I have the honor to be, sir, Your obedient servant, WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
The Hon. Frederick W. A. Bruce.
TRIALS OF THE FENIAN PRISONERS.
The Fall Assizes of the Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery for the United Counties of York and Peel, opened at Toronto on October 8th, 1866, His Lordship the Hon. Justice John Wilson being named in the commission to preside over the Court of Justice which was to decide the fate of the Fenian prisoners. The indictments were read, and after an able and exhaustive address to the Grand Jury by Judge Wilson, in which he went fully into every phase of the case, and explained the statute under which the prisoners were to be tried, the documents were handed over to the Grand Jury for their consideration.
When the Court resumed its sitting on October 17th for the trial of the accused, the Grand Jury presented true bills against three of the most prominent prisoners in custody, viz., Robert Blosse Lynch, of Louisville, Ky. (said to be a colonel in the Fenian forces at Fort Erie and Lime Ridge); David F. Lumsden, who claimed to be an Episcopalian clergyman, from Nunda, N.Y., and John McMahon, who stated that he was a Roman Catholic priest, from Anderson, Indiana. Lynch was first placed in the dock, and the indictment read, to which he pleaded "not guilty." Lumsden and McMahon were next charged, and also entered the same plea. The prisoners not being ready to proceed with their trials, they were remanded until October 24th, when the Court re-opened and the trials proceeded with. The counsel for the Crown were Hon. John Hillyard Cameron, Q.C. (Solicitor-General for Upper Canada), Messrs. Robert A. Harrison, John McNab, James Paterson and John Paterson.
The first prisoner placed in the dock was Col. Robert B. Lynch, who stated that he had no connection with the Fenian Army, but had accompanied the expedition as a reporter for the Louisville Courier. A large number of Canadian residents of Fort Erie and vicinity, however, testified that they had seen him wearing a sword and in command of a body of Fenian troops at that place. The evidence of his guilt was so overwhelming that the jury returned a verdict of guilty, and Colonel Lynch was sentenced to be hanged on the 13th of December. He received the sentence with composure and was removed back to the jail.
Rev. John McMahon was then placed on trial. He claimed that he had only went with the Fenians in a spiritual capacity, and to look after the wounded and dying. He said he was at Lime Ridge and attended to both Fenians and Canadians alike while there. His statements did not accord with the evidence given by other reliable witnesses who saw him giving aid and encouragement to Fenian soldiers at Fort Erie, and after a fair and impartial trial he was found guilty and sentenced to be executed with Lynch on December 13th.
Pending appeal proceedings these executions were deferred.
David F. Lumsden was brought up for trial on November 3rd. He was formerly rector of Trinity Church at Syracuse, N.Y., where he had a reputation of being too fond of drink, rendering himself subject to discipline for intemperance, and had been cited to appear before Bishop Coxe (Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Western Diocese of New York), who sent him to Nunda, N.Y., in the hope that he might redeem himself. But he had again fallen from grace and was on a big spree in Buffalo when he drifted over to Fort Erie, and was arrested on suspicion of being implicated with the Fenians. After hearing all the evidence, which was in favor of the prisoner, the jury retired and brought in a verdict of "not guilty," and he was discharged.
True bills were then rendered by the Grand Jury in the cases of the other prisoners who were held in custody.
On Nov. 7th. William Slavin was found guilty and sentenced to death. On the same date Benjamin Parry (a lad 16 years of age, from Cincinnati), was discharged.
On Nov. 9th. Daniel Drummond, who was arrested at Fort Erie, was discharged, as there was not sufficient evidence to convict.
On Nov. 10th, William Hayden was found guilty and sentenced to death, while William Duggan was discharged.
On Nov. 14th, Daniel Whalen and John Quinn were both found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.
On Nov. 15th, Thomas School was found guilty and received the death sentence, while Patrick Donohue was discharged.
On Jan. 11th, 1867, Timothy Kiely (who was found wounded in a hay-loft at Major Canty's house near Fort Erie, on June 3rd, and who had been engaged in the battle at Lime Ridge), was found guilty and sentenced to death. On the same day John Smith proved his innocence and was discharged.
On Jan. 12th, Patrick O'Neil and Patrick McGrath were found guilty of high treason, and on the day following Thomas H. Maxwell was convicted for the same crime. Those three men were British subjects, and each received the death sentence.
On Jan. 14th James Burke and Patrick Norton were found guilty and sentence deferred. On Jan. 15th John O'Connor, Daniel Quinn and John Rogan were found guilty, while Patrick Keating, James Spanieling and Wm. Baxter escaped conviction, owing to lack of sufficient evidence.
On Jan. 18th. Peter Paul Ledwith was found guilty and James Macdonough discharged.
On Jan. 21st, Thomas Cooney (who was present at Lime Ridge) was found guilty, and George J. Matthews (who was arrested at Thorold in September. 1866, by some troopers of the Governor-General's Body Guard, for having stated that he had been sent out from Buffalo as a scout by the Fenians, who contemplated another raid) was acquitted for want of evidence.
On Jan. 22nd Michael Purtell was found guilty of high treason, and remanded for sentence. Owen Kennedy, an American who was arrested at Fort Erie, was found guilty with a recommendation to mercy.
On Jan. 24th John Gallagher, of Cincinnati, was found guilty and remanded for sentence, while Thomas King, an American, was discharged.
On Jan. 25th Barney Dunn was convicted, while Wm. Orr, John Hughes, Frederick Fry and James Diamond were acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence. On Jan. 29th John Grace and John Cooney were also acquitted.
This disposed of all the Fenian cases on the calendar.
The Court re-opened on Jan. 30th, His Lordship Mr. Justice Morrison presiding, for the purpose of finally disposing of the cases of eleven of the prisoners who had been convicted but not yet sentenced. After the usual Court preliminaries had been concluded, and the prisoners placed in the dock, Hon. Mr. Cameron moved that the sentence of the Court be passed upon the following prisoners:—Patrick Norton, Thos. H. Maxwell, Patrick O'Neil, James Burke, Daniel Quinn, Peter Ledwith, John O'Connor, John Rogers, Owen Kennedy. Barney Dunn and John Gallagher.
His Lordship then sentenced all of the above named to be hanged on the 5th of March.
Appeals were made to higher Courts in several of the cases, but all were disallowed, and it seemed for a time as if a wholesale execution of the prisoners on the gibbet would be the result. But the better feelings of the Canadian people prevailed, and by appeals for clemency, in the cause of humanity, our country was relieved from the gruesome spectacle of witnessing over a score of these unfortunate dupes dangling from the gallows in expiation of their crimes. That they deserved such a fate is undoubted. They entered our peaceful country with murder in their hearts, and carried out a portion of their programme of butchery, but their leaders escaped, and it would have been poor satisfaction to exact the extreme penalty on those deluded followers who happened to fall into our hands. Therefore all of their lives were spared.
The sentences imposed were commuted to imprisonment in the Provincial Penitentiary at Kingston for various terms, according to the degree of guilt of the accused, and a few years afterward the last of them was released from the grasp of Canadian justice.
THE CANADIAN VOLUNTEERS RELEASED FROM DUTY AT THE FRONT AND RETURNED TO THEIR HOMES—THEY EARNED THE GRATITUDE OF THEIR COUNTRY AND RECEIVED IT.
After about three weeks of active service, the Canadian volunteers who were on duty at the front were relieved and sent home. Although matters were still in an unsettled state among the Fenians in the United States, and threats were constantly being made of more trouble, yet the occasion was not considered of sufficient serious importance to require the services of the force posted on the frontier for a longer period. The Government was well aware that when occasion demanded the same troops would again take up arms as promptly and cheerfully as on previous occasions, and relied on their patriotic service being immediately available whenever required. In relieving the troops from further duty, the Commander-in-Chief promulgated the following order:—
OTTAWA, June 23rd, 1866.
In relieving the volunteers, for the present, from active duty, the Commander-in-Chief desires to make known to the officers and non-commissioned officers and men of the force, the pride and satisfaction with which he has witnessed the patriotism and energy displayed by them in their instantaneous response to the call to arms. The Commander-in-Chief wishes to express his admiration of the promptitude with which, on the only occasion when an opportunity was afforded them of meeting the enemy, the volunteers went under fire, and his deep sympathy with the friends and relations of those who there met a soldier's death. The discipline and good conduct of the force while on service has secured the approbation of their military commanders, and has been most favorably reported on to the Commander-in-Chief. The Commander-in-Chief wishes to impress on the minds of the volunteers that, though the late attack on the Province has proved a failure, the organization by means of which it was attempted still exists, and that its leaders do not hesitate to declare publicly that they meditate a renewal of the invasion. Under these circumstances, the Commander-in-Chief trusts that the volunteer force generally will continue at all convenient times to perfect themselves in drill and discipline, so that they may be able successfully to repel any future aggression that may be attempted.
MAJOR-GENERAL NAPIER'S ORDER.
Major-Gen. Napier, who commanded the troops in Canada West, returned thanks, in appreciation of their services, by issuing the following:—
BRIGADE OFFICE, TORONTO, June 18th, 1866.
Major-General Napier, C.B., Commanding the First Military District, Canada West, cannot allow the volunteers under his command to return home without tendering them his best thanks for the patriotic way they responded to the Governor-General's call for further services, as well as for their general good conduct whilst in the field. Although only a few were fortunate enough to be engaged with the enemy, the whole force were equally ready and anxious to meet him. The Major-General feels sure that should their services be again required, they will show the same fine spirit, and turn out to a man in the defence of their country. The Major-General, in bidding them farewell for the present, trusts that they will keep up their present efficient state, which can only be done by constantly attending to their drill whenever they have an opportunity of doing so.
By order. (Signed) H. NANGLE. Captain and Brigade Major.
MAJOR-GENERAL LINDSAY's ORDER.
Major-Gen. Lindsay also commended the volunteers for their prompt response to the call of duty, and their valued and faithful service in the field, in the language contained in the following order:—
BRIGADE OFFICE, MONTREAL. 23rd June. 1866. DISTRICT ORDER.
The emergency which has caused the Volunteer Militia Force of Canada to spring to arms, having passed by, the Major-General commanding the District acknowledges the important services they have rendered.
The patriotic spirit, exhibited both by employers and the employed, placed at the service of the Crown, in a few hours, a force of upwards of 22,000 men in the two Canadas, which, if the occasion had been of more serious character, could have been augmented to such numbers as the Government might have required.
The various corps sent out to the front have shown a zeal and aptitude in the performance of their duties as soldiers, which is calculated to inspire the greatest confidence; while some of the battalions have had severe and difficult marches to perform, all have undergone considerable hardships in most unfavourable weather.
While the good faith and firmness of the General Commanding the U.S. troops on the frontier had the effect of preventing larger assemblies of armed men, and while in the end the long-threatened attempt at invasion proved a miserable failure, the Major-General feels confident that the volunteer force have only one regret, that they have not had the opportunity of driving from the soil of Canada those misguided men, who, under the flimsy veil of so-called patriotic feeling, would have carried war into a country with which they have no pretence of quarrel.
The Major-General feels convinced that, shoulder to shoulder with the regular troops of Her Majesty, the volunteer militia force of this Province would, if they had been brought in contact with an enemy, have proved themselves worthy of the approbation of their fellow-countrymen, and that they would, as their predecessors had done in times long past, have successfully defended their country, and kept it against all aggressors.
While anxious for peace, Canada is showing herself prepared for war; and the Major-General is gratified in bearing his testimony to the noble and independent spirit, which proves that Canada has reason to be proud of her citizen soldiers.
By order, H. C. HEALEY, Major of Brigade.
SPECIAL THANKS TO THE QUEEN'S OWN.
The splendid services of the Queen's Own Rifles in the campaign were officially recognized by the General Commanding in the promulgation of the following order:—
ASSIST. ADJ.-.GENERAL'S OFFICE, TORONTO, June 8, 1860.
Sir,—I am directed by Major-General Napier, C.B., commanding 1st Military Division, C.W., to acknowledge the receipt of a copy of your despatch dated Stratford. June 6th, 1866, addressed to Lieut.-Col. Lowry, 47th Regiment, detailing the operations of the Volunteer force on the morning of the 2nd, in which the Queen's Own were engaged with the enemy.
It is now my gratifying duty to convey to you not only the approbation but the very great pleasure the Major-General experienced in hearing from you of the good conduct of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment under your command on that occasion.
That they fully confirmed and justified the good opinion that the Major-General always entertained of them, by their conduct in meeting for the first time the enemies of their Queen and country.
The Major-General feels quite sure that the regiment will always cherish and sustain the character now so nobly won by the Queen's Own.
I have also to express to you, by the Major-General's desire, his entire approbation of the very able and gallant manner in which you commanded the Queen's Own under very trying circumstances, and it will give him much pleasure in bringing before His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief, the gallant service rendered by the Queen's Own on the occasion, which you will be good enough to convey to the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment under your command.
I have the honor to be, Sir, Your most obedient servant, W. S. DURIE, Lieut.-Col., A.A.G.M. Major Charles T. Gilmor. Queen's Own Rifles.
Lord Monck's communication to the Imperial Secretary of State may also be quoted as showing his views concerning the patriotic conduct of Canadians who were at the time residing in the United States:—
OTTAWA, June 14, 1866.
Sir,—I have had the satisfaction in other communications to report to you the excellent spirit evinced by the resident population of Canada in connection with the late Fenian attack on the Province. There has been in addition an exhibition of patriotism and devotion on the part of Canadians who happened to be domiciled at the time of the disturbance outside of the Province, which deserves, I think, special mention and praise. Immediately after the news of the inroad on the Province reached Chicago, sixty young Canadians who were resident there engaged in various employments gave up their situations and repaired by railroad to Canada to give their aid in defending the land of their birth. These young men have been formed into a Volunteer Company and are now doing duty at Toronto.
I had also a communication from Her Majesty's Consul at New York to the effect that a large number of Canadians, resident there, were prepared to abandon their occupations and come to assist in the repulse of the invaders of Canada if I considered their services necessary. I informed Mr. Archibald by telegraph that I did not require their aid, but begged him to express to them my gratitude for the exhibition of their loyalty. Such conduct speaks for itself, and I would not weaken the effect of the bare relation of the facts by any attempts at eulogy on my part.
I have, etc. (Signed) MONCK. The Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, Secretary of State.
PROM THE IMPERIAL GOVERNMENT.
The following General Order, contained in a letter communicated through the regular official channel to His Excellency the Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief (Right Hon. Viscount Monck), was duly promulgated through the Department of Militia of Canada:—
HORSE GUARDS, July 21st, 1866.
The Under-Secretary of State for War:—
Sir,—With reference to the several reports which have been received from the General Officer Commanding in Canada relative to the Fenian movement in that Province, and to the measures taken by the colonists for repelling any Fenian attack, I am directed by the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief to request that you will acquaint the Secretary of State for War that His Royal Highness, having observed the alacrity, loyalty and zeal shown by the volunteers and militia forces of Canada in having come forward for the defence of the colony on the late trying occasion, in support of the troops, is very desirous of expressing to the force his full appreciation of their gallant and energetic behavior, and the very great gratification and satisfaction he has thereby experienced. And His Royal Highness trusts, therefore, that Lieut.-General Peel will see no objection to the necessary communication being made by him to the Colonial Office, with the view to His Royal Highness' sentiments, as above expressed, being made known through the proper channel to the volunteers and militia of Canada, lately employed against the Fenians.
I am, etc., W. F. FOSTER.
LORD MONCK'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF AMERICAN INTERVENTION.
In acknowledgment of the service rendered by the United States Government in checking the invasion, Lord Monck, the Governor-General of Canada, sent the following despatch to Sir Frederick Bruce, the British Minister at Washington, for presentation to Secretary of State Seward:—
OTTAWA, June 11th, 1866.
Sir,—I have learned from the public press the terms of the Proclamation which the President of the United States of America has promulgated against the hostile designs of the Fenians on the Province, the Government of which I have the honor to administer. I have also, by the same means, been made acquainted with the orders issued by the Attorney-General of the United States and other officers of the Administration of that country for the apprehension of the persons of Fenian conspirators and the stoppage and seizure of arms and other supplies intended to be used by them against Canada. As these proceedings of the Government of the United States have materially tended to defeat the hostile purposes of the Fenians against this Province, I shall feel much obliged if you will convey to the Secretary of State for the United States my acknowledgments of the course which has been adopted by that Government in reference to this matter.
I have, etc... (Signed) MONCK.
LORD MONCK'S REPORT TO THE IMPERIAL GOVERNMENT.
In presenting his report to the Right Hon. E. Cardwell, Secretary of State of the British Government, Lord Monck sent the following despatch, which was accompanied by the reports of the Lieutenant-General and other officers who were in command of troops during the campaign:—
OTTAWA. June 14th, 1866.
Sir,—I have the honor to transmit for your information, the reports to the Lieutenant-General commanding Her Majesty's forces of the several officers, relating to the proceedings connected with the late Fenian invasion at Fort Erie, Canada West. I think these documents substantially corroborate the account which I gave you from telegraphic and other information in my despatches of the 1st, 4th and 8th instant.
From all the information I have received, I am now satisfied that a very large and comprehensive plan of attack had been arranged by the party which is popularly known as the Sweeny-Roberts section of the Fenian Brotherhood.
The plan of invasion, in addition to the attempt on the Niagara frontier—the only one which actually occurred—appears to have embraced attacks on the line of the Richelieu and Lake Champlain, and also on the frontier in the neighborhood of Prescott and Cornwall, where I have reason to think the principal demonstration was intended.
For the latter object, large bodies of men, sent by railroad from almost all parts of the United States, were assembled at a place called Malone, in the State of New York, and at Potsdam, also in the State of New York, and with a view to the former, St. Albans and its neighborhood in the State of Vermont was selected as the place of assemblage.
Large supplies of arms, accoutrements and ammunition were also attempted to be forwarded by railroad to these points, but owing to the active intervention of the authorities of the United States—as soon as it became apparent that a breach of international law had been committed by these persons—a very large portion of these supplies never reached their destination.
It is not easy to arrive at a trustworthy estimate of the number of men who actually arrived at their different points of rendezvous. It has been reported at times that there were at Potsdam, Malone, and the intervening country, as many as ten thousand men, and similar rumors have been from time to time circulated of the force at St. Albans and its neighborhood. From the best opinion I can form, however, I shall be inclined to think that the number of Fenians in the vicinity of St. Albans never exceeded two thousand men, and that three thousand would be a fair allowance for those assembled at Potsdam, Malone, and the surrounding counties. The men have been represented to me as having, many of them, served in the late Civil War in the United States—to have had a considerable amount of small arms of a good and efficient description. I have not heard of their possessing any artillery, and I am informed that they were deficient in the supplies of ammunition and totally destitute of all the other equipments of an organized force. They appear to have relied very much on assistance from the inhabitants of the Province, as the force which invaded Fort Erie brought with them—as I am told—a large quantity of spare arms to put in the hands of their sympathizers whom they expected to join them. I have in my former despatches noticed the measures which were adopted by the Provincial Government in order to place at the disposal of the Lieutenant-General commanding Her Majesty's forces, the Provincial resources available for defence, both by land and water. The reports of the officers of the army and volunteers, which I transmit, will acquaint you with the manner in which these means were used by the officers in command. I am happy to be able to bear my tribute to the energy and good faith exhibited by the American Government and its officials in checking all infractions of international obligations on the part of any portion of its citizens from the moment that it became evident that an invasion of the Province by the Fenians had actually taken place. The determination of the Government of the United States to stop the transportation of men and supplies to the places of assembly, rendered even the temporary success on the part of the Fenians impossible; while the large forces which the Lieutenant-General commanding was able to concentrate at each of the points threatened, had the effect of deterring from an attack the portion of the conspirators who had already arrived at their places of rendezvous. No invasion in force occurred except at Fort Erie. A slight incursion took place at a place called St. Armand, about thirteen miles from St. John's, on the borders of the County of Missisquoi, which ended in the capture of about sixteen prisoners, without any loss on our side.
The latest accounts I have received announced that the men who had congregated at the different points of assembly were being transmitted to their homes at the expense of the Government of the United States, most of the leaders having been arrested and held to bail to answer for their conduct.
Although I deplore the loss which the Volunteer Force suffered when engaged on the 2nd of June at Lime Ridge, amounting to six killed and thirty-one wounded. I think it is a matter for congratulation that a movement which might have been so formidable has collapsed with so small an amount of loss, either of life or property. I think it is also a source of satisfaction that such strong proofs have been afforded of the spirit which animates the Canadian people, of their loyalty to the throne, of their appreciation of the free institutions under which they live, and of their readiness at all times to prove their sense of the value of these institutions by incurring expense and personal risk in the defence of them. The period of the year at which the people have been called on to make these sacrifices of timely serving in the volunteer ranks has been the most inconvenient that could have been selected, yet I have never heard a murmur from any quarter at the necessity of suspending industrial occupation involving the risk of a whole year's production, while I have received information of a good deal of discontent on the part of those who were anxious to give their services, but whose presence in the ranks was not considered necessary.
I have to express my very high sense of the services performed by Lieutenant-General Sir J. Michel and the officers under his command in the able disposition of troops, both regulars and volunteers. The officers of the Royal Navy stationed at Quebec and Montreal deserve the highest credit for the rapidity with which they extemporized gunboats for the defence of the St. Lawrence and the Lakes. I have already spoken of the admirable spirit displayed by the Volunteer Force, both officers and men. I have every reason to believe that their conduct as regards discipline and order has entitled them to as much commendation as does their spirit of patriotism and self-reliance.
I desire particularly to bring before your notice the ability and energy exhibited by Colonel Macdougall, A.G.M., with a view to having his services specially mentioned to His Royal Highness, the Commander-in-Chief. This officer has not yet been one year in Canada, yet so admirable is the system of organization which he has established that he is able within a few hours to assemble on any given point over a line of more than 1,000 miles, masses of volunteers who at the time the order was given were scattered over the country pursuing their ordinary avocations. While I attribute full credit to the excellent spirit of the people for its share in this effect, I think the administrative ability which has given practical operation to this good feeling of the population ought to have its meed of praise and in the interests of the public service on some possible future emergency ought not to be left without official record.
There are prisoners in our hands to the number of about one hundred and fifty. (I have not yet received official returns of them), whose trial will be proceeded with at an early day.
I confidently expect within a few days to be able to dismiss to their homes the great majority of the Volunteers, and my firm conviction is, that this disturbance will produce beneficial effects by discrediting Fenian enterprises, exhibiting the futility of any attempt at invasion of the Province, and showing the absence of all disaffection amongst any portion of the people of Canada.
I have, etc.,
The Right Honorable E. Cardwell.
WELLAND COUNTY HONORS THE BRAVE.
The services of the officers and men of the Welland Canal Field Battery and the Dunnville Naval Brigade—for their gallantry in the fight at Fort Erie—were recognized by the Municipal Council of the County of Welland by the public presentation to each of them of a handsome silver medal, commemorative of the occasion. In addition, Capt. King and Capt. McCallum were each presented with handsome swords of honor by the County Council, as special marks of appreciation of their bravery by the people of the county. To each of the wounded a grant of 100 acres of the lands owned by the county in the Cranberry Marsh was given. In addition to the above honors the Corporation of the Village of Fort Erie presented Capt. King with a valuable sword as a testimonial of their recognition of his services at that place on the 2nd of June.
A RETROSPECT OF EVENTS—A COMBINATION OF UNFORTUNATE CIRCUMSTANCES INVOLVE LEADING OFFICERS.
That the campaign on the Niagara frontier might have been conducted on lines which would have proved much more satisfactory for the success of the Canadian forces, is admitted. It seemed to be a combination of errors and omissions from the beginning, which furnished food for unfavorable criticism and condemnation by journalistic and arm-chair critics which created impressions on the public mind that exist even at the present day. Of course each critic would have done different—this plan or that plan "should have been" adopted, regardless of all military rules. The trite saying that "nothing succeeds like success" should be supplemented by adding, "and nothing more reprehensive than failure." In military operations success or defeat are in the scales, and the least little occurrence is liable to outbalance the other. No matter how carefully a commanding officer may lay his plans, or how minutely he may explain them to his staff and subordinates, if one does not do his part in promptly carrying out instructions at the proper moment, the whole machinery is thrown out of gear, and failure is the inevitable result.
In the first place, while Gen. Napier's plan of campaign was excellent in itself, there were several very important things omitted that were essential to its success. That of the greatest importance was the lack of proper provision being made for obtaining information of the exact position and movements of the enemy, such as a corps of competent scouts could have given. That omission is fatal to the success of any military movement. Again, those who were in command of columns on the 2nd of June do not seem to have had an intelligent idea of the country they were about to move over, and had to rely on whatever chance information they could obtain, much of which, in the excited state of the minds of the people, was unreliable. To condemn any particular officer for an unlooked-for disaster is a serious matter, unless such defeat is clearly the result of his own negligence, or some movement of which he had personal control. Therefore critics should always be careful to put the saddle of blame on the right horse.
As Col. Peacocke had been assigned to the immediate command of the troops operating on the Niagara frontier by Gen. Napier, it will be noted (as related in a former chapter) that he arrived at Chippawa on the evening of June 1st, with a considerable number of regular troops and a complete battery of field guns, manned by experienced gunners of the Royal Artillery. His reinforcements from Toronto and St. Catharines were closely following, and quickly available. That night he sent Capt. Akers across the country with definite orders to Lieut.-Col. Booker to move eastward to Ridgeway by rail at 5 o'clock the next morning, and effect a junction with his (Col. Peacocke's) column at Stevensville at 10 o'clock. These instructions stated that Col. Peacocke would leave Chippawa at 6 a.m., and in accordance with this programme Lieut.-Col. Booker proceeded to carry out his orders. On the other hand, it was nearly 8 o 'clock before Col. Peacocke left Chippawa, which threw the whole programme out of joint by nearly two hours. Various excuses were made for the delay, but some of them were not very tenable. The regulars had had a good night's rest, and the volunteers (who were all on the ground at Chippawa before 4.30 a.m.) were eager and willing to proceed. Why he did not leave Chippawa by at least 6 o'clock (in the cool hours of the morning) is not sufficiently clear. A pilot engine was sent up the line of the Erie & Niagara Railway early in the morning, upon which were Lieut.-Col. John Hillyard Cameron and a detail of riflemen from the St. Catharines Battery of Artillery. They made a reconnaissance nearly as far as Black Creek, and returned with the report that they had not observed any signs of the enemy between Chippawa and that point. This was before Col. Peacocke started on his march. Why could it not have been possible for him to have moved a portion of his advance up by train as far as Black Creek, was a question that was prevalent at the time. But Col. Peacocke was not apparently taking any chances. He appears to have been overly cautious, and was disposed to adopt the old-time method of plodding along the beaten trail. Here again he made a mistake in taking "the longest way around" to reach Stevensville, while the intense heat and dust began to tell on his troops, which compelled him to halt at New Germany about 11 o'clock. Before reaching there he was informed of the disaster at Ridgeway by parties who had arrived from the battle-field. Why, then, did he not push on in search of the enemy, instead of remaining at New Germany until 5.30 p.m.? is another question. Excuses are easily framed and plausibly given in reports, but the country generally, and his soldiers particularly, have always thought that he might have managed to have got into a conflict with the enemy in some way. Col. Peacocke was a very fine gentleman, and had the reputation of being a skilful military officer, but his extreme caution in this campaign spoiled all chances of any success in winning the renown that might have been his portion had he acted with snap and celerity of movement in battering the Fenian army before they left Canada. He had the opportunity, the men and the guns, but he let his golden chances slip by while he idly passed away the time "resting" at Chippawa and New Germany.
Capt. Akers was another officer whose action in consenting with the ideas of Lieut.-Col. Dennis to change the plans of their commanding officer is inexplicable. Why these two officers should have dared to assume such responsibility is beyond all comprehension. A soldier's first duty is obedience to orders, and as these had been definitely issued by Col. Peacocke, it was manifestly not their business to change them, but to see that they were rigidly carried out. For that purpose Capt. Akers had been specially despatched from Chippawa to Port Colborne; but in less than half an hour after his arrival he was busily engaged with Lieut.-Col. Dennis and Lieut.-Col. Booker in concocting a new plan of campaign. After deciding on what they intended to do, they condescendingly notified Col. Peacocke of the change in his own plans, and without, waiting for a reply they started off for Fort Erie on the steamer "W. T. Robb" to put them in execution. Such assumption was certainly astounding, and no doubt Col. Peacocke had a choleric fit when he was apprised of it. This was another mistake, which contributed largely to the defeat of Col. Peacocke's purposes, and left a cloud on the military prestige of both Lieut.-Col. Dennis and Capt. Akers. As Lieut.-Col. Booker had also been persuaded to join in the new plan, he was making his arrangements to do so when he received an imperative order by telegraph from Col. Peacocke to adhere to his original instructions.
As Lieut.-Col. Dennis and Capt. Akers sailed away in high hope from Port Colborne, they probably built the fairy air castles which were doomed to totter and fall before night. It did not seem to occur to them that Col. Peacocke's sanction to, and co-operation in, their change of plan would be necessary to ensure success. Therefore their disappointment must have been great when they found that Lieut.-Col. Booker failed to arrive at Fort Erie at 7 o'clock, as provided in their new arrangement. At this hour Lieut.-Col. Booker was leaving Ridgeway (in pursuance of his latest orders) on his march for Stevensville, and soon after had the misfortune to strike the enemy in force. And thereby hangs another tale of a grave mistake, which brought considerable censure to that officer. The story of the battle is told elsewhere, and need not be repeated.
In the light of official reports and the testimony of officers and men who were engaged in the battle of Lime Ridge, the disaster which occurred to Lieut.-Col. Booker's column (almost in the moment of victory) can be attributed wholly to a fatal order being given at the most critical time in the progress of the fight. Lieut.-Col. Booker had up to that eventful moment displayed singular sagacity and wisdom in the handling of his troops, and had correctly followed the usual military rules which would be applicable to the occasion. But somebody appears to have originated the report that the enemy were about to make a cavalry charge, and at this crisis, when the troops were ordered to "Form square," the demon of disaster suddenly appeared. It was the proper order to have given had there really been a cavalry force advancing, but as the alarm originated in the imagination of others, for which there was no valid reason, the movement proved a mistake which turned the tide of battle and caused the dire disaster for which Lieut.-Col. Booker was, and is to this day, most unjustly blamed. A little reflection on the part of his critics might have tended to tone down their asperity and given him some credit for what he did do, both before and after the unfortunate order was given. But some person had to take the blame, and Lieut.-Col. Hooker was made the victim of circumstances. Here was a volunteer Colonel (who had never previously commanded a brigade) suddenly placed in command of the whole column because he happened to be the senior officer present, and ordered to advance across the path of the enemy to make a junction with Col. Peacocke's forces at Stevensville. His orders were to leave Port Colborne at a certain hour, which he did—exactly on time. He was handicapped in many ways, yet he did his duty and carried out the orders he received to the letter. He had neither cavalry, artillery or scouts with his column, so that his position was not a very enviable one. Had Capt. Akers remained with Col. Booker instead of going off on an excursion with Lieut.-Col. Dennis on the tug "Robb," his presence might have made some difference in the fortunes of the battle at Lime Ridge. Lieut.-Col. Booker had no staff officer to assist him, and in this position Capt. Akers might have been of some service, and won more glory than he did in the campaign. As to Lieut.-Col. Booker's conduct on the field at Lime Ridge (which was so unfavorably commented upon by the public press and carping critics who accepted the multitude of erroneous rumors that were prevalent during that period of excitement), it may lie stated that the whole affair was fully investigated by a Military Court of Inquiry, composed of three competent officers of high and honorable standing, who took the sworn testimony of a large number of officers and men who were engaged in the battle. As the whole evidence, and a full report of the proceedings of the Court, are published as an appendix to this book, it will prove very interesting to the reader, and serve to give an intelligent idea of the events narrated, from which you can draw your own conclusions as to whether Lieut.-Col. Booker was unjustly censured or not.
Another officer who was roundly condemned by the officers and men under his command, and by the public generally, for his singular conduct during the engagement at Fort Erie, was Lieut.-Col. J. S. Dennis, who was in command of the expedition on the steamer "W. T. Robb." Grave charges were filed against this officer, which resulted in a Court of Inquiry being appointed to investigate the case. As the charges made and the finding of the Court will be found in the latter portion of the appendix of this book, the writer will not discuss them here. Suffice it to say that the officers and men of the force which he landed on the dock at Port Erie on the 2nd of June, and placed in great jeopardy and peril, were not at all satisfied with the opinion of the Court, which they considered in the nature of a "white-wash" for Lieut.-Col. Dennis (and a thin coat at that), as the President of the Court dissented from the finding of his two colleagues on two charges, but was over-ruled by them.
DANGERS WHICH EXISTED PREVIOUS TO CONFEDERATION OF THE PROVINCES—PROPOSALS OF ANNEXATION TO THE UNITED STATES—LESSONS LEARNED BY THE FENIAN RAID.
Forty-four years have elapsed since the perilous events recorded in the preceding pages occurred. A new generation has come and grown into middle life, while the second generation is now budding forth into manhood and womanhood. How many of these are conversant with the history of their own country? Beyond a very vague knowledge of what has been taught to them in a superficial manner in our schools and colleges, and the fragmentary reminiscences that may have been recounted to them by their sires and grandsires who passed through these troublous times, it is doubtful whether even one-tenth of our present population have any idea of just how near Canada came to being absorbed by the United States in that critical period.
At that time Canada was in a peculiar position, which may be described as "a house divided within itself," as there was no cohesion among the scattered Provinces, each regulating its own affairs, with the exception of Canada East and Canada West (now Quebec and Ontario) who were governed by the same Parliament. The situation was certainly a dark and serious one. We had subtle traitors at home and scheming enemies abroad who labored assiduously to bring about annexation, but the stern spirit of loyalty to the British Crown which pervaded the hearts of the people as a whole, and the wise statesmanship of that noble group of patriots whose names will go ringing down through the corridors of time in the existence of our nation as "The Fathers of Confederation," saved the situation, and made Canada what it is to-day, a heritage of which our sons and daughters may well feel proud.
It was during the year 1866 that the apostles of Confederation were busy educating the people of the different Provinces in the creed of that very desirable proposition. While they met serious opposition in some portions of what is now our grand Dominion, yet in others the proposal was received favorably, while one or two of the Provinces expressed an antipathy to the movement. But just at this time two important events occurred which had a material bearing on the question, and had an effect in bringing about the Union. The first was the sudden abrogation by the United States of the Reciprocity Treaty which for some years had existed between the Canadian Provinces and that country, and the second the Fenian Raid. Each of these events sent a thrill through the Canadian people which fired their hearts and settled the project of Confederation. The necessity of united action in defence, and co-operation in other matters for the benefit of the whole, was heartily admitted, and forthwith the Provinces joined hands and hearts in bringing about its early consummation. The full meaning of the motto, "United we Stand—Divided we Fall," was realized by the majority, and the necessary legislation was carried through the several Provincial Parliaments that year, which received Imperial sanction, and resulted in the birth of the Dominion of Canada on July 1st, 1867.
While the campaign for Confederation was in progress, and its stalwart advocates were using their best endeavors throughout the country to bring the project to fruition, considerable opposition was manifested by a certain section who favored annexation to the United States. These men were backed up by American influences, and went so far as to secure the assistance of several prominent United States Congressmen to draft a proposal whereby the Provinces of Canada might become annexed and made certain States of the Union. The subject was discussed seriously by a large section of the American press, while statesmen and others who were eager to acquire our territory lost no opportunity to present their views in that respect.
While the annexation pot was boiling, and the Fenians were still threatening another raid, the question was brought before the American people in a tangible form. On the 2nd of July, 1866, the following bill was reported to the United States Congress by Representative Banks, and recommitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. As viewed in the light of the present day, its provisions contain very interesting reading:—
A Bill for the admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West, and for the organization of the Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia.
SEC. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States is hereby authorized and directed, whenever notice shall be deposited in the Department of State, that the Governments of Great Britain and the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Canada, British Columbia, and Vancouver's Island, have accepted the proposition hereinafter made by the United States, to publish by proclamation that, from the date thereof, the States of Nova-Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West, and the Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia, with limits and rights as by this Act defined, are constituted and admitted as States and Territories of the United States of America.
SEC. 2. Be it further enacted, etc., That the following articles are hereby proposed, and from the date of the proclamation of the President of the United States shall take effect, as irrevocable conditions of the admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West, and the future States of Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia, to wit:
Article I. All public lands not sold or granted; canals, public harbours, lighthouses and piers; river and lake improvements; railways, mortgages and other debts due by railway companies to the Provinces; custom houses and post offices shall vest in the United States; but all other public works and property shall belong to the State Governments respectively, hereby constituted, together with all sums due from purchasers or lessees of lands, mines, or minerals at the time of the union.
Article II. In consideration of public lands, works, and property vested as aforesaid in the United States, the United States will assume and discharge the funded debt and contingent liabilities of the late Provinces at rates of interest not exceeding five per centum, to the amount of $85,700,000, apportioned as follows: To Canada West, $36,500,000; to Canada East, $29,000,000; to Nova Scotia, $8,000,000; to New Brunswick, $7,000,000; to Newfoundland, $3,200,000; and to Prince Edward Island, $2,000,000; and in further consideration of the transfer by said Provinces to the United States of the power to levy import and export duties, the United States will make an annual grant of $1,646,000 in aid of local expenditures, to be apportioned as follows: To Canada West, $700,000; to Canada East, $550,000; to Nova Scotia. $165,000; to Newfoundland, $65,000; to Prince Edward Island, $40,000.
Article III. For all purposes of State organization and representation in the Congress of the United States. Newfoundland shall be a part of Canada East, and Prince Edward Island shall be a part of Nova Scotia, except that each shall always be a separate representative district, and entitled to elect at least one member of the House of Representatives, and except also that the municipal authorities of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island shall receive the indemnities agreed to be paid by the United States in Article II.
Article IV. Territorial divisions are established as follows: (1) New Brunswick, with its present limits; (2) Nova Scotia, with the addition of Prince Edward Island; (3) Canada East, with the addition of Newfoundland and all territory east of longitude 80 deg, and south of Hudson Straits; (4) Canada West, with the addition of territory south of Hudson's Bay, and between longitude 80 and 90 deg.; (5) Selkirk Territory, bounded east by longitude 90 deg., south by the late boundary of the United States, west by longitude 105 deg., and north by the Arctic Circle; (6) Saskatchewan Territory, bounded east by longitude 105 deg., south by latitude 49 deg., west by the Rocky Mountains, and north by latitude 70 deg.; (7) Columbia Territory, including Vancouver's Island and Queen Charlotte's Island, and bounded east and north by the Rocky Mountains, south by latitude 40 deg., and west by the Pacific Ocean and Russian America. But Congress reserves the right of changing the limits and subdividing the areas of the western territories at discretion.
Article V. Until the next decennial revision, representation in the House of Representatives shall be as follows: Canada West, 12 members; Canada East, including Newfoundland, 11 members; New Brunswick, 2 members; Nova Scotia, including Prince Edward Island, 4 members.
Article VI. The Congress of the United States shall enact, in favour of the proposed Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia, all the provisions of the Act organizing the Territory of Montana, so far as they can be made applicable.
Article VII. The United States, by the construction of new canals, of the enlargement of existing canals, and by the improvement of shoals, will so aid the navigation of the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes that vessels of fifteen hundred tons burden shall pass from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Lakes Superior and Michigan; Provided that the expenditure under this Article shall not exceed $50,000,000.
Article VIII. The United States will appropriate and pay to "The European and North American Railway Company of Maine" the sum of $2,000,000 upon the construction of a continuous line of railroad from Bangor, in Maine, to St. John, in New Brunswick; Provided said "The European and North American Railway Company of Maine" shall release the Government of the United States from all claims held by its assignees of the States of Maine and Massachusetts.
Article IX. To aid the construction of a railway from Truro, in Nova Scotia, to Riviere du Loup, in Canada East, and a railway from the city of Ottawa, by way of Sault Ste. Marie, Bayfield and Superior, in Wisconsin. Pembina and Fort Garry, on the Red River of the North, and the Valley of North Saskatchewan River, to some point on the Pacific Ocean north of latitude 49 degrees, the United States will grant lands along the lines of said roads to the amount of twenty sections, or 12,800 acres, per mile, to be selected and sold in the manner prescribed in the Act, to aid the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad, approved July 2, 1862 and Acts amendatory thereof; and, in addition to said grants of land, the United States will further guarantee dividends of five per cent, upon the stock of the company or companies which may be authorized by Congress to undertake the construction of said railways; Provided that such guarantee of stock shall not exceed the sum of $30,000 per mile, and Congress shall regulate the securities for advances on account thereof.
Article X. The public lands in the late Provinces, as far as practicable, shall be surveyed according to the rectangular system of the General Land Office of the United States; and in the territories west of longitude 90 degrees, or western boundary of Canada West, Sections sixteen and thirty-six shall be granted for the encouragement of schools, and after the organization of the territories into the States, 5 per centum of the net proceeds of sales of public lands shall be paid into their treasurers as a fund for the improvement of roads and rivers.
Article XI. The United States will pay $10,000,000 to the Hudson Bay Company in full discharge of all claims to territory or jurisdiction in North America, whether founded on the charter of the company or any treaty, law or usage.
Article XII. It shall be devolved upon the Legislatures of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Canada East and Canada West, to conjoin the tenure of office and the local institutions of said States to the Constitution and laws of the United States, subject to revision by Congress.
SEC. 3. Be it further enacted, etc., If Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland, or either of those Provinces, shall decline union with the United States, and the remaining Provinces, with the consent of Great Britain, shall accept the proposition of the United States, the foregoing stipulations in favor of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, or either of them, will be omitted; but in all other respects the United States will give full effect to the plan of union. If Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick shall decline the proposition, but Canada, British Columbia and Vancouver Island shall, with the consent of Great Britain, accept the same, the construction of a railway from Truro to Riviere du Loup, with all stipulations relating to the Maritime Provinces, will form no part of the proposed plan of union, but the same will be consummated in all other respects. If Canada shall decline the proposition, then the stipulations in regard to the St. Lawrence canals and a railway from Ottawa to Sault Ste. Marie, with the Canadian clause of debt and revenue indemnity, will be relinquished. If the plan of union shall only be accepted in regard to the north-western territory and the Pacific Provinces, the United States will aid the construction, on the terms named, of a railway from the western extremity of Lake Superior, in the State of Minnesota, by way of Pembina, Fort Garry and the Valley of the Saskatchewan, to the Pacific Coast, north of latitude 49 deg., besides securing all the rights and privileges of an American territory to the proposed Territories of Selkirk. Saskatchewan and Columbia.
The "generosity" of the above proposal was very kind of our neighbors, but it had no avail. The abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty and encouragement of the Fenian Raids by the American people had put the Canadians on their mettle and stiffened their backbone, so that neither retaliatory threats or honeyed allurements had any effect in changing their minds from carving out their own destiny under the broad folds of the Union Jack. How well this has been done by the earnest efforts and honest toil of our people, guided by the wisdom and sagacity of those statesmen who laid the foundation of our Dominion as it exists at present, is for other nations and other people to judge. Canada enjoys a prominent position in the estimation of the world to-day, and under the blessings of the Most High we will continue on in the march of progress and development of our bountiful resources.
The Fenian Raid, although it cost Canada sacrifices in precious lives and the expenditure of millions of money, proved of benefit to our young country in several ways. In the first place, it demonstrated the fact that the Canadians were loyal and patriotic to their heart's last drop in preserving British connection, and were true to their Flag and the freedom it symbolized. Again, the invasion enlightened the Fenian foemen and all other schemers who cast covetous eyes in our direction, that the Canadians were capable of protecting themselves, and were ready at all times to do their duty on the field of battle in defence of their native land and its institutions. Finally, it taught our people a lasting lesson in self-reliance, which should be instilled into the hearts and minds of our future generations, so that they too may always be found prepared to accept their share of responsibility in defending their country in times of peril and danger.
The Fenian Raid of 1870
GEN. O'NEIL PREPARES FOR ANOTHER RAID ON CANADA—SECRET SHIPMENT OF ARMS TO THE FRONTIER.
In the early spring of 1870, the irrepressible General O'Neil (who was then President of the Fenian Brotherhood) decided that another diversion should be made on the Canadian frontier, and actively began making preparations to mass his forces for the invasion.
During the fall and winter of 1869 and 1870 all of the "circles" and existing military organizations were busy raising the necessary funds and gathering together the war equipment. The utmost secrecy was observed on this occasion, as the Fenian leaders were very careful to avoid a repetition of the intervention of the United States authorities in thwarting their plans, to cross the border, as was the case in 1866. So they worked unceasingly and enthusiastically in maturing their plans, while they maintained absolute silence as to their intentions. The boasting bombast which had been so largely indulged in previous to the Raid of 1866 was not manifested on this occasion, consequently little interest was taken by the general public in Fenian affairs.
During the month of December, 1869, the Ninth Annual Convention of the Fenian Brotherhood was held in New York City. At this convocation there was a large gathering of delegates, every State in the Union being represented. All wore an air of confidence and suppressed emotion. While enthusiastic and determined at heart, they were careful to conceal their feelings, so as to avoid betrayal, by the least sign or word, of the result of their deliberations or the designs of their leaders.
At this meeting the Fenian Senate announced that complete arrangements had been secretly made for the second invasion of Canada, and asked that the delegates should ratify the programme. The announcement was hailed with great satisfaction by all present, and for some moments a regular pandemonium of cheers and yells of approval prevailed.
After order had been restored, Gen. O'Neil and others vehemently addressed the delegates, and worked up their patriotic feelings to such a hot pitch that each and every man present pledged himself to assist in the enterprise to the fullest extent of his power, even unto death.
A Council of War was then held, when it was resolved to begin active operations as early in the spring of 1870 as the roads would permit of the movement of troops. Brigadier-General M. Kerwin was then the Fenian Secretary of War, and during the next few months was very busy with his staff, getting everything in readiness. His orders and addresses to the Irish Republican Army were of such a patriotic and inspiring character that the officers and men of the various commands were constantly kept in a state of warlike excitement, which they controlled with marvellous secrecy. The months of January and February were spent in quiet preparation, and in March Gen. Kerwin issued a mandate that all military organizations of the Fenian Brotherhood should hold themselves in readiness to move forward to the Canadian frontier as soon as the final orders were issued. Meanwhile cases of arms, ammunition and other war material were being secretly shipped to different points along the border under various guises, and trusted officers were at the designated points to receive them and store them away in secluded hiding places until they were required. Everything was going along very satisfactory to the Fenian leaders, and it seemed to them as if Uncle Sam and the Canadian Government would both be caught napping.
During the first week in April Gen. O'Neil and some of his staff arrived at a point on the Vermont border to inspect the munitions of war and see that his directions were being properly carried out. Fifteen thousand stands of arms, and almost three million rounds of ammunition, had been actually received and carefully stored at various places along the frontier between Ogdensburg and St. Albans. Several thousands of these arms were breech-loading rifles of heavy calibre, for which there was an unlimited amount of cartridges.
Malone, N.Y., and St. Albans, Vermont, were again selected as bases of operations by Gen. O'Neil, and these towns were to be his principal places of muster. When he had concluded his examination of "affairs at the front," the valiant General was in high spirits, occasioned by the belief that he would steal a march on the Canadian Government and again be over the border before his intention was observed. He had taken great pains to have every preliminary preparation minutely made, and the fact that he had already smuggled an armament for fully 15,000 men to the frontier without exciting the suspicion of the usually vigilant officials of the United States, gave him considerable satisfaction and confidence. His plan of campaign was to rush the Fenian troops across the border without delay, and to entrench themselves at points where reinforcements could rally around them as supports when they had obtained a foot-hold. Malone and Franklin were chosen as the points from which the raiders were to make their forays, his chief object being, as before, to destroy the canal systems, and by cutting the railroad communication between Montreal and the West, hamper the movement of Canadian troops and cause consternation among the people.
ANOTHER CALL TO ARMS—FENIANS AGAIN THREATEN AN INVASION—GALLANT RESPONSE BY THE CANADIAN VOLUNTEERS.
Early in the month of April the Government was apprised by its secret service agents that Fenian trouble was again brewing on the frontier, and from details of the plot given, the Vermont border was specially designated as the quarter from which an invasion was extremely probable. Prompt measures were at once taken by Sir George E. Cartier, the Minister of Militia and Defence, to prepare for such an emergency, and complete arrangements were made to guard our entire frontier whenever necessary.
Notwithstanding their great secrecy, and the surreptitious methods the Fenians employed to smuggle their arms, ammunition and war supplies to the border during the winter months, the Government was kept fully informed of every movement by reliable officials, who had special means of getting inside information.
As matters became more threatening, and acting on additional information received, the Government considered it advisable to call out a force of 5,000 men for active service on the frontier of the Province of Quebec, the whole to be under the chief command of the Lieutenant-General commanding Her Majesty's regular troops in Canada, with Col. W. Osborne Smith, D.A.G. of Military District, No. 5, in command of the troops operating on the south-eastern frontier.
On April 11th the call to arms was made, and the different battalions and companies responded with their usual promptitude and alacrity, so that within 48 hours all were assembled at their posts on the frontier to which they had been assigned, ready for action.
The Cookshire Troop of Cavalry, under command of Lieut. Taylor, was stationed at Frelighsburg, with pickets at Pigeon Hill and Abbott's Corners. The 52nd Battalion, under command of Lieut.-Col. P. Miller, was posted at Frelighsburg, with detachments stationed as pickets at Mansonville, Abercorn and Cook's Corners.
The 60th Battalion, under Lieut.-Col. B. Chamberlin, had its headquarters at Pigeon Hill, with detachments at St. Armand and Philipsburg.
On the Huntingdon frontier the troops were posted as follows:
At Huntingdon—No. 1 Troop, Montreal Cavalry, in command of Capt. Muir, with videttes at Franklin and Hemmingford; the 50th Battalion, commanded by Lieut.-Col. McEachren; and the 51st Battalion, under command of Lieut.-Col. Rogers, with detachments at Franklin and Havelock.
At Beauharnois—The Beauharnois Battalion, under Lieut.-Col. Rodin, with a detachment at Valleyfield, guarded the canals.
While the above forces thoroughly covered the exposed points on the frontier, the following troops were held in reserve at Montreal, ready to go at a moment's notice to any point where their services might be urgently required: Montreal Garrison Artillery, two companies of Engineers, 1st Battalion (Prince of Wales Rifles). 3rd Battalion (Victoria Rifles), 5th Battalion (Royal Light Infantry). 6th Battalion (Hochelaga Light Infantry), First Provisional Battalion, Second Provisional Battalion, 65th Battalion (Mount Royal Rifles), 4th Battalion (Chasseurs Canadiens)—a total of all ranks of 1,940.
At Quebec a force of 1,617 officers and men of the Sixth Military District were concentrated, ready for duty anywhere.
On the 12th of April a further call was made for troops to guard the St. Clair River frontier, in Western Ontario, which was completed as follows:
At Sarnia—The London Field Battery, with two field guns (manned and horsed by 35 gunners and drivers), and two companies of the 7th Battalion of London, under command of Lieut.-Col. Shanly.
At Windsor—The Windsor and Leamington Companies of Infantry (each 55 strong), with Major Walker, of the 7th Battalion, in command.
In addition to the above troops, companies of the Grand Trunk Railway Brigade were judiciously posted at certain vulnerable points along the line of that railway by its commander. Lieut.-Col. C. J. Brydges, so that in all a force of fully 6,000 men were stationed on duty where required within a very short period.
These troops remained on active service until the 21st of April, when it was considered advisable to release all from duty with the exception of the 50th, 51st, 52nd, 60th and Beanharnois Battalions, and the two troops of cavalry originally placed on the south-eastern frontier, who remained on duty until the 29th of April, when they were also withdrawn. The Government was confident of the fact that the services of the volunteers would be cheerfully and promptly given whenever they would again be called upon, and in relieving them from duty, thanked them warmly for their service, and reminded them that it might be necessary to rally again to the colors almost any day, and to be ready to respond to the call.
GEN. O'NEIL AGAIN INVADES CANADA—A RAID MADE FROM VERMONT PROMPTLY REPULSED BY A HANDFUL OF CANADIANS.
About the middle of May orders went forth from Gen. O'Neil for the Fenian forces to again take the field, and a week later they began to assemble in the border cities, towns and villages of the United States, ready for another campaign against Canada. The rallying points were the same as those designated in Gen. Sweeny's plan of campaign in 1866. Gen. O'Neil seems to have considered that his chances of success would be better on the eastern frontier than by again attempting the invasion of the Niagara District, although his plan was to muster a strong force in Buffalo, as before, and, if opportunity offered, and he was successful in the east, to again attempt the passage of the Niagara. Consequently he gave his personal attention to the troops that were gathering on the Northern New York and Vermont frontiers, and directed the mobilization of the divisions at Malone and St. Albans, with the intention of following out Sweeny's old programme of conquest, while several officers of experience would lead in the attacks on other points.
The 24th of May (Queen's Birthday) was the date selected for the invasion, and the night previous every train bound north from New York, Boston, and the New England States, carried contingents of Fenian soldiers on their way to the appointed rendezvous on the border. Gen. O'Neil established his headquarters at Franklin, Vermont, where his staff were energetically at work equipping the troops as they arrived. O'Neil fully expected that from 2,000 to 3,000 Fenians would have assembled at Franklin on the 24th, but through some delay in transportation the bulk of the forces failed to appear. Only about 800 had reported themselves, and the tardiness of movement of the remainder of the army threatened a fatal ending to the enterprise. O'Neil chafed under his disappointment, and sent urgent telegrams and messengers to hurry up the laggards, but the morning of the 25th dawned without the arrival of the expected soldiers. Gen. O'Neil then became so impatient that he could bear the suspense no longer. He was fearful of the interposition of the United States authorities, and resolved to immediately advance into Canada with the force present under his command, and leave his reinforcements to follow.
The Fenian camp was located at Hubbard's Farm (about half a mile from Franklin), and the officers were busy there distributing arms, ammunition and equipment. They had collected armament for about 3,000 men, and the cases were opened and scattered along the road to facilitate the quick issue of rifles and cartridges to the reinforcements as soon as they arrived.
On the 24th of May President U. S. Grant had issued his proclamation forbidding a breach of the Neutrality Act. and the United States officials were prompt in their endeavors to stop the raid. Gen. George P. Foster (United States Marshal) called on Gen. O'Neil at Franklin, and after reading to him President Grant's proclamation, endeavored to dissuade him from advancing over the line. But the Fenian General refused to comply with his advice, and expressed his contempt for the President in language more forcible and profane than polite. As Gen. Foster had no troops at his command to compel obedience by the Fenian leaders, he crossed over the line and informed the Canadian commander (Col. Chamberlain) of O'Neil's designs and his inability to stop the raiders.
About 11 o'clock on May 25th Gen. O'Neil mounted his horse and rode down from Franklin to the Fenian camp. He realized that if he did not move quickly there was a probability of the arrival of United States troops to stop the expedition; therefore he gave immediate orders to his men to "fall in" for the advance across the border. When the troops were formed up, he addressed them as follows:—
"Soldiers! This is the advance guard of the Irish-American army for the liberation of Ireland from the yoke of the oppressor. For your own country you enter that of the enemy. The eyes of your countrymen are upon you. Forward—March!"
At the word of command the column moved promptly, with Gen. O'Neil and Gen. Donnelly (his Chief-of-Staff) at the head, and the green flag of the Irish Republic flapping in the wind. The Fenian column was formed in three divisions, consisting of an advance guard of skirmishers, a strong support of about 200 men, and the balance of their troops in reserve. They had only a short distance to go before they reached the boundary line. Some eight rods north of the line (on the Canadian side) is a gully through which runs a small brook known locally as "Chickabiddy Creek," over which the road is bridged, and beyond which are the rocky heights of Eccles' Hill, where a small Canadian force was entrenched among the rocks and trees awaiting the approach of the invaders.
The house of Alva Richards, about ten rods south of the border line, on the road from Franklin to Cook's Corners, was chosen by Gen. O'Neil as his headquarters. From the Richards house to the Canadian position was a distance of only about a quarter of a mile.
Immediately after crossing the boundary, the Burlington (Vermont) Company of Fenians (about fifty men), under command of Capt. Cronan, dashed down the hill to form a skirmish line across the brook. Just as they did so the Canadians opened fire. At the first volley Private John Rowe was instantly killed, and Lieut. John Hallinan received a flesh wound in the arm. The company wavered, and receiving no support, fell back to the shelter of the Richards house and outbuildings. The next company (under Capt. Carey) joined Capt. Cronan in the rear of the house, and commenced firing. Soon afterwards Private James Keenan ventured out too far and received a ball in the leg, near the ankle. This hot reception, and the sharp fire of the Canadians, caused a stampede, and Gen. O'Neil endeavored to rally his troops by the following address:—
"Men of Ireland! I am ashamed of you. You have acted disgracefully, but you will have another chance of showing whether you are cravens or not. Comrades, we must not, we dare not, go back now, with the stain of cowardice upon us. Comrades. I will lead you again, and if you will not follow me, I will go on with my officers and die in your front. I leave you now under command of Gen. Boyle O'Reilly."
After this brave utterance, Gen. O'Neil (who had been across the border on an eminence opposite the Canadian position, watching events) retired to an attic window in the Richards house, from which point he intended to observe the fortunes of the day. But the Canadian riflemen having discovered his presence there, directed their fire upon him, and Mr. Richards ordered O'Neil to leave his residence, which was getting seriously damaged by bullets. Just as he went out of the house, General Foster (United States Marshal), with a couple of his officers, stepped forward and arrested O'Neil for breach of the Neutrality Act. At first the Fenian General was very wrathy, and threatened to use force if he was not released, but on Gen. Foster placing a revolver at his head and intimating that he would shoot if he did not submit. O'Neil's courage quailed, and he surrendered. He was shoved into a covered carriage and driven off to St. Albans under guard of two men, very much dejected.
By this time a contingent of about 500 Fenians had arrived from St. Albans, and were being armed and equipped at the Fenian camp for the purpose of making another dash. As O'Neil had been so unceremoniously whisked away by Gen. Foster, the Fenian army was now without a leader. So a Council of War was held, all of the leading Fenian officers in the field being present. Reinforcements were now arriving hourly, and strong efforts were made to induce Gen. John Boyle O'Reilly (a noted Irish patriot) to take command and again lead them on to glory. The Council convened in an open glade near the Fenian camp, where, surrounded by their troops, the leaders pleaded with Gen. O'Reilly to assume command, but he could not be prevailed upon to accept the risk, and the spirits of the raiders sank as they began to realize the hopelessness of their position.
Early next morning Gen. Spier arrived at St. Albans and endeavored to bring order out of chaos, and continue O'Neil's plan of invasion. But by this time the golden opportunity had slipped by, and all chances of success had vanished. A strong force of Canadians had arrived at the frontier, determined to resist every foot of advance into Canadian territory, while a body of United States troops appeared in the rear of the Fenian army for the purpose of making arrests for breach of the neutrality laws. Being caught between two fires, they thought discretion was the better part of valor, and fled in dismay. And thus the grand "Army of the Irish Republic" melted away in disorganized mobs.
At Malone similar conditions existed, and the large number of Fenians assembled there were quickly dissolved by the United States troops and all their war material seized by the United States authorities.
A description of the fight at Eccles' Hill, as viewed from the Canadian side, is given in the succeeding chapter.
OPERATIONS ON THE MISSISQUOI FRONTIER—THE BATTLE OF ECCLES' HILL—COMPLETE DEFEAT OF THE FENIAN ARMY.
On the morning of the 24th of May Lieut.-Col. W. Osborne Smith, Deputy Adjutant-General of the Fifth Military District, at Montreal, received advices from trustworthy sources that the Fenians were again assembling on the Vermont border, and that telegraph wires had been cut in several places by them. He at once notified the authorities at Ottawa by wire of these events, and asked for instructions in regard to calling out the forces under his command for active service.
As was customary, the whole of the Montreal Garrison had been assembled that day for the usual parade and review in honor of Her Majesty's birthday. As the hours wore on and no reply had been received from Ottawa by Col. Smith in answer to his telegrams, he promptly took the extreme responsibility permitted by the 60th Section of the Militia Act, and called out for service a large portion of the troops of his district, including all the frontier and Montreal corps. He reported his action to the Lieutenant-General Commanding, who approved of his action and his suggestions as to the disposal of the troops instantly required on the frontier, and further ordered that he should personally assume command at the threatened point of attack in the neighborhood of Frelighsburg.
He then addressed the men on parade, informing them that the Fenians were on the frontier with warlike intentions, and that from that moment they were on active service; moreover, that he required five companies at once to proceed to the frontier under his command. The entire brigade responded with great enthusiasm, and was ready there and then to move off to the border to meet the enemy. As the whole force was not required. Col. Smith made his selections and left for the front within a few hours, taking with him the Montreal Troop of Cavalry, and companies from the 1st Prince of Wales Rifles. 3rd Victoria Rifles, 5th Royals, 6th Battalion Hochelaga Light Infantry, together with one officer and 20 men of the Montreal Garrison Artillery. The latter contingent was detailed to reinforce Isle aux Noix, while the remainder of the force proceeded on to St. John's. On arrival there the Montreal troops (with the exception of the cavalry and the company of Victoria Rifles) were left to garrison St. John's, together with the 21st Battalion and the St. John's Garrison Battery of Artillery. Lieut.-Col. Fletcher was left in command at St. John's, with instructions to secure the safety of that place from a sudden dash by the enemy, and on the following morning proceed to the Huntingdon frontier and assume command of the troops assembled there. A party of the 21st Battalion (Richelieu Light Infantry) was detached at Malmaison to guard the bridge over the Pike River at that place.
About midnight Col. Smith arrived at Stanbridge Station with the Montreal Cavalry Troop and the one company of the Victoria Rifles. After detraining the troops he at once started on his march to Stanbridge (about eight miles distant). The roads were deep and miry from heavy rain, and the night intensely dark, but the men, who had been under arms and with little refreshment since early morning, performed the march uncomplainingly, and were eager to press on to the front.
At Stanbridge the 60th Missisquoi Battalion, under command of Lieut.-Col. Brown Chamberlin, were assembling, and on arrival there Col. Smith learned that a Fenian force had gathered near Franklin, Vermont, and were preparing to make a dash across the border in the vicinity of Eccles' Hill.
During the previous night about thirty farmers of the neighborhood (who had armed and enrolled themselves as a Home Guard, under the leadership of Mr. Asa Westover, of Dunham) occupied Eccles' Hill, a strong position on the frontier, with the determined intention to keep the Fenians in check until the arrival of the regular volunteer force. On Lieut.-Col. Chamberlin's arrival at Stanbridge on the night of the 24th he found No. 3 Company of the 60th Battalion assembled, and was informed by Capt. Kemp, his Adjutant, of the state of affairs at the front. He was quick to act, and sent forward a picket to Cook's Corners, in support of the party occupying Eccles' Hill, with instructions to move forward at daylight and reinforce it. Another detachment of 24 men, under Capt. Bockus of No. 5 Company of the 60th, were ordered to move up as supports to Cook's Corners at daylight, and later to reinforce the men in their position at the Hill. In the early hours of the morning two prisoners were captured by the farmers near their position, one of whom was a Fenian captain named Murphy, and the other one of his men. They were sent under guard of a corporal and two men to Stanbridge. This left Lieut.-Col. Chamberlin's total force at the front three officers and 46 men of the 60th Battalion, and 35 farmers.
Lieut.-Col. Chamberlin made his dispositions by placing a picket, of one officer and ten men on his right rear, and the remainder of the volunteers (two officers and 36 men) were posted among the rocks and trees, and behind the fences stretching from the road to the crest of the hill, while the right flank was protected by the 35 farmers, most of whom were sharp-shooters. Thus Lieut.-Col. Chamberlin's combined force to resist an attack was two officers and 71 men.
On a hill about 300 yards distant, across the American border, the sentries of the advanced guard of the enemy were visible, while a short distance beyond their main body were preparing for an advance on to Canadian soil.
Shortly before 12 o'clock (noon). General Foster, the United States Marshal for the Northern District of Vermont, drove over to the Canadian lines and had an interview with Lieut.-Col. Chamberlin. He said that he desired to offer assurances that his Government and himself personally were doing all that was possible to prevent a raid, and that the United States troops were being moved up to assist him in the discharge of his duty and enforcement of the neutrality laws as fast as they could be transported. He also stated that he was charged with a message from Gen. O'Neil, to say that those under his command would not make war upon women or children, nor be permitted to plunder peaceable inhabitants, but would conduct their war in the manner approved among civilized nations.
Col. Chamberlin replied that he would receive no message from men who were mere pirates and marauders, and it was scarcely satisfactory to those whom they intended to murder, because they were in arms for the defence of their Government and country, that their piracy would not be attended with unusual barbarities.
While they were still in conversation, the head of the Fenian column began to advance. Lieut.-Col. Chamberlin called Gen. Foster's attention to the fact, who replied, "I thought they intended to attack you soon, but not so soon as this." He then drove away in the direction of and past the advancing Fenian column.
Lieut.-Col. Chamberlin then hastily made such disposition of his small force as seemed most advantageous, with Capt. Bockus on the left of the skirmish line, which rested on the main road.