted six hours. Q.O. lost 9 killed and about 40 wounded. Fenian loss is unknown."

    The Fenians' picnic became a panic as they suddenly realized the sunny morning might see many of them killed in this foreign country. Fear is infectious and as night fell it raced though their ranks. On reaching Fort Erie the Fenians fled across the river, some swimming, some paddling planks and some drowning. Those who reached the American shore were arrested. Later that morning when the Canadian militia arrived at Fort Erie they found the Fenians had fled. There were no more raids on the Niagara frontier. The vigilance of the authorities and the readiness of Canadians to defend their soil forestalled any more Fenian incursions into Canada.

    Canadians were grateful to those who fought and fell that day as Arthur James Moodie Tenny recorded in his diary.

    In His Own Words

    "June 5

    Q.O.R. ordered to Stratford, left on board cars at 3 am, passed Hamilton at 11 am, reached Stratford at 5 pm. Grand reception by the townspeople. My brother George and I were billeted on Mr. W. Dutton Druggist whose family treated us very kindly.

    June 19

    Returned to Toronto at 6 pm enthusiastically received by the whole city."

    This Fenian foray into the fertile fields of Niagara has now become a tourist attraction - the Battle of Ridgeway Scenic Drive. Distinctive Battle of Ridgeway signs bearing the busts of two soldiers representing the opposing forces now mark the picturesque drive. In an hour or so it is possible to follow the fortunes and the foibles of friend and foe alike as they occurred that soft summer day one hundred and forty years ago.

    The blood of the nine brave young militiamen who fell fighting the Fenians at Ridgeway was shed for a far greater cause than they knew. Fear of the Fenian threat which might very well have dragged in forces of the United States drew British North Americans together. The invasion had a very positive effect on the patriotism of the people and contributed greatly to the formation of a proud, new nation - Canada.

    [*]John O'Mahony the 19th-century founder of the Fenian rebel movement and the would-be conqueror of Canada is to be honoured as a hero of Irish nationalism this month at his Dublin gravesite 140 years after his failed 1866 invasion of New Brunswick. A terrorist in the eyes of British and Canadian officials of the day, O'Mahony will be hailed at a May 28th anniversary ceremony as in "inspirational force" in the fight that - long after his death in 1877 = led to the creatin of the Republic of Ireland. In Canada O'Mahony is best remembered as a blundering rebel and an accidental Father of Confederation. [National Post, May 6, 2006] [**] Canada then comprised two provinces: Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario). This attack took place in Canada West.


  • 1 decade ago

    1866 battle between Canadians and Fenians(american irish guys)

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