THE TENTH ROYALS—Lieut.-Col., A. Brunel; Majors, James Worthington and John Boxall (in command during march); Adjutant, C. H. Connon. No. 1 Co.—Capt. Geo. McMurrich, Lieut. John Paterson, Ensign F. Barlow Cumberland. No. 2 Co.—Capt. Geo. B. Hamilton. Lieut. Fred Richardson, Ensign Alex. Macdonald. No. 3 Co.—Lieut. H. J. Browne in command, Ensign Walter H. Barrett. No. 4 Co.—Capt. Wm. A. Stollery, Lieut. Arthur Coleman, Ensign W. D. Rogers. No. 5 Co.—Capt. Geo. W. Musson, Lieut. Chas. S. Musson, Ensign J. Widmer Rolph. No. 6 Co.—Capt. J. W. Laurence, Lieut. C. J. H. Winstanley, Ensign Hayward. No. 7 Co.—Capt. J. W. Hetherington, Lieut. G. Brunei. No. 8 Co.—Lieut. T. Brunei in command, Ensign L. Sherwood. Surgeon, Dr. J. H. Richardson; Assist. Surgeon, Dr. James Newcombe; Paymaster, Capt. John H. Ritchey; Quartermaster, Capt. Rufus Skinner.
The St. Catharines Garrison Battery of Artillery, under command of Capt. George Stoker and Lieut. James Wilson, was left at Chippawa to hold that place and guard the bridges.
A very grave error or oversight was made by the General Commanding in not providing a force of cavalry to thoroughly scour the country in advance of both of these columns before they started feeling their way through a district that was practically unknown to the commanding officers, and which was reported to be occupied by marauding parties of the enemy. Had this been done on the first of June, and cavalry scouts been employed on all the leading roads and highways gathering information of the whereabouts and doings of Gen. O'Neil and his forces, the events which subsequently transpired might have ended more happily. At the eleventh hour the Militia authorities saw the necessity of employing cavalry in the operations, and called out a portion of that extremely useful branch of the service. One of these cavalry troops (the Governor-General's Body Guard, of Toronto, under command of Major Geo. T. Denison), performed splendid service in this direction, an account of which will be given in a subsequent chapter.
Col. Peacocke marched from Chippawa by the River Road for Black Creek on his way to Stevensville, a rather round-about route, which added some miles to his journey and caused considerable loss of time. The day was an oppressively close one, with not a breath of air stirring, and as the sun rose higher in the heavens it cast forth a brassy heat that was almost unbearable, and had a telling effect on the men, who were soon drenched with perspiration and covered with dust. By 11 o'clock the heat became more intense and the dust more denser, and the jaded soldiers began to show signs of weariness, when Col. Peacocke resolved to halt his column at New Germany, a point about three miles from Stevensville, having covered 12 1/4 measured miles on this strenuous march.
THE BATTLE OF RIDGEWAY—A BAPTISM OF FIRE AND BLOOD FOR THE CANADIAN TROOPS—SPLENDID COOLNESS AND HEROIC COURAGE OF THE VOLUNTEERS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FIGHT ENDS IN DISASTER.
The second of June, 1866, was an eventful day for the Canadian troops who were operating on the Niagara frontier. They had hurriedly left their homes, the majority of them wholly unprovided with the means of subsistence, and illy equipped for campaigning, to combat a band of veteran troops who were bent on capturing Canada. A large proportion of our volunteers were mere youths who had left their colleges, office work, mercantile and other occupations, to go forth at their country's call, and had never encountered the perils of war or seen a hostile shot fired in their lives. But the high spirit of courage and patriotism which animated the hearts of all, rendered them self-reliant and determined to do their utmost in performing their sacred duty to their Queen and country.
In the preceding chapter a general idea of Col. Peacock's plan of campaign was given, and as Lieut.-Col. Booker's force was the first to move in carrying out that plan, it will be necessary to describe the operations of this command in detail, so that the reader may acquire a comprehensive knowledge of the exciting events which succeeded each other rapidly during the time this gallant force was in action.
A few minutes after 7 o'clock Lieut.-Col. Booker put his column in motion from Ridgeway station. The troops had previously been instructed to "load with ball cartridge," and all were keen to meet the enemy. Just before leaving, Lieut.-Col. Booker had been informed by several farmers of the neighborhood that the Fenians were only a short distance in his front, but he could scarcely believe so many conflicting stories, as the last official information he had received was that O'Neil was still at his camp at Frenchman's Creek. Although he considered the information unreliable, still he resolved to be prudent, and keep a sharp lookout for "breakers ahead." The usual military precautions which govern an advance into a hostile country were taken by him, and the advance guard and commanding officers warned to be on the alert.
The Queen's Own Rifles, under command of Major Charles T. Gillmor, led the van, followed by the York Rifle Company (Capt. Davis), the Thirteenth Battalion, under command of Major Skinner, and the Caledonia Rifle Company, under Capt. Jackson, in the order named. No. 5 Company of the Queen's Own (who were armed with Spencer repeating rifles) formed the advance guard, and the Caledonia Rifles the rear guard.
After proceeding about two miles along the Ridge Road the advance guard signalled back the intelligence that there were indications of the enemy in front. The column was then halted on the road, and flanking parties were detailed to scour the woods to the right and left. Proceeding a little further it became apparent that the Fenians were in position about half a mile north of the Garrison Road.
As the Canadian troops carefully moved forward, the advance guard (No. 5 Co., Q.O.R.), extended from its centre, with No. 1 Company on its left and No. 2 Company on its right as skirmishers. No. 3 Company acted as centre supports, No. 4 Company left supports. No. 7 Company as a flanking party to the left, supported by No. 8 Company, and No. 6 Company flanking to the right. Nos. 9 and 10 Companies were in reserve. After an advance of about half a mile in this formation No. 6 Company was sent as a support to No. 2 Company on the right.
The Canadians bravely advanced until they were met by a heavy fire from the Fenians' sharpshooters, who were extended behind rail fences and clumps of bushes, their main force being posted behind breastworks in a wood some distance in their rear. The Queen's Own promptly returned the fire and continued to advance steadily. The firing then became general, being most galling on the right and centre of the Canadian line.
The first Canadian to fall by a Fenian bullet was Ensign Malcolm McEachren, a brave officer of No. 5 Co., Q.O.R., who was mortally wounded in the stomach and died on the field about twenty minutes later.
For over an hour the gallant Queen's Own continued to drive the enemy before them, and one after another of their positions was carried, until they had the Fenians forced back to their main breastworks in the woods. By this time the Queen's Own had nearly exhausted their ammunition, and No. 5 Company had fired every round of their Spencer rifle cartridges. So that it became necessary for Major Gillmor to ask for relief.
The Thirteenth Battalion was the reserve force of the column, and it now became their turn to go into action. Lieut.-Col. Booker at once ordered the right wing of the reserve to deploy on the rear company to the right and extend. Major Skinner commanded the Thirteenth, and acted very courageously. He executed the movement with great skill and ability. No. 1 Company of the Thirteenth Battalion was on the right of the line and the York Rifles on the left. The troops advanced with coolness and bravery and were heartily cheered by the Queen's Own as they took their place in the battle line. The left wing of the Thirteenth moved up as the supports of their comrades of the same Battalion, and the Queen's Own then became the reserve. The fighting line of the Thirteenth continued the "drive" of the enemy into their entrenchments, and their hearty cheers as they pushed on to the attack were answered by the yells of the Fenians, who were preparing to make a charge.
Observing a movement on the part of O 'Neil which threatened his right flank, Lieut.-Col. Booker requested Major Gillmor to keep a sharp lookout for the cross-roads on which the reserve rested, and to send two companies from the reserve to occupy and hold the woods on the hill to the right of his line. Major Gillmor sent the Highland Company of the Queen's Own to perform that duty.
Just at this time (about 9.30 a.m.) two telegrams were handed to Lieut.-Col. Booker by a gentleman who had then arrived from Port Colborne. Both messages were from Col. Peacocke, one stating that he could not leave Chippawa until 7 o'clock, and the other advising him to "be cautious in feeling his way for fear obstacles should prevent a junction." This was disappointing news to Lieut.-Col. Booker. He had already struck an "obstacle," and had to overcome it alone, as there was now no chance of any succor from Col. Peacocke.
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To make matters worse, a few moments later Major Gillmor reported that the Highland Company had been compelled to leave the woods on the right of his position, as they had found that point occupied by Fenians. Almost simultaneously the cry of "Cavalry! Look out for cavalry!" came down the road, and some of our men were observed doubling down the hill. As the alarm was repeated when a few Fenian horsemen were observed advancing from around the corner of a piece of bush, Lieut.-Col. Booker ordered the reserve (which was composed of the Queen's Own) to "Prepare for Cavalry," and Companies Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8 promptly "formed square" on the road. As soon as it was discovered that the alarm was a false one, the order was given to "Reform Column," and for the two leading companies (Nos. 1 and 2) to "extend." On reforming, the reserve, being too close to the skirmish line, was ordered to retire. The left wing of the Thirteenth, who were in rear, seeing the four companies of the Queen's Own reserve retiring, and thinking a general retreat had been ordered, broke and retired in a panic, on seeing which the Queen's Own reserve also hurriedly retired. The bugles now having sounded the "Retire." Nos. 1 and 2 Companies of the Queen's Own fell back and seeing their comrades in disorder they too became demoralized. The Fenians, who were about ready to quit the fight and flee from the field when this unfortunate circumstance occurred, now saw their opportunity, and were quick to avail themselves of it. Their rifle fire became hotter and more incessant than ever, and as the Canadian troops were all huddled up in a narrow road, their murderous volleys were very destructive. It was a vain effort on the part of the officers to check the retreat and rally the men for the first few hundred yards, but after a while they cooled down and retired in an orderly manner, occasionally turning around to take a parting shot at the Fenians, who were pursuing them. Occasionally a squad or company would halt and deliver a well-directed volley, but no general formation could be accomplished, as the troops were practically demoralized.
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The Fenians followed in pursuit as fur as Ridgeway Station, when they turned east and retreated to Fort Erie, no doubt thinking that a fresh column of Canadian troops would endeavor to effect their capture. Lieut.-Col. Booker, seeing that it was impossible to get the troops in good fighting condition again that day, decided to order a retreat to Port Colborne, where they arrived during the afternoon, utterly worn out from loss of sleep and their strenuous exertions during the day.
THE HONOR ROLL.
The following is a list of the Canadians killed and wounded in the action at Ridgeway:
QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES.
Ensign Malcolm McEachren, No. 5 Company. Lance-Corporal Mark Defries, No. 3 Company. Private William Smith, No. 2 Company. Private Christopher Alderson, No. 7 Company. Private Malcolm McKenzie, No. 9 Company. Private Wm. F. Tempest, No. 9 Company. Private J. H. Mewburn, No. 9 Company. Sergt. Hugh Matheson (died on June 9th), No. 2 Company. Corporal F. Lackey (died on June 11th), No. 2 Company.
Ensign Wm. Fahey (in knee), No. 1 Company. Private Oulster (calf of leg), No. 1 Company. Private Wm. Thompson (neck). No. 2 Company. Capt. J. B. Boustead (contusion), No. 3 Company. Lieut. J. H. Beaven (thigh), No. 3 Company. Private Charles Winter (thigh), No. 3 Company. Private Chas. Lugsdin (lung and arm). No. 4 Company. Private Chas. Bell (knee), No. 5 Company. Private Copp (wrist). No. 5 Company. Lieut. W. C. Campbell (shoulder), No. 6 Company. Corporal Paul Robbing (knee, leg amputated), No. 6 Company. Private Rutherford (foot), No. 6 Company. Sergt. W. Foster (side), No. 7 Company. Private E. T. Paul (knee), No. 9 Company. Private R. E. Kingsford (leg). No. 9 Company. Private E. G. Paterson (arm). No. 9 Company. Private W. H. Vandersmissen (groin), No. 9 Company. Color-Sergt. P. McHardy (arm), No. 10 Company. Private White (arm, amputated), No. 10 Company. Private Alex. Muir (arm dislocated), No. 10 Company. Sergt. Forbes (arm), No. 10 Company.
Died.—Private Morrison, No. 3 Company.
Wounded.—Lieut. Routh, severely in left side; Private McKenzie, wound in foot; Private George Mackenzie, left arm; Private Edwin Hillier, wound in neck; Private Stuart, flesh wound in neck; Private Powell, wound in thigh; Sergt. J. M. Young, H. W. Simons, B. W. Sutherland, Alex. Henderson, John Crossman, James Cahill, W. Irving, W. T. Urquhart, and W. B. Nicholls.
Wounded.—Sergt. Jack, in thigh; B. J. Cranston, Oneida.
The unfortunate termination of the battle of Ridgeway was a great disappointment to the rank and file in Lieut.-Col. Booker's force, and he was severely condemned for having given the fatal order which resulted in huddling up his men in a "square" in an exposed position, and finally resulted in the retrograde movement. But under similar circumstances any other officer might have done likewise, and to his credit it may be recorded that he did his best afterwards to retrieve the consequences of his error, and by personal courage on the field endeavored to stop the retreat. He had no staff to assist him, and was the only mounted officer on the Canadian side, so that he was at a disadvantage. Moreover, he had never previously manoeuvred a brigade, even on parade, and to handle one in battle was a trying ordeal to an inexperienced officer who had never before been under fire.
It was a most disastrous occurrence, for in another ten minutes of fighting Gen. O'Neill's forces would have been defeated and in full retreat. In fact, O'Neil Himself afterwards admitted this, and stated that if the Canadians had fought five minutes longer his forces would have given way, as they were fast becoming demoralized and were making preparations for flight. He complimented our men highly on their courage and steadiness, and said that he had mistaken them for regular British troops, and could not believe that they were merely Canadian volunteers, without any previous experience in warfare.
An observer who was present at the battle states that "there were no faint hearts in the whole Canadian line while under fire, but with the steadfastness of old soldiers trained in battle, the gallant youths stood up to perform honorably and creditably the stern task which they saw was before them. The officers, by word and act, gave their men whatever slight encouragement was needed, and each vied with the other in enthusiasm and firmness of purpose."
On the retreat from Ridgeway the dead and severely wounded were of necessity left on the field, but during the afternoon and evening were collected by the people residing in the vicinity and conveyed to near-by houses, where the wounded received every attention that it was possible to bestow until the arrival of medical aid. As soon as it became known in Toronto that a battle had been fought, the following surgeons left for the front by the 1 p.m. train: Doctors Tempest, Rowell, Stevenson, Howson, Agnew, Pollock, De Grassi and Dack. They arrived at Port Colborne at 9 a.m. and Dr. Tempest immediately conferred with Dr. Thorburn, Surgeon of the Queen's Own, who had retired to Port Colborne with his regiment. It was just at this moment that Dr. Tempest received the sad intelligence that his own son had been killed in the engagement, which was a crushing blow to the patriotic father. He, however, remained at his post of duty, carefully supervising details in the movement of several surgeons to the battlefield, fourteen miles distant, and directed affairs at Port Colborne to receive the wounded on their arrival at that point. No vehicles were available at Port Colborne, but Doctors Stevenson and Howson, noticing a farmer's waggon passing by, impressed it into the service and started together for the battle ground, where they arrived about 2 o'clock Sunday morning. They found our wounded in the houses in the neighborhood, and with the assistance of Dr. Clark, of St. Catharines, Doctors Brewster and Duncan, of Port Colborne, and Dr. Allen, quickly dressed the wounds of all of the wounded. The dead were sent on to Port Colborne in waggons, and a train was ordered to proceed to Ridgeway to bring back the wounded. This train left Ridgeway in charge of Doctors Stevenson and Howson at 1 o'clock on Sunday, and soon after arrived at Port Colborne, where it was met by Doctors Tempest, Beaumont and other medical men. Several of the most severely wounded, whose cases demanded rest and more careful surgical treatment, were left in charge of the surgeons at Port Colborne, while others were removed to the improvised hospital in the Town Hall at St. Catharines, and the remainder conveyed to Port Dalhousie, where they were carefully carried on board the "City of Toronto." After the wounded had been comfortably placed on mattresses and stretchers, the bodies of six of the dead soldiers (Ensign McEachren, Corporal Defries, and Privates Smith, Alderson, McKenzie and Tempest), encased in the plain wooden coffins which had been provided for them at Port Colborne, were reverently carried on board, and the steamer started on its sorrowful trip to Toronto.
A Toronto paper, in reciting the circumstance of the sad home-coming of the dead and wounded heroes, said:
At 9 o'clock in the evening the bells of the city began to toll mournfully as the lights of the "City of Toronto," freighted with dead and wounded from the battle field, were seen entering the harbor, and every street and avenue began to pour their throngs of sympathizing citizens to Yonge street wharf, where strong pickets of volunteers were drawn up to keep the dense crowd already assembled from pressing over the dock. Ominous files of hearses, with cabs and carriages, passed over the wharf, and the pickets again closed upon the multitude, vast numbers betaking themselves to the neighboring wharves and storehouses and literally swarmed over every post of observation. We do not think that gloomy Sunday night will soon be forgotten by any of the myriads who, as the soft south-eastern wind dashed the waves against the esplanade, awaited in melancholy expectation the approaching steamer. The wharf was densely crowded with an anxious crowd to witness the arrival of the poor fellows. A strong guard had to be stationed across the street at the entrance of the wharf, and no one was allowed to pass except the committee and those privileged with a pass. At half past nine the steamer arrived, and the committee immediately went on board and assisted in the removal of the wounded. many of whom were lying on mattresses with their legs and arms in bandages, some of them apparently in great pain. A company of the 47th was in waiting with ambulances to convey the wounded out of the boat to cabs. Six dead bodies were brought down in coffins, their names being McEachren, Defries, Alderson, Tempest. McKenzie and Smith. The wounded who arrived were Capt. Boustead, Ensign Fahey, Kingsford, Lakey, Robins, VanderSmissen, Patterson, Webster, Muir and Elliott. Lugsden and Mathieson were left at Port Colborne, they being too much injured to be removed. The wounded were conveyed in cabs to their residences, and the dead to the houses of their friends.
INCIDENTS OF THE BATTLE.
A daring deed of bravery was performed by Private John H. Noverre, of No. 5 Co., Q.O.R., while the battle was at its hottest stage. When Ensign McEachren received his fatal wound, his belts and sword were removed from his body and left in a fence corner. As the Fenians were working up in that direction, Mr. Noverre determined to run the risk of recovering his dead comrade's equipments, rather than have them fall into the hands of an exultant enemy. Therefore he ran across the line of fire amid a storm of bullets, secured the sword and belts, and regained the Canadian lines unscathed just as the retreat began. The exertion of the race and the excessive heat proved too much for him, however, and he suffered sun-stroke, which necessitated his being carried from the field and borne to Port Colborne by his comrades, from whence he was sent to the hospital at St. Catharines for treatment, and soon recovered.
Ensign Wm. Fahey, of No. 1 Company, was about the last man struck, while assisting to cover the retreat. He was using the rifle of a fallen comrade on the firing line when he was struck in the knee. He was assisted to a neighboring house and was kindly treated by the Fenians when they took possession.
Private R. W. Hines, of No. 8 Co., Queen's Own, was taken prisoner by a squad of Fenians and his rifle taken from him and handed to one of their officers. The officer took the rifle, and after eyeing it critically, grabbed it by the barrel and with a profane remark that it would never shoot another Fenian, smashed the stock against a boulder. The Canadian gun, being loaded and at full cock, went off with the concussion, and the bullet passed through the Fenian's body, killing him instantly.
It is related that a private of the Queen's Own was in conflict with two Fenians, who pressed him at the point of the bayonet. He retreated across a fence and fell, when one of the Fenians dashed at him with his bayonet and pinned him to the ground, the bayonet passing through his arm. He pulled a revolver with the other hand and shot the Fenians one after another and escaped.
Private Graham, of the Queen's Own, in getting over a fence, caught his foot between the top rails and swung over, his head downwards, and was unable to extricate himself. A shower of Fenian bullets whistled around him without injury, when a comrade came to his rescue and relieved him, but was himself seriously wounded.
Private R. E. Kingsford, of No. 9 Co., Queen's Own (now Police Magistrate at Toronto), was wounded and taken prisoner. The Fenians carried him to a farm house, procured him refreshments, and took great care of him while he was in their hands.
Major Cattley, of the 13th Battalion, had a spur knocked off his heel by a bullet while climbing a fence, and a private of the same battalion had the ball on the top of his shako shot away.
Private Shuttleworth, of the 13th, had a narrow and extraordinary escape. While he was in the act of firing, the muzzle of his rifle was shot into by a Fenian musket ball and torn open.
It is recounted that Lieut. Routh, of the 13th Battalion, turned his company towards the enemy three times during the retreat and delivered volleys at the advancing foe. He called out to the men to stand their ground, but just at that moment he was struck by a spent ball on the hip. He rallied, and said it was lucky it was no worse, and exclaimed. "I will not run. I will die first," but he was again struck by a ball through the left side, when he dropped and was carried off the field by two of his men.
Capt. Sherwood, of No. 8 Co., Q.O.R., had the band taken off his collar and a piece taken out of the sleeve of his tunic by a bullet, without being even wounded.
Sergt. Foster, of No. 7 Co., Q.O.R., was struck by a bullet over the heart, tearing his tunic and grazing the skin, but leaving him otherwise uninjured.
Mr. P. E. Noverre, of No. 5 Co., Q.O.R., relates that during the progress of the fight a patriotic lady and her little daughter, who resided in the neighborhood of the battlefield, were busy carrying water for the thirsty soldiers to drink. They were right in the line of fire, but seemed to disdain the danger. Suddenly a Fenian bullet perforated the tin pail the little girl was carrying, and she remarked, "Mother, the pail is leaking; it won't hold water." Mr. Noverre was being served with a drink by the lady at the time, when another bullet whizzed past his ear and severely wounded a soldier of the 13th Battalion who was standing behind him.
C. H. Murdock, a bugler attached to No. 10 Co., Q.O.R., was conspicuous for his gallantry in carrying water to the men of the Highland Company during the hottest part of the action, and had several narrow escapes from the Fenian bullets which rattled around him.
Mr. Phil. E. Noverre was an eye-witness to the interment of eleven Fenians in a field near Fort Erie. These bodies were found by our troops on arrival at Fort Erie on Sunday, and it is supposed the men were killed during the two actions at Ridgeway and Fort Erie. Five or six more were buried on the Ridgeway battlefield.
A correspondent of the Toronto Leader, who was present during the engagement at Ridgeway, gave the following vivid account, of his personal experiences:
At the time the disastrous retreat of our troops commenced I was requested by his comrade to assist a wounded soldier of the Queen's Own to Hoffman's tavern, then about half a mile distant. The whole force rushed past us. We found on reaching the tavern that, with the exception of some more wounded whom we found there, we were the only parties left. We had barely time to deposit our burden when the advance guard of the Fenians rushed up and surrounded the tavern, flushed with apparent victory, and wild with excitement. They presented such an appearance as I certainly shall not soon forget. They were the most cut-throat-looking set of ruffians that could well be imagined. Supposing me to be the landlord, they immediately demanded liquor. In vain I urged that I was as much a stranger as themselves. Their leader presented a revolver at me, and ordered me behind the bar; every decanter was empty. They insisted that I had hid everything away. I examined every jar, without success. Fortunately I discovered a small keg, which on examination I found to contain about a gallon of old rye whiskey. This I distributed among them and think I must have treated about fifty. This mollified them in some degree, and after slaking their thirst at the well that party proceeded on its way without molesting me further. I then, assisted by the young volunteer whose comrade we had brought in, proceeded to render what assistance we could to the wounded men, one of whom was Private Lugsden of the Queen's Own, badly wounded in the chest, when we were interrupted by the arrival of another detachment under the command of a Capt. Lacken, who marched my assistant off a prisoner. I remonstrated with him upon the cruelty of leaving me alone with all the wounded, when he detailed one of his own men to assist me and went his way. About one hundred yards from the tavern, on the west side of the road, I found a poor fellow of the Queen's Own lying on his face near the fence. I knelt down beside him and found that he was sensible. He told me his name was Mark Defries, and that he was shot through the back. He knew that he was dying. He requested me to take a ring from his finger and send it with a message to a young lady in Toronto. He also requested me to take his watch and send it to his father, whose address he gave me. This I attempted to do, but he could not endure to be touched. He told me it would do to take it after he was dead. I conversed with him for some time, when I left him to try to obtain some assistance to have him removed into the house. I was then placed under arrest by a Fenian, by order of his commanding officers, and conveyed to a farm house, where I found two of our wounded men, young VanderSmissen, of the University Rifles, badly wounded in the thigh, and Corporal Lakey, shot through the mouth. With the assistance of the Fenian sentry I had them both put to bed and rendered them all the assistance in my power; for, be it noticed, that we could not find man, woman nor child in a circuit of miles, all fled in terror. When I could not do any more in that house, I requested the sentry to march me to the commanding officer, who was then at the tavern. He rode a sorrel horse, which was then at the door, and about half a mile from where we then were. I found him to be a very mild-looking young man, civil and courteous, evidently well educated. I stated my business at once, which was that I might obtain from him a written authority to go through their lines and visit the wounded on both sides without molestation. This he readily consented to, and gave me a document to that effect, signed Major McDonnell, commanding Division F. B. I had now perfect freedom to go wherever I wanted to. I immediately went in search of young Defries, but found that he had been removed. I returned to the tavern and found him lying in a back room dead. I then asked the landlord, who had by this time returned, to witness me taking the watch at his request, but after feeling him all over, the watch was gone. It had been taken from him, no doubt, by some Fenian marauder. I sent the ring, enclosed in a letter, to the young lady; I also wrote to his father's address, stating all the circumstances.
[Picture (page 67) 0067.gif, caption: Hoffman's Tavern, known as "the smuggler's home."]
I found there were more of our wounded men in another frame house about a mile further, on the Fort Erie road. I proceeded there and found the place guarded with Fenian sentries, but my protection was all potent. They, supposing me to be a surgeon, gave me every facility. I found, among others whose names I failed to ascertain, young Kingsford, of the University Rifles, lying on a lounge, badly wounded in the leg, but remarkably cheerful. I also found a young man named Hamilton, of the 13th Battalion, with a very bad wound in the right side. He had been attended to by a Fenian surgeon; he was lying on his face and suffering much. At his request I examined his wound and placed a bandage around it to stop the bleeding. There was also another young man of the Queen's Own lying on the floor in strong convulsions, evidently in a dying state, singular to say, without a wound upon his body. In another room in the same house I found another young man badly wounded. At this time a Fenian was brought in on a stretcher in a dying state. I ordered his comrades to cut his shirt open, when I found an ugly wound just under his left arm, which I have no doubt penetrated a vital part. I got water and washed the wound; he was sensible and able to tell me that his name was James Gerrahty, from Cincinnati, and that one of his own comrades had shot him by mistake, and that he freely forgave him. He died in about thirteen minutes, one of his comrades holding a crucifix before him as long as he could see it. We buried him in an orchard adjoining, the same evening.
Another Fenian was now brought in with a very bad wound in the neck. He was a very rough-looking fellow. I washed his wound also. He was afterwards removed to the hospital at St. Catharines. On leaving the house my attention was called to the dead body of one of the Queen's Own lying across the road, a very powerful man. He was shot through the head and presented a horrid spectacle. A little further on I found a group of three armed Fenians, who were watching over a wounded comrade. I was called upon to assist him. His comrades stripped him, and I found a gunshot wound in the hip, having passed right through, leaving two very ugly wounds. I washed him also and left him.
I now returned to the tavern. By this time the main body had returned, after having pillaged the village of Ridgeway, ransacking the principal stores, taverns, etc., and were now resting on a rising ground almost immediately opposite the tavern. The green flag, on which was emblazoned a large golden harp, was floating to the breeze in their centre. An officer, whom I soon found was their Adjutant, rode across to me and told me that two of our wounded men were lying on the road about fifty rods from us, nearer Ridgeway, a circumstance I was not before aware of. Desiring that I should procure some assistance to have them removed from the sun's scorching influence, which at that time was very powerful, I told him I had not a man left but the wounded. I suggested to him to detail four of his stoutest fellows and place them under my authority for a few minutes, which he readily agreed to. I marched them off, but before reaching the poor fellows their bugle sounded the assembly, when they all started off and left me without assistance. I may mention here that this officer gave me an authority in writing to remove the wounded to where they might obtain proper medical assistance. Accompanied by a young man of the Queen's Own, who was slightly wounded in the wrist, I proceeded to the poor fellows who were lying on the road. We were unable to remove them, but gave them water to drink and put the overcoats that we picked up on the road in such a way as to shelter them from the sun. We then proceeded to Ridgeway to try to obtain assistance to remove those that were able, or nurses to attend upon the poor fellows, or men to move the dead and wounded that were still exposed on the road, as well as to try to procure teams to take them to Port Colborne, but with the exception of three men who agreed to go and move the men off the road, and one colored woman, whom I pressed into service, I could get no further assistance.
The horses had been all driven away for fear of them being taken. In going into a farmer's house in the immediate neighborhood of Ridgeway I knocked and could not obtain admission. I then went to the kitchen door, and opening another door, I found lying on the bed a poor young volunteer of the Queen's Own. I learned from himself that he was a son of the Rev. Mr. McKenzie, and was badly wounded, I think, in the arm. He was lying there alone, the house being deserted by all its inhabitants. I promised to send him assistance, which I did.
Returning from my fruitless errand, I met Dr. Elliot, of Port Colborne, who in the interim had been visiting the wounded men. He agreed to find ways and means to convey me to Port Colborne to report to the medical staff, with a view to sending immediate relief. On returning to Ridgeway I fortunately found a farmer's horse and buggy, and immediately drove to Port Colborne, when I reported to Dr. Thorburn, of the Queen's Own, who authorized me to press into the service all the teams necessary to bring up the dead and wounded, which was accomplished with little delay. A medical staff, consisting of Dr. Clark, of St. Catharines; Dr. Fraser, of Font-hill; Dr. Downie, Dr. Allen, of Brantford, and others, proceeded at once to the battle-ground, attending carefully to the wounded, but it was deemed advisable for the medical men to remain with them and accompany them by railway next day to Port Colborne. We, however, brought with us two wounded Fenian prisoners, who were taken to the hospital at St. Catharines. We also brought the bodies of the honored dead. We arrived at Port Colborne with our melancholy burden, about six o'clock a.m. on the 3rd. I may mention that two of the wounded men, whom I left alive in the afternoon, were dead when we returned in evening. Thus terminated the day of horrors. God grant that it may never be my lot to relate similar experiences.
As an evidence of the coolness and courage which was exemplified by many of our citizen soldiers, it is related by one of his men that Ensign Wm. Fahey, of No. 1 Company of the Queen's Own, when that company was advancing in skirmishing order in the face of a hot fire, kept continually encouraging his comrades in both words and action. When the bullets were flying around them he shouted, "Boys, keep a stiff upper lip!" and when a little later he was shot through the left knee and was being carried off the field, he again encouraged them by shouting, "No. 1, do your duty!" Such bravery under such circumstances will tend to show the sort of material of which our volunteers was composed.
An officer who fell on the firing line during the final stage of the battle was taken prisoner by the Fenians. When asked by the officer in command of the enemy what troops confronted them, and being told they were Canadian volunteers, he would hardly believe it. Their Adjutant said that during his experience in the Civil War he had never seen troops extending in such order and steadiness as our men did that morning. He was under the impression that they were British regulars.
PUBLIC FUNERALS FOR THE DEAD.
On Tuesday afternoon, June 5th, the bodies of Ensign McEachren, Corporal Defries and Privates Smith, Alderson and Tempest were interred in St, James' Cemetery, Toronto, with full military honors. It was a public funeral, and one of the most solemn and imposing corteges that ever passed through the streets of Toronto. The bodies of the five dead heroes were placed upon a catafalque which had been specially prepared to convey the remains to their last resting places, and at 3.50 p.m. the procession started from the Drill Shed to the Cemetery, preceded by the Band of the 47th Regiment, playing the Dead March. The Lloydtown Rifle Company acted as the firing party, and the cortege included all the military units in the city, besides fraternal societies, the Mayor and Corporation. Major-Gen. Napier and staff, and citizens on foot and in carriages. All along the line of march the shops were closed and buildings draped in mourning. An immense concourse of people lined the streets, and a general feeling of mournfulness and sadness pervaded the community as the procession moved slowly on to the solemn strains of the band and the tolling of all the bells in the city. After the service at the Cemetery had been concluded, the usual volleys were fired over the remains by the Lloydtown Rifles, and all that was mortal of those five heroes who had sacrificed their lives on the field of battle for their country were laid away to eternal rest.
The body of Malcolm McKenzie was sent to his old home at Woodstock for burial, and that of Private J. H. Mewburn to Stamford. Both of these dead soldiers were buried the same day, with full military honors, and were laid to rest with the deepest reverence by their comrades and the people of the communities in which they had lived and been honored.
On the 9th of June Sergt. Hugh Matheson, of No. 2 Company, Queen's Own Rifles, died in the hospital at St. Catharines, from wounds received at Ridgeway, and on the 11th Corporal F. Lackey, of the same company, died in Toronto, from the effects of a cruel wound in the upper jaw, received in the same battle. The remains of these two soldiers were also given a public funeral, as large and imposing as had been accorded to their dead comrades a week previously. At St. James' Cemetery the same service took place as at the previous funerals, Rev. Mr. Grasett reading the burial service of the Church of England, after which the Upper Canada College Company of the Queen's Own fired the customary volleys over the remains, which were then placed in the vault of the Cemetery Chapel.
Thus were laid to rest the bodies of nine Canadian heroes whose names and deeds are engraved deeply on the tablets of their country's history, and whose memory is warmly preserved in the hearts of their surviving comrades, who annually decorate their graves with flowers, flags and garlands on each recurring anniversary of the battle in which they gave up their lives.
A handsome monument was erected in the Queen's Park, Toronto, to perpetuate their memory, while at the entrance of the Ontario Parliament Buildings the Provincial Government has also erected a brass memorial plate in commemoration of their patriotic deeds in shedding their life's blood for the honor of their country and its flag. "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."
LIST OF OFFICERS WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE BATTLE.
The following is a list of the officers in command of the battalions and companies which formed Lieut.-Col. Booker's column, all of whom were present at the battle of Lime Ridge and took part in the action:—
QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES.
Major Chas. T. Gillmor in command.
No. 1 Company—Capt. John Brown, Lieut. Joseph Davids. Ensign Win. Fahey (wounded).
No. 2 Company—Capt. Fred. E. Dixon, Lieut. Farquhar Morrison, Ensign James Bennett.
No. 3 Company—Capt. J. B. Boustead, Lieut. James H. Beavan, Ensign Wm. Wharin.
No. 4 Company—Capt. John Douglas, Lieut. Wm. Arthurs. Ensign John H. Davis.
No. 5 Company—Capt. John Edwards, Lieut. Alex. G. Lee, Ensign Malcolm McEachren (killed).
No. 6 Company—Capt. G. M. Adam, Lieut. Wm. C. Campbell, Ensign T. A. McLean.
No. 7 Company—Capt. A. Macpherson, Lieut. John G. R. Stinson, Ensign Smith.
No. 8 Co.—Capt. L. P. Sherwood, Lieut. John O'Reilly.
No. 9 (Trinity Coll.) Co.—Acting Captain Geo. Y. Whitney.
No. 10 (Highland) Company—-Capt. John Gardner, Lieut. Robert H. Ramsay, Ensign Donald Gibson.
Staff Paymaster, Capt. W. H. Harris; Quartermaster, Capt. James Jackson; Adjutant. Capt. Wm. D. Otter; Surgeon, James Thorburn, M.D.; Assistant Surgeon, Samuel P. May, M.D.
Major James A. Skinner in command; Major Stephen T. Cattley.
No. 1 Company—Capt. Robert Grant, Lieut. John M. Gibson, Ensign McKenzie.
No. 2 Company—Capt. John H. Watson, Lieut. Chas. R. M. Sewell.
No. 3 Company—Lieut. John W. Ferguson; Ensign Charles Armstrong.
No. 4 Company—Lieut. Percy G. Routh (severely wounded). Ensign J. B. Young.
No. 5 Company—Capt. Alex H. Askin, Lieut. F. E. Ritchie.
No. 6 Company—Ensign W. Roy.
Adjutant. Capt. John Henery.
Capt. Robert H. Davis, Lieut. Davis, Ensign Jeffrey Hill.
Capt. William Jackson. Lieut. Robert Thorburn, Ensign Chrystal, Ensign Ronald McKinnon (attached).
Many of those above mentioned have passed away to eternal rest, yet their memories linger lovingly in the hearts and minds of their surviving comrades, who are personally cognizant of their patriotic deeds in defence of their country. By those old soldiers they will never be forgotten while life remains.
Of those old comrades who still survive, there are some who have achieved honor and distinction in the service of their country, among whom may be mentioned the Hon. John M. Gibson (Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario), and Brigadier-General Wm. D. Otter, C.V.O., C.B., Chief of the General Staff of the Active Militia of Canada, both of whom were under fire at Lime Ridge. In other walks of life many of those old veterans have achieved fame and success, and have proved an honor and a credit to the country they have spent their lives in endeavoring to upbuild.
THE EXPEDITION ON THE STEAMER "W. T. ROBB"—FIERCE FIGHT AT FORT ERIE—STIFF RESISTANCE OF A GALLANT BAND OF CANADIANS AGAINST A FENIAN FORCE TEN TIMES THEIR NUMBER.
After the steamer "W. T. Robb" cleared from the mouth of the harbor at Port Colborne, her prow was turned eastward, and under full steam the staunch little craft proceeded to the Niagara River. The morning was a most beautiful one, and the surface of Lake Erie was as calm and glassy as a mill-pond. All on board were in the best of spirits, and their stout hearts beat high in the hope that they would be able to render their country some signal service in faithfully performing the duty for which they had been detailed.
After a quick run the "W. T. Robb" entered the inlet of the Niagara and started down stream. The expedition had not proceeded far when the boat was stopped by an armed patrol tug from the United States man-of-war "Michigan." The officer in command, on becoming acquainted with the nature of the Canadian steamer's mission, courteously gave Lieut.-Col. Dennis what information he possessed regarding the operations of the Fenians, and stated that Gen. O'Neil had "broke camp" at the Newbigging Farm during the night and moved off down the River Road.
The "W. T. Robb" continued on down the river to Black Creek, where Lieut.-Col. Dennis learned that the Fenian forces were then at a point about two miles south of New Germany. A messenger was despatched to Col. Peacocke, giving all the information obtainable, and as Lieut.-Col. Dennis was of the opinion that the modified plans arranged by the conference of officers at Port Colborne had been assented to by Col. Peacocke, and that the two columns were working in unison along these lines, he ordered the "Robb" to return to Fort Erie to meet Lieut.-Col. Booker's force as arranged. But on arrival there he was disappointed to find that the connection had not been made, and as he was in ignorance of Col. Peacocke's definite orders to Lieut.-Col. Booker, after he had left Port Colborne that morning, he was somewhat nonplussed at the failure of Lieut.-Col. Booker to join him at Fort Erie.
But as the plan had seemed to have mysteriously miscarried, Lieut.-Col. Dennis resolved to do something on his own account. He therefore decided to employ his force in patrolling the river, and endeavor to intercept the retreat of any Fenians who might attempt to escape back to the American shore. Capt. Akers having assented to this programme, a force was landed at Fort Erie, who picked up a number of Fenian stragglers. These men were placed on board of the "Robb" under guard, and while the steamer slowly drifted down the stream the Welland Canal Field Battery and a portion of the Naval Brigade patrolled the shore and scoured the woods and by-roads for some miles, in the course of which "round up" they gathered in another batch of prisoners. On arrival of the patrol parties at a point on the river about two miles above Black Creek, all were taken aboard the steamer by means of rowboats, and after securing the prisoners in the hold, the "Robb" was again headed for Fort Erie. On arrival there she was moored to the dock, when a detachment of the Welland Canal Battery again landed and brought in still another squad of Fenian prisoners, who were confined in the hold with the rest of their comrades.
After the boat had lain at the wharf for some time, Lieut.-Col. Dennis conceived the idea of landing all of the prisoners and leaving them under guard of the Welland Canal Battery at Fort Eric, while he and Capt. Akers would go around to Port Colborne with the "Robb" on a reconnoitering expedition and obtain further instructions and orders. This cool proposition did not appeal favorably to Capt. King, and he naturally remonstrated strongly against such action, especially in regard to leaving so many prisoners in his charge, as they outnumbered the strength of his command, and in his isolated position there was a strong possibility that they might be rescued by their friends from the other side of the river before assistance could reach him. Lieut.-Col. Dennis, however, was obdurate, and was making arrangements to billet the Welland Canal Battery in the village when the intelligence came that a battle had been fought at Ridgeway, and that the Fenians were on their way back to Fort Erie, moving rapidly.
Lieut.-Col. Dennis did not place much reliance on this rumor, and seemed determined to carry out his plan of leaving the Battery on shore. But Capt. King was solicitous for the safety of his men and the prisoners, and after some parley Lieut.-Col. Dennis allowed the Battery to go aboard the steamer. But they were scarcely at their quarters when he changed his mind and ordered them all on shore again, together with a portion of the Naval Brigade. Altogether the force landed consisted of 76 combatants, consisting of three officers and 54 men of the Welland Canal Field Battery, and two officers and 18 men of the Dunnville Naval Brigade.
Meanwhile (about 2 p.m.) Capt. Akers had secured a horse and buggy and drove up to the Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway telegraph office, seeking information. While there the Fenian forces suddenly appeared, and he was cut off from returning to the steamer by the rapid advance into the village of the Fenian skirmishers. By sheer good fortune he escaped capture, and by taking a secluded route along the lake shore reached Port Colborne safely about 7 o'clock in the evening.
Then Lieut.-Col. Dennis perceived his error, and with a realization that the warnings he had received of the near approach of the Fenians were correct, he appears to have become excited and confused. He had about 60 prisoners on board the "Robb," and after securing them well in the hold, ordered the Captain to cast off his lines and get out into the stream, which was speedily done.
About 2.15 o'clock he formed up his little command and advanced up the main street about 150 yards to meet the advancing Fenian forces, who were coming down the street in large numbers. When they approached within a distance of 200 yards they Commenced a fusilade of rifle fire on the Canadians, who immediately retaliated by delivering a volley, which was executed with such precision that the Fenian advance was checked. Another volley from the Canadians also had a telling effect, and several of the enemy dropped in their tracks. By this time the Fenians were approaching from several directions, and a severe flank fire was opened on the Canadians, who were exposed on the road in close formation. Opposed to them on the street was a detachment of 150 Fenians, led by Col. Bailey, while the main body of Gen. O'Neil's forces were coming down over the hill from the west in large numbers.
The firing was now terrific, and bullets were flying thick and fast, with men falling on both sides. About half-past 2 o'clock the Fenians fired a general volley, and Gen. O'Neil ordered a charge with fixed bayonets. With a wild Irish cheer the Fenians dashed down the village street, but were promptly stopped by another volley from the Canadians, and more men dropped. Among those who fell was Col. Bailey, the Fenian leader, who received a bullet through his breast. Fearing another charge and the ultimate capture of his force, Lieut.-Col. Dennis then ordered his men to retreat, and do the best they could to get safely away, each man for himself. He set the example and vanished. But his soldiers were made of different timber. The Welland and Dunnville men stood up to their work and contested every foot of ground, as they slowly and doggedly retired from one position to another, dodging from cover to cover, and firing into the enemy's ranks as fast as they could load.
Capt. King rallied a portion of his battery behind a pile of cordwood on the dock, and made a determined stand against the enemy until he fell with a bullet through his ankle, which shattered the bone. Still he fought on, and even while lying on the dock, grievously wounded, he emptied his revolver at the Fenians and kept cheering his men on to fight to the last. This they did courageously and nobly until they were flanked out of their position and taken prisoners.
Another portion of the Battery, under Lieut. A. K. Scholfield, and some of the Naval Brigade, under Capt. McCallum and Lieut. Angus Macdonald, retreated northward along the street stubbornly fighting every yard of the way until they reached the large frame residence of Mr. George Lewis, adjoining a small building which was used as the village post office. Here about thirty of their number took possession of the building, while the remainder (under command of Capt. McCallum) continued on down the River Road under a galling fire.
[Picture (page 77) 0077.gif]
The men who occupied the Lewis mansion resolutely continued the battle, firing through the doors and windows with such steadiness that the Fenians were glad to get under cover behind a pile of cordwood, from which place of security they fairly riddled the house with bullets. How the Canadians in this old frame building escaped the deadly missiles is a miracle, for, strange to say, none were injured, although exposed to a perfect hail-storm of bullets which crashed through the thin boards, lath and plaster, in all directions. After this gallant band had fired their last round of ammunition, they saw that further resistance was useless, and discreetly surrendered.
While the battle was in progress the American shore was lined with spectators, who cheered the Fenians lustily whenever it appeared to them from a safe distance that the Canadians were suffering losses or being defeated.
In the meantime Capt. McCallum and his detachment had fought themselves clear of the range of the Fenian rifles and retired down the River Road about three miles, where they were discovered by Lieut. Walter T. Robb, sailing master of the steamer, and taken on board. Capt. McCallum then decided to proceed to Port Colborne and send the captured Fenian prisoners who were in the hold of the vessel to a place of safety. He accordingly ordered the boat to head for that port, and while going past Fort Erie village was obliged to run the gauntlet of a heavy Fenian rifle fire for more than a mile. Although many bullets struck the boat, and some passed through the wheel-house uncomfortably near the heads of Capt. McCallum and Lieut. Robb, no person was injured by any of them.
Capt. McCallum arrived at Port Colborne at 6.30 o'clock that evening with 59 prisoners, who he handed over to Lieut.-Col. W. McGiverin, of the 20th Battalion, with a full list of their names and commitment papers. These men were sent to Brantford the same evening in charge of the Special Service Company of the St. Catharines Home Guard, and lodged in the jail at that place for safe keeping.
While the Canadians were still fighting desperately in the streets of Fort Erie, encompassed by a force of fully 800 Fenians (as nearly the whole of O'Neil's brigade was there by that time). Lieut.-Col. Dennis succeeded in reaching the residence of a Mr. Thomas, in the village, where he lay concealed until evening, when he disguised himself, and getting through the Fenian lines without being detected, struck across the country in search of Col. Peacocke's column, which he found in bivouac at Bowen's Farm (about three miles north-west of Fort Erie) at 3 o'clock the next morning, and reported his mishap.
[Picture (page 79) 0079.gif with caption "THE LEWIS HOUSE AND POST OFFICE AT FORT ERIE."]
The Canadians who were captured at Fort Erie were well treated by Gen. O'Neil, who complimented them highly on the bravery and courage they had displayed during the battle, and bestowed upon them kind attentions.
The Fenian losses were heavy in comparison with the Canadian casualties at Fort Erie. Four of their number were killed, five more mortally wounded, and a large number sustained wounds from rifle balls and bayonet thrusts at the hands of the Canadians.
Although the engagement only lasted for less than an hour, it was hot and spirited throughout, and the valiant phalanx of 70 men who held their own under such trying circumstances, in the face of fully 800 veteran soldiers, fully deserve the greatest honor and credit that can be given by the Canadian people, and are well worthy of having their heroic deeds handed down to posterity on the pages of our country's history.
The following is a list of the casualties on the Canadian side during the engagement at Fort Erie:
Welland Canal Field Battery.—Killed—None. Wounded—Capt. Richard S. King, in ankle (leg amputated); Gunner John Bradley, above knee (leg amputated); Gunner Fergus Scholfield, below knee (leg amputated); Gunner John Herbison, wounded severely in leg; Gunner R. Thomas, wounded in thigh severely.
Dunnville Naval Brigade.—Nelson Bush, bayonet wound in chest.
Welland Canal Field Battery.—Lieut. A. K. Scholfield. Lieut. Chas. Nimmo. Sergt.-Major Wm. Boyle, Farrier-Sergeant Isaac Drew, Gunners Robert Offspring, Gideon Griswold, Wm. Brown, John Waters. Patrick Roach. Samuel Cook, Thomas Boyle, Stephen Beattie, Vilroy McKee. Joseph Reavly, Jonathan W. Hagar, Isaac Pew, William Black. Robert Armstrong, Jacob Gardner, Edward Armstrong. J. H. Boyle. James Coleman, Chas. Campbell, Isaac Dickerson. S. Radcliffe. Morris Weaver.
Dunnville Naval Brigade.—Second Lieut. Angus Macdonald. Samuel McCormack, James Robertson, Abram Thewlis, Geo. B. McGee, Thomas Arderly. Wm. Burgess, Harry Neff, Wm. Nugent, and Joseph Gamble.
The following Canadians were also prisoners in the hands of the Fenians, having been captured at Ridgeway and brought back to Fort Erie by Gen. O'Neil, who subsequently abandoned them when he made his flight back across the river:
Thirteenth Battalion—Jas. S. Greenhill and Joseph Simpson.
Queen's Own Rifles—R, W. Hines (No. 8 Company), Wm. Ellis (No. 9 Company). D. Junor (No. 9 Company), and Colin Forsythe (No. 10. Highland Company).
The casualties of the Fenians were heavy in both engagements, but the exact number is unobtainable, as no record was kept, and many of their wounded were removed to the United States and lost track of. At Ridgeway it is known that at least ten Fenians were killed, and quite a number severely wounded, some of whom afterwards died in Buffalo from their injuries. During the Fort Erie fight nine Fenians lost their lives and fourteen were wounded, most of them seriously.
The bravery and courage of the men who composed the Welland Canal Field Battery and the Dunnville Naval Brigade in standing up before an enemy nearly ten times their number, and fighting valiantly until the last round of their ammunition was expended and they were obliged to succumb to overpowering forces, will serve to show the resolute spirit and determination of these gallant troops. They were truly "a Spartan band," who were ready to sacrifice their lives on the spot, and their valor won the admiration of even the Fenians themselves, who complimented them highly on the stiff resistance they made, in the face of unequal odds, in the engagement.
The following personal narration of the fight, which was given by a member of the Dunnville Naval Brigade who participated in the engagement, is so vivid and graphic that I am pleased to reproduce it, as it gives a faithful and accurate account of the operations of the small Canadian force at Fort Erie on that eventful occasion:
On Friday, June 1st, at 10 p.m., Captain McCallum received a telegram to ship his men on the tug Robb, and proceed immediately to Port Colborne. About 2 a.m. on Saturday (2nd) we started, and arrived there a little after 4 a.m. We then took on the Welland Field Battery, numbering 59 men and 3 officers, commanded by Capt. King, of Port Robinson, which, together with the 43 men and 3 officers composing the Naval Brigade, made a total of 108 men. Col. Dennis, of the volunteer force, then came on board and took command of the expedition, when we at once started for Fort Erie, to co-operate with the gallant Queen's Own and the 13th Battalion, who were to leave Port Colborne early that morning for the same place. As we approached the village of Fort Erie all the men were sent below, leaving no one on deck but an officer dressed in civilian clothes. Nothing could be seen but the Fenian pickets and some stragglers. We went down the river nine miles, and received information that the main body of the Fenian army had fallen back to a wood some six or seven miles distant; but could gain no positive information as to their whereabouts. The movement was made about 3 o'clock a.m.; but in order to guard against surprise, they left their pickets behind. These our officers determined to capture, as well as all the stragglers. The boat then steamed back to Fort Erie, when a party of four men went ashore and succeeded in taking seven prisoners the first haul. The Welland Field Battery was also landed, with instructions to scour the woods along the liver bank for stragglers. The boat was then headed down the stream, and was proceeding very slowly, keeping a sharp lookout along the bank. We had not gone far before discovering a small body of eight or ten Fenians ahead of us, armed with rifles and bayonets fixed, who were about to get into a small boat and re-cross to the American shore. The speed of our boat was immediately increased, and on arriving opposite them an officer and eleven men got into a yawl and pulled for the shore. The enemy looked at us for a moment or two and then took to their heels and ran, thinking, no doubt, that we had a large gun on board to support our men. This, however, was not the case; but had the authorities placed one on board at Port Colborne, the casualties to be hereafter mentioned would never have occurred. Two of the squad were captured, however, and we proceeded down the river, sending out small parties of from eight to ten men until there were no more men to be spared. The parties were instructed to pick up all the stragglers and pickets they could, and hold them until the boat returned. On our return we picked up our men and their prisoners, together with the Battery and their prisoners, and proceeded to Fort Erie and tied up to the wharf of the Niagara River Railroad. We had not been there long before intelligence reached us that the Fenians were coming down the Garrison Road in force, and would be in the village in ten minutes. Col. Dennis seemed confused, and like the rest of us, thought they were being driven by the Queen's Own (at that time we were ignorant of the repulse of those forces). The moment they were seen approaching the Field Battery (which had been landed) were ordered aboard, and in another minute was again ordered ashore. Capt. McCallum was then asked how many of the Naval Brigade could be spared for a support. He replied that he thought it very imprudent to attempt an attack upon so large a force with his small body, and advised Lieut.-Col. Dennis to retire to the boat, and push out into the stream and endeavor to ascertain their strength and movements. The Colonel, however, decided to meet them. Capt. McCallum then said he would give him 25 men, himself and 2nd Lieutenant (leaving only seven men besides the crew on board to guard the prisoners, 59 in number). The Colonel formed his line in the open street opposite the hill in the rear of the village, but partially hid from him by some buildings on his right flank. In a moment the enemy appeared, coming over the hill in every direction; the buildings before mentioned hid them from view until they were upon him. From our position on the boat we could see all that was going on, and Lieut. W. T. Robb, of the Naval Brigade, seeing the small band was in great danger of being cut off, called to the Colonel that he was being outflanked and pointed to the hill, but he was not heard, and in a moment more the whole body were surrounded. It was, you may be sure, sickening to see one's friends and neighbors in such a perilous position, but even in this trying moment they did not at once surrender. Captains McCallum and King called on the Colonel to order the men to fire. He said no, but ordered them to the "right about," instead of "left half face," towards the boat; he, I suppose, mistaking the lower wharf for the one the boat was moored to, and started on a run, the men following. The enemy fired a volley in their rear, making one poor fellow kiss the dust, the balls striking the ground at their feet. The Captains called on their men to turn and fire, which they did with some effect. The next volley from the Fenians brought poor Capt. King down, and two others. Capt. McCallum called out to scatter, which was done; the enemy at this time were within 40 or 50 yards of them. We on the boat, with the aid of the crew who had rifles, tried to draw the fire of the Fenians, who were coming down Front street, on the boat, which we succeeded in doing. Their Adjutant, who was on horseback, here fell, and after picking him up they directed their fire at us and made a furious attempt to capture the boat. In this they were foiled by our cutting the line and backing down the stream, receiving at the same time a volley by way of a parting salute. By this time our men and the Battery had got into a house attached to the Post Office, from which they continued to resist the attack by every means in their power. Not a great deal of injury was inflicted upon the attacking party owing to a wood pile in the vicinity, behind which the enemy took shelter until our men had emptied their pouches and all the ammunition with them was gone. The Fenians then came up and demanded their surrender, which was at first refused. On the answer being given, fire was applied to the house in two places, the enemy standing around with bayonets fixed to prevent any one from escaping. Our men, seeing no way of escaping, then surrendered, determined to run the chance of being shot to being roasted. After disarming our men, some of the lowest of the Fenians threatened to shoot the prisoners for making a resistance while in the house. Col. O'Neil and the other officers prevented any violence being done, and at the same time threatened to shoot the first one who ill-treated the prisoners. In the meantime 15 men of the Battery, with Capt. McCallum and two of the Naval Brigade, were retreating down the river, a body of Fenians in full pursuit, exclaiming "Shoot the b—y officer." One who had got within ten feet of the Captain shot at him twice with a revolver, missing him each time, when one of the Brigade, named Calback, bayoneted him in the neck, turned and shot another through the heart, and then said to the Captain that the balls were coming too thick for comfort, advising him at the same time to take care of himself. Seeing our boat coming to the rescue of the Captain and the others, the enemy gave up the chase. It was high time for some more to come on board. As I have before mentioned, there were but seven left to take care of the 59 prisoners and work the ship. No doubt they would have attempted to rise had it not been for a few rifles at full cock pointed at them. Seeing our own perilous position with an enemy numbering 900 at Fort Erie, and thousands of sympathizing spectators on the opposite shore, our Captain determined to run the gauntlet and proceed to Port Colborne with his prisoners, fearing that the enemy might get a tug or two in Buffalo and attempt their rescue, thus causing more loss of life than was necessary. We then steamed up the river, close to the American shore, in silence, having been forbidden to fire while in American waters. As soon as we arrived opposite Lower Black Rock, the Fenians opened a furious fire upon us, and continued firing while we were going a distance of three-quarters of a mile. Their whole aim seemed to be the pilot-house, through which six shots passed, one of them grazing the head of our gallant Lieutenant Robb, who remarked to the wheelsman to jump up and take his place in case he fell. Those six shots struck the boat, doing no further injury than disfiguring the woodwork and painting. We arrived safely at Port Colborne and marched our prisoners to the railway station amid the deafening cheers of the volunteers and the citizens. Our officer delivered them to Lieut.-Col. Wm. McGiverin, who escorted them to Brantford, guarded by thirty men of the St. Catharines Special Service Company of Home Guards. A more rascally set of vagabonds were never congregated together. There were a great many Dunnville people at the Port on our arrival, and when they heard of the capture of our men volunteered to go and attempt their rescue; but owing to the scarcity of arms we could not accept them, besides we could not move without orders. These we received after waiting some time, which was to cruise along the lake as far as Windmill Point and no further. (It was a great pity we had not a gun on board and gone to Fort Erie, for if we had we could have captured or sunk the whole of the Fenian army, either of which would have given us great pleasure). On our return again to Port Colborne we received orders to proceed to Fort Erie, the Commander offering us as many men as we wanted. Our Captain said twelve good ones were all he wanted; these were immediately furnished him and we started. On our way down we built breastworks of cordwood along the bulwarks of the boat. These were impregnable to rifle bullets. When within six miles of Fort Erie two volunteers were called for to go ashore without arms and proceed cautiously down the lake and gather what information they could. All offered, but young Murdy and Edie were the chosen ones, two as brave boys as ever sun shone on. They went ashore, and then the boat resumed her journey. On turning into the river we saw the place was occupied by our troops, and the enemy in a scow made fast to the U. S. steamer Michigan, on the American shore. You may imagine the satisfaction this state of things gave us, nearly as much as if we had captured them ourselves. Our boys were much disappointed on finding the bird flown. We had heard of the repulse of the "Queen's Own" at Port Colborne, and every one went down with the determination to do all in their power to avenge their loss. Our joy was unbounded when we reached the wharf at finding our Second Lieutenant, Angus McDonald, and the greater part of our men, together with the most of the men belonging to the Battery. There were not many of our men taken, as they had no uniform, except the officers, and after slipping off their belts, they looked like civilians, in which capacity they effected their escape, and at once proceeded to Port Colborne and Dunnville to report themselves. Strange to say, the only one of our company touched was by a bayonet in the breast; not so bad as to prevent him from doing duty. The Welland Canal Field Battery was not so fortunate, having five wounded, namely: Captain King, leg, below the knee, amputated; Fergus Scholfield, foot amputated; John Bradley, leg amputated; John Herbison, wounded in the leg, and another with a flesh wound through the thigh. The Fenian casualties were Major Bigelow, with five balls through his breast, an Adjutant and six men killed, all shot through the breast, besides fourteen wounded, making in all twenty-two casualties—the gallant Queen's Own were avenged. The Fenian officers and men told the prisoners at the camp that their strength was 640 engaged in the fight, and 260 on the top of the hill as a reserve, and if all the Canadians fought as well as they did, they feared it would be a hard struggle, but they were determined to conquer.
THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S BODY GUARD—DENISON'S RAPID RIDE —COL. PEACOCKE'S MOVEMENTS—ARRIVAL OF COL. LOWRY WITH REINFORCEMENTS.
It was not until late in the afternoon of June 1st that the Militia Department considered the necessity of calling on the services of cavalry troops for duty on the frontier. Had this been done twenty-four hours earlier the calamity which occurred at Ridgeway and the disaster at Fort Erie might have been averted, and the whole campaign had a different termination. The omission was a serious mistake, which was subsequently realized. It is perilous and suicidal to move columns of infantry in war times without having the advance and flanks well protected by mounted troops, and scouts employed to glean information of the location and strength of the enemy. Therefore this branch is indispensable, as they are rightly termed "the eyes and ears of an army," ever watchful and on the alert for impending danger, or for an opportunity to strike a crushing blow.
In the Niagara District campaign this omission was painfully in evidence. At Chippawa, Col. Peacocke had to rely on meagre and conflicting reports of the whereabouts of the enemy which were brought in to him from various sources, more or less unreliable, while Col. Booker was in a similar position before advancing on the Fenian force at Ridgeway. Had an efficient troop of cavalry scouts been employed to thoroughly scour the country in advance of these two columns, a different tale might be related of their operations.
It was after 3 o'clock on June 1st when Major Geo. T. Denison received orders to assemble the Governor-General's Body Guard, and proceed to the front next morning. The Major moved quickly, and during the evening and night had his non-commissioned officers riding hard through the country warning out his troopers. The place of rendezvous was the Toronto Exhibition Grounds, and by day-break the troop was all mustered in saddle, and ready for service. At 8 o'clock a.m. on June 2nd they left by the steamer "City of Toronto" for Port Dalhousie, where they arrived about 11.30. Major Denison immediately entrained his men and horses on the Welland Railway and proceeded to Port Robinson, being under orders to report to Col. Peacocke. At Port Robinson the troop detrained, and after hastily feeding the horses and men, started for Chippawa on a gallop. On arrival there the troop halted for an hour or two, to have the horses' shoes reset; which being attended to, the command again took the road for New Germany, where he reported to Col. Peacocke about 5.30. This gallant corps had moved with such celerity that within ten hours after leaving Toronto they were at the extreme front, a good deal of the distance having been covered by hard and rapid riding.
Col. Peacocke was just on the point of moving off to resume his march from New Germany when the Body Guard arrived, and that officer ordered Major Denison to lead the advance of the column. Without dismounting, although the men and horses were both jaded and tired, they promptly spurred on to the front, and threw out scouts to the right and left. Major Denison was restrained from pushing ahead too rapidly, as he was obliged to regulate his march by the pace of the infantry, and his men chafed with the tardiness, as they were all eager to get into a brush with the enemy.
After a march of about nine miles they arrived at Bowen's Farm, about three miles northwest of Fort Erie. It was just getting dusk, and the troopers were approaching a piece of dense bush which flanked both sides of the road. When within about 200 yards of the bush the advance files of the cavalry discovered some men in the road, and signalled back the information. A halt was then ordered and Major Denison personally galloped forward, and on inquiry learned from his videttes that a force of the enemy were in front, and that several men had been observed going into the woods on the right. A search was made of the bush, but as the shades of night had fallen fast it was impossible to grope through the woods, and fearing an ambuscade Col. Peacocke resolved to halt his column for the night. In the meantime he had sent two companies of the 16th Regiment to scour the woods, but owing to the darkness they were unable to do so. Having been told by some person that a bridge on the road had been broken down, which rendered it impassable for his troops, Col. Peacocke decided to bivouac where he was, so recalled the two companies of the 16th, and made dispositions of his force to guard against a night attack. The 47th Regiment was formed in line to the right of the road, with one company of the same corps about 200 yards in advance, extended as skirmishers. The 10th Royals, of Toronto, were formed up as a support for the 47th, with two companies of that battalion wheeling to the right and extending as skirmishers, so as to fully cover the right flank of the column. The 16th Regiment was placed in a similar position on the left of the road, supported by the Nineteenth Lincoln Battalion, in the same formation. These troops laid in a ploughed field all night, sleeping on their arms, while the guards and sentinels were exceedingly watchful and vigilant. The cavalry and artillery remained in column on the road, with the baggage waggons in their rear.
About dark the St. Catharines Battery of Garrison Artillery, under command of Lieut. James Wilson, arrived at the bivouac, and was placed as the rear guard. This command, which had been left at Chippawa when Col. Peacocke's column had marched out in the morning, had been relieved at 4 p.m., and ordered to proceed at once to the front. They made a wonderfully quick march, covering the entire distance of about 17 miles in less than five hours, without a halt, and arrived at their destination with every member of the Battery in line—a feat which earned for them the title of "Stoker's Foot Cavalry." This battery had left their field guns at St. Catharines and were armed with short Enfield rifles, acting as infantry. So they were formed up across the road, facing to the rear, and after posting the usual guards and sentinels, the remainder were glad to lie down in the dusty road and go to sleep supperless.
As it was generally supposed that the enemy were in force in the near vicinity, no fires were allowed to be lighted, and as the night was pretty cool and no blankets were available, the situation was not altogether comfortable. Yet the boys made the most of it, with the hope that by daylight they would have an opportunity of meeting the Fenians and proving the quality of their mettle.
As the night wore on Col. Peacocke received information that 2,000 or 3,000 reinforcements had crossed over from the American side and joined the Fenians. Lieut.-Col. Dennis had also come in to the Canadian lines and told of his defeat at Fort Erie the day before, while the reports received of the Ridgeway fight, with numerous other rumors of impending dangers, all combined to lead Col. Peacocke to believe that he would soon be up against a serious proposition.
About 4.30 o'clock in the morning (June 3rd) the soldiers arose from their rude couches on mother earth and began the task of getting the stiffness out of their joints as they moved about in quest of rations. Fortunately during the night some waggons loaded with bread, beef and groceries had arrived, but the necessities of hunger were so keen that the men could hardly wait for a proper distribution of the supplies. There was no means of cooking meat except by toasting it on the end of a ramrod poked over a fire of fence rails, but that was only a trifling matter to a hungry soldier. Loaves of bread were torn asunder in chunks, as bread-knives were not in evidence, while butter was spread by means of a chip. But the absence of table etiquette was not considered, so long as the purpose was served. There were no utensils for making tea or coffee, so the men had to dispense with these comforts and content themselves with a drink out of a roadside ditch.
Shortly after 5 o'clock Lieut.-Col. the Hon. John Hillyard Cameron (an old-time politician of prominence) arrived at Col. Peacocke's headquarters on horseback, and reported that the main body of the Fenian army had evacuated Canada, but that there were yet some of their forces straggling in the neighborhood.
Immediately the "assembly" was sounded, and Col. Peacocke formed up his column for an advance toward Fort Erie. Major Geo. T. Denison was ordered to scour the country with the Governor-General's Body Guard, and to enter the village and send back reports. Shortly afterward Major Denison reported that he was informed there was still a body of Fenians about the Old Fort, while farmers residing in the neighborhood said there were a number of stragglers lingering in the woods.
Accordingly Col. Peacocke made his arrangements to sweep the whole southeast angle of the Peninsula clear up to the Old Fort. On leaving the bivouac the column moved out by the Gilmore road, leading towards the Niagara River. The Grey Battery of Royal Artillery was ordered to the head of the column, in anticipation of having some shelling to perform. As the infantry halted by the roadside to allow this gallant battery to pass to the front on a gallop, the sight was inspiriting and elicited hearty cheers. The magnificent horses, throwing into play their splendid muscles, whisked the heavy guns along like so many feathers, while the drivers and gunners maintained their seats like centaurs, notwithstanding the bumps and jolts they encountered while bounding over the ruts and roadside ditches of a rough country highway. On arrival at a cross road leading south from the Gilmore road towards Lake Erie, a portion of the column, consisting of the 47th Regiment and the 19th Battalion moved off to the right, while the 16th Regiment, the 10th Royals and the St. Catharines Garrison Artillery continued on eastward. By this means all egress from the village of Fort Erie was effectually cut off. After traversing these roads for a short distance, lines of skirmishers were thrown out, and an advance through the fields in a sweeping semi-circle was begun. The troops had not proceeded far when two men were seen getting over a fence on the edge of a piece of bush. Both were carrying guns, and being in civilians' dress, were mistaken for Fenians. A volley was fired by the 47th, when both were observed to fall over the fence. On arrival of the skirmishers at the spot it was found that the two men were loyal Canadian citizens (Messrs. Bart. McDonald and A. Dobbie, of Thorold) who had armed themselves as Home Guards and gone to the front to assist in driving the enemy from our shores. Unfortunately they were too zealous and imprudent in getting beyond our lines, and drew upon themselves the fire of their friends. Mr. McDonald was so badly wounded that he died shortly afterwards, but Mr. Dobbie miraculously escaped injury.
As the skirmish lines moved onward the woods were thoroughly searched, and quite a number of Fenian stragglers were discovered in hiding and taken prisoners. During the time the drag-net of skirmishers was spread about fifty Fenians were gathered in.
At the home of "Major" Canty (a B. & L. H. railway section foreman who held a commission in the Fenian army) several prisoners were taken, among them being Rev. John McMahon (a Catholic priest) and two wounded Fenians named Whalen and Kiely. In the barn adjoining Canty's house was stretched the body of Lieut. Edward K. Lonergan, of the 7th Irish Republican Regiment, of Buffalo. He had been killed at Ridgeway and the body brought back to Canty's barn and abandoned there. Several more Fenians were discovered under the barn, and more in a haystack near by, all of whom were taken in charge.
In the loft of Major Canty's house were found a number of overcoats belonging to the Queen's Own, and also some rifles which the retreating Fenians had carried back from the battle-field of Ridgeway. The "Major" was not at home when the Canadians called, so his guests were quietly placed under guard, and in due time conducted to a place of safety to stand their trial with the rest of the prisoners.
On arrival in the village of Fort Erie, the Canadian troops were much mortified and chagrined to find that O'Neil and his followers had escaped, and the only satisfaction they had was to gaze across the waters of the Niagara and see a scow-load of Fenians lying astern of the United States man-of-war "Michigan" as prisoners of the American Government.
On leaving Bowen's Farm, Major G. T. Denison started direct for the River Road with the Governor-General's Body Guard on a reconnaissance. Details were made by him to scour the country roads, which was thoroughly done, and being informed that there were a number of Fenians still at Fort Erie he proceeded on a gallop to the village, where he arrived at about 6 a.m. Major Denison's troop was the first Canadian force to reach Fort Erie after the battle, and they were received with great joy and delight by the citizens and also the Canadians who were prisoners in the hands of Gen. O'Neil the day previous.
A number of Fenians were gathered in by the troopers, and placed under guard. This command did excellent service subsequently in patrolling the river bank and providing cavalry pickets for the force which occupied Fort Erie during the next few weeks.
On the afternoon of June 2nd, Lieut.-Col. R. W. Lowry, of Her Majesty's 47th Regiment, received orders to proceed to the front with reinforcements, and left Toronto at 2 p.m. via the Great Western Railway with Capt. Crowe's Battery of Royal Artillery, equipped with four field guns. He was accompanied by Col. Wolseley (afterward Field Marshal Lord Wolseley), who was then serving in Canada as Assistant Quartermaster-General on the staff of the Lieut.-General commanding Her Majesty's Forces in British America; and by Lieut. Turner, R.E.; Lieut. Dent, 47th Regiment, and Lieut.-Col. Cumberland, A.D.C., of Toronto. At Oakville he was joined by Capt. Chisholm's Rifle Company, 52 rank and file. On arrival at Hamilton Col. Lowry learned that the detachments of the 16th Regiment and 60th Royal Rifles which were under orders to join him there, had already left for the Niagara frontier to reinforce Col. Peacocke, who had twice telegraphed for reinforcements. Col. Lowry therefore decided to proceed to Clifton, and from thence move to the support of Col. Peacocke. During the evening he was joined at Clifton by a provisional battalion composed of the Barrie, Cookstown. Scarborough, Columbus, Whitby and Oakville rifle companies, about 350 strong, under command of Lieut.-Col. Stephens.
At 3.40 a.m. on June 3rd, Col. Lowry, with Capt. Crowe's Battery and Lieut.-Col. Stephens' battalion, left Clifton by the Erie and Niagara Railway for Black Creek. Shortly after his arrival there (at daybreak) he was joined by 200 rank and file of the 60th Rifles under Capt. Travers, and 140 of the 16th Regiment under command of Capt. Hogge, which troops had bivouacked at New Germany overnight. On the report of Lieut.-Col. John Hillyard Cameron that the Erie and Niagara Railway was passable to a point near Fort Erie, Col. Lowry moved his column by rail as far as Frenchman's Creek (Gen. O'Neil's old camp ground). Here he detrained his troops, and throwing out an advanced guard and flanking lines of skirmishers, moved promptly forward towards Fort Erie. Col, Wolseley had preceded the column on horseback, and meeting Major Denison's troopers, who already had possession of the village, found that Gen. O'Neil and his army had left the country and were beyond the pale of punishment by our forces.
Col. Lowry's column reached Fort Erie about 8 o'clock, and shortly after Col. Peacockes force swept in from the west, bringing with them the spoils of victory in the shape of about sixty prisoners, being part of the picket line which Gen. O'Neil had abandoned during the night.
The whole force was then placed in position on the high ground in rear of the village and went into camp. Guards, patrols and pickets were posted in every direction, and all precautions taken that the occasion demanded.
During the afternoon Capt. Akers arrived from Port Colborne with the Queen's Own Rifles, 7th Battalion of London, four companies of the 22nd Oxford Rifles (with the Drumbo Infantry Company attached), the Caledonia Rifle Company, the Thorold Infantry Company, and the St. Catharines Home Guards, about 1,000 men altogether.
When the three columns were all assembled on the heights at Fort Erie they presented a formidable and imposing spectacle to the many thousands of Americans and Fenians who crowded the river banks and points of vantage for sight-seeing on the American side. It seemed as if the whole population of Buffalo and surrounding country were gathered on the river shore that pleasant Sunday afternoon to gaze upon the British camp and watch the movements of the soldiers. The rows of white tents, the scarlet uniforms of the infantry, and the blue of the cavalry and artillery, intermingled with the dark green of the rifle companies, certainly gave a variety of color, while the steadiness and regularity with which the different units performed their evolutions must have convinced the on-lookers (especially the Fenians) that it was just as well for them that they were safely out of harm's way.
In the course of the day a steam launch arrived at the Fort Erie dock with a message from Captain Bryson, commander of the U. S. steamer "Michigan," to Colonel Lowry, inviting him to go aboard that vessel and have an interview with himself and Mr. H. W. Hemans (the British Consul at Buffalo) regarding matters in connection with the Fenians. To this proposal Col. Lowry immediately assented, and accompanied by Col. Wolseley, Capt. Crowe, R.A., and Lieut. Turner, R.E., proceeded on board the American steamer. They were courteously received by Capt. Bryson, who introduced Mr. M. Dane, the United States District Attorney; General Barry, the commander of the United States troops on the frontier, and Mr. H. W. Hemans, the British Consul. An interesting conference was held, in the course of which the American officials expressed their reprehension of the infraction of international law by the Fenians, and assured Col. Lowry that nothing in their power had been or would be neglected to arrest such infraction, and that they had prevented many Fenian reinforcements from getting across to Canada during the two previous nights. In the meantime Col. Lowry was assured that the 600 or 700 prisoners who had been captured by the "Michigan" would be rigidly guarded until instructions were received from Washington as to their disposal.
After the conference Col. Lowry and his staff returned to camp, where orders were waiting to despatch Capt. Crowe's Battery, with four field guns, and 200 men of the 47th Regiment under command of Major Lauder, to Kingston without delay, as that point was threatened. This force left Fort Erie by rail at 7 o'clock that evening, taking with them 22 Fenian prisoners who had been committed to the Toronto jail.
Shortly afterward another telegram arrived ordering that the detachment of the 60th Rifles, one company of the 16th Regiment and the 7th Battalion of London volunteers be forwarded to London as soon as possible. Owing to lack of railway transport these troops were unable to leave Fort Brie until 10.30 the following morning, when 800 men were despatched to London by the Erie & Niagara and Great Western Railways, via Clifton and Hamilton.
At 1.30 a.m. of June 5th, the Queen's Own and the York and Caledonia Rifles were quietly aroused and ordered to strike tents, parade, and entrain on cars which were in waiting to convey them to Stratford. The work of packing up was quickly accomplished, and at 6 o 'clock the train left Fort Erie for its destination, the troops being accompanied by Col. Garnet S. Wolseley, A.Q.M.G., of Her Majesty's Forces. They arrived at Stratford at 5 p.m., and were immediately billetted among the citizens. At this time it was feared that the Fenians contemplated an attack on the frontier of the western portion of the Province, and it was deemed advisable to have a sufficient force mustered at a convenient point, to be available in case of emergency. The force collected at Stratford consisted of Capt. Gore's Battery of Royal Artillery, two companies of H. M. 16th Regiment, the Queen's Own and the York and Caledonia Rifles, the whole being under command of Col. Wolseley.
The withdrawal of these troops from Fort Erie reduced Col. Lowry's force to about 2,000 men, but they were sufficient to over-awe the 8,000 Fenians who were still hanging around Buffalo and vicinity with the intention of making another raid as soon as they could escape the vigilance of the United States authorities, who were now determined to prevent any further incursions if possible.
The Thirteenth Battalion, of Hamilton, under Major Skinner, garrisoned Port Colborne, and guarded the approach to the Welland Canal.
At Clifton and Suspension Bridge a provisional battalion consisting of the Collingwood. Aurora. Bradford, Derry West and Grahamsville companies were assembled under command of Lieut.-Col. Robert B. Denison, while two more companies were stationed at Chippawa, so that the whole Niagara frontier was carefully guarded.
[Picture (page 95) 0095.gif Caption: CANTEEN OF THE NINETEENTH BATTALION AT FORT ERIE. JUNE, '66.]
At St. Catharines several other companies were billetted, who were ready to move in any direction that their services might be required.
Toronto was also well garrisoned with troops which arrived on Sunday, among which were the following:—The Cobourg Cavalry, Col. Boulton, 40 men and 40 horses; Cobourg Battery, Capt. Dumble. 46 men; Ashburnham Infantry. Capt. Rogers, 32 men; Peterboro Infantry, Capt. Kennedy, 50 men; Campbellford Infantry, Capt. Lin, 40 men; Lakefield Infantry, Capt. Leigh, 31 men; Cobourg Infantry, Capt. Elliott, 45 men; Peterboro Rifles, Capt. Poole, 44 men; Cobourg Rifles, Capt. Smith, 47 men; Bowmanville Rifles, Lieut.-Col. Cubitt, 40 men; Port Hope Rifles, Capt. Williams, 42 men, and several other companies which arrived later.
HURRIED EVACUATION OF CANADA BY GEN. O'NEIL—CAPTURE OF THE ESCAPING FENIANS BY THE UNITED STATES GUNBOAT MICHIGAN.
After the smoke of battle had wafted away from the streets of Fort Erie, and the dead and wounded removed, Gen. O'Neil gathered his troops together and marched up to the ruins of the "Old Fort," situated on a point at the inlet of the Niagara River from Lake Erie. Here they went into camp, and began to make preparations for defence, as they fully expected to be attacked early next morning by Col. Peacocke's column and other forces who were advancing from the interior. It was a very anxious time for Gen. O'Neil and his officers, and they spent some hours in earnest deliberation as to what would be the best course for them to pursue. They were now between "the devil and the deep sea," with the wide river and lake in front of them, and an avenging army of British and Canadian troops, well equipped with cavalry, artillery and trained infantry, gradually tightening the coils around their position from the rear, in which direction there was no avenue of escape. It was indeed a serious predicament, and the only hope of the Fenians rested in the possibility of being able to escape across the river and abandon their project to capture Canada, at this point at least. To guard against surprises, Gen. O'Neil had left his picket lines extended over a large area of country, and scouts and patrols were still on duty on the country roads and along the river bank. Reinforcements were expected over from Buffalo that night, and O'Neil personally felt disposed to fortify his brigade in the ruins of the Old Fort and fight to a finish. But by this time the American authorities had aroused, and instructed Gen. W. F. Barry (the United States officer in command at Buffalo), to stop any more Fenian troops from crossing into Canada, and in the performance of this duty he exhibited great energy. There were thousands of Fenians ready and eager to cross the border to reinforce O'Neil. but the presence of the United States gunboat "Michigan" and several regiments and batteries of American regular troops, prevented the movement. Therefore the Fenians who were marooned in Canada, with visions of a hangman's noose dangling before them, became desperate and despondent. They knew very well that a concentration of the Canadian forces was going on, and that at the first break of day an attack was likely to be made, from which there would be no alternative but to "die in the last ditch" or surrender. They had encountered the raw Canadian volunteers and experienced two bitter tastes of hard fighting during the day, and were quite satisfied. So they decided to get out of Canada as quickly as possible. The officers and men were dispirited and crestfallen, and bitterly blamed Gen. Sweeny and other high Fenian officials for not having sent over the promised reinforcements in ample time to ensure the success of the expedition. When the twilight deepened and the darkness of night fell, a feeling of gloom pervaded the Fenian camp. The men had eaten their evening meal, which had about exhausted their Quartermaster's stores, and there was nothing in sight for breakfast on the morrow. As they gathered around their camp-fires or lay upon the grass in groups, discussing the day's events and their possible chance of succor, the suspense became terrible. The conviction finally became forced upon them that without reinforcements or rescue they would be utterly lost, and many of them were not prepared to take any chances, so before 10 o'clock quite a number deserted their standards and wandered down along the water front in search of some means of getting back across the river. Boats were seized wherever found, and, loaded to the gunwales, the fugitives plied their oars vigorously in their haste to cross the stream. Others trusted themselves to single planks upon which to gain support while they endeavored to swim across the current. The covering of one of the docks afforded the means for this purpose. It was a very risky method of navigation, and it is generally supposed that several of the Fenian "Leanders" who attempted the passage of the Niagara "Hellespont" in this way lost their lives in doing so, as they were reported "missing" afterwards.