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The Battle of Ridgeway
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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.
Christopher Alderson, No. 7 Company.
Private Malcolm McKenzie, No. 9
Private Wm. F. Tempest, No. 9 Company.
Private J. H. Mewburn, No. 9 Company.
Sergt. Hugh Matheson (died on June 9th), No.
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
Private Chas. Lugsdin (lung and arm). No. 4 Company.
Private Chas. Bell (knee), No. 5 Company.
Private Copp (wrist). No.
Lieut. W. C. Campbell (shoulder), No. 6 Company.
Paul Robbing (knee, leg amputated), No. 6 Company.
Rutherford (foot), No. 6 Company.
Sergt. W. Foster (side), No. 7
Private E. T. Paul (knee), No. 9 Company.
Private R. E.
Kingsford (leg). No. 9 Company.
Private E. G. Paterson (arm). No. 9
Private W. H. Vandersmissen (groin), No. 9 Company.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Queen's Own Rifles.
Major Chas. T. Gillmor in command.
No. 1 Company--Capt. John Brown, Lieut. Joseph Davids. Ensign Win.
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
No. 4 Company--Capt. John Douglas, Lieut. Wm. Arthurs. Ensign John
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.
No. 7 Company--Capt. A. Macpherson, Lieut. John G. R. Stinson,
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
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.
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.
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Troublous Times in Canada, A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870
Fenian Raids of 1866 - 1870