Canadian Genealogy | Fenian Raids of 1866 - 1870

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The Dawn of Peace

The Dawn of Peace--The Volunteers Relieved from Further Service--Thanked by the Government and the Lieutenant-General Commanding.


The active militia of the Dominion which was called out for active service remained on duty wherever posted until all signs of danger had disappeared, and were then withdrawn by degrees, until on the 3rd of June all were released from duty and directed to return to their homes.

The Honorable Minister of Militia, in his report of the military operations, paid the following tribute to the gallantry of the volunteer militia force on this occasion:--

"Although the honor and satisfaction of repelling these lawless invaders had fallen to the lot of a few gallant men of the active militia, the desire evinced by the whole force called out to be afforded a similar opportunity of inflicting well-merited punishment on those daring to invade Canadian soil, was universally and ardently longed for; and, doubtless, had any attempt been made in force by the enemy to penetrate into the country, they would have met with heavier punishment than they experienced in this futile attempt--all classes in the Dominion (both French as well as English-speaking Canadians) having turned out manfully in so good a cause; and when it is considered that a great majority of the militia men called out are farmers, that the call made upon them was in the midst of their sowing season, that at the first sound of danger they gave up their work, abandoning their fields and their families, risking, perhaps, the loss of a whole year's crop, and the manifest distress which such would have entailed, it is not too much to say that they have well-earned the gratitude and admiration of their Queen and country for the self-sacrifice they exhibited, and the courage and loyalty they displayed.

"As an interesting proof of the loyalty and patriotism displayed by Canadians who at this period (as in 1866) were resident in the United States, many of them came home at the first note of alarm to take their places in the ranks of the active militia force to assist in defence of their country, for which they received the special thanks of the Government."

The Lieutenant-General in command of Her Majesty's troops in Canada, who was in supreme control of the active militia force of Canada, also recognized their faithful service by issuing the following order:--


Headquarters, Montreal, 4th June, 1870.

General Orders No. 1.

Canada has once more been invaded by a body of Fenians, who are citizens of the United States, and who have again taken advantage of the institutions of that country to move without disguise large numbers of men and warlike stores to the Missisquoi and Huntingdon frontiers, for the purpose of levying war upon a peaceful community.

From both these points the invading forces have been instantly driven with loss and in confusion, throwing away their arms, ammunition and clothing, and seeking shelter within the United States. Acting with a scrupulous regard for the inviolability of a neighboring territory, the troops were ordered to the halt, even though in pursuit, upon the border.

The result of the whole affair is mainly due to the promptitude with which the militia responded to the call to arms, and to the rapidity with which their movements to the front were carried out, and the self-reliance and steadiness shown by this force, as well as by the armed inhabitants on the frontier. The regular troops were kept in support, except on the Huntingdon frontier, where one company took part in the skirmish.

The proclamation of the President, and the arrival of the Federal troops at St. Albans and Malone, were too late to prevent the collection and transport of warlike stores, or an inroad into Canada.

The reproach of invaded British territory, and the dread of insult and robbery, have thus been removed by a handful of Canadians, and the Lieutenant-General does not doubt that such services will receive the recognition of the Imperial Government.

The Lieutenant-General congratulates the militia upon this exhibition of their promptness, discipline and training, and in dismissing the men to their homes, he bids them carry with them the assurance that their manly spirit is a guarantee for the defence of Canada.

By order,

J. E. Thackwell, D.A.G.


In consideration of their services at Eccles' Hill and on the Huntingdon frontier. Her Majesty the Queen was graciously pleased to bestow the Order of St. Michael and St. George (third class) upon the following officers: Lieut.-Col. Osborne Smith, Commandant Military District No. 5; Lieut.-Col. Fletcher. Brigade Major. Second Brigade. Military District No. 5; Lieut.-Col. Brown Chamberlin, commanding 60th (Missisquoi) Battalion, and Lieut.-Col. McEachern, commanding the 50th (Huntingdon) Battalion.

Medals Granted by the Queen.

In 1899 the services of the survivors of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870, and the Red River Rebellion, were recognized by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in the bestowal upon each of them of a General Service Medal, for the loyalty and patriotism they displayed in assisting to defend their country and flag in those times of danger. The medals are of the standard pattern adopted by the British Government for military service. Each medal bears the name and rank of the recipient stamped upon the edge. A clasp bearing the words "Fenian Raid, 1866" (crossing a scarlet and white ribbon) surmounts the medallion bearing the vignette of Queen Victoria on one side, and on the obverse a design emblematic of the Dominion of Canada. For those who served in 1870 the same medal was granted, with lettering to correspond, while to the volunteers who were on duty on both occasions, an extra clasp was issued, to denote service in both 1866 and 1870. These medals are highly prized by the veterans of the Fenian Raids, as they are commemorative of a time in the history of Canada which they will never forget.

It is possible that a large proportion of the recipients of the medals are not aware of how and where the idea originated which finally resulted in their obtaining these special marks of the Queen's favor. Therefore it may be as well to present the facts here. On the occasion of the celebration of the Queen's Jubilee in 1897, a large committee of loyal citizens of Toronto was organized for the purpose of arranging for a proper observance of the event, and among the members of that committee were quite a number of military men. At one of the meetings, held in the City Hall, Toronto, the following resolution was presented and unanimously adopted:--

"Moved by Capt. S. Bruce Harman, seconded by Lieut. R. E. Kingsford, That the following Committee be appointed to report the necessary steps to obtain a Medal, or other suitable Decoration, to be awarded to the Canadian Militia who took part in the campaigns of 1837, 1866 and 1870, viz.: Lieut.-Col. G. D. Dawson, Lieut.-Col. Vance Graveley, Lieut.-Col. Orlando Dunn, Major Frederick E. Dixon, Major R. Y. Ellis, Major Fredrick Manley, Capt. S. Bruce Harman, Capt. Wm. Fahey and Lieut. R. E. Kingsford."

This committee went earnestly to work, and after deciding on the mode of procedure, issued a large number of blank petitions, which were sent out through the country. It is needless to say that these were very numerously signed and returned to the committee, who forwarded their petition in a handsomely bound volume to Her Majesty Queen Victoria through the proper channels. The Dominion Government acquiesced in the request, and the result was that the petition was granted, and the issue of the medals authorized, the veterans of the Red River Rebellion also being honored with the decoration.

Grants of Crown Lands from the Province of Ontario.

The Province of Ontario also generously recognized the service of those who defended the Provincial domain by giving a grant of 160 acres of Crown lands to each of the veterans of the Fenian Raids who were on active service in Ontario during those periods.

Recognition by the Dominion of Canada.

Up to the present date the Dominion Government has not moved in the matter of recognizing the services of the Veterans of the Fenian Raids. Deputations have waited upon the Premier and the Government, and petitions have been presented asking for grants of land, but beyond specious promises of "consideration of their requests" no progress has been made in this respect. This is hardly fair or just to the men who stood on the ramparts of the country with their rifles in hand in times of peril and danger, and made it possible that the Dominion Government should now have any land to bestow. Had it not been for the patriotism of the "Men of '66" it is just a question whether the Dominion of Canada as now constituted would be in existence to-day. Therefore these surviving veterans deserve all the recognition that a grateful country can give. We have millions of acres of vacant lands in our Northwest which need development, and who is better fitted for settlers than the resourceful Canadians themselves? We have sons and grandsons who have the will, the knowledge, the mettle and the courage to break the prairie sod and bring the virgin soil to successful fruition, and assist in developing our country's resources. They will lie glad to do this, and take particular pride in the patrimony of their military ancestors. Then why not do justice to the Veterans of 1866 and 1870 by putting them on the same footing as the Dominion Government accorded to the soldiers of other campaigns? The volunteers who went to Manitoba on the Red River expedition in 1870 received land grants of 160 acres each. Those who served in the Northwest Rebellion in 1885 were given scrip to the same value, while those who went out of Canada to serve in the South African War were granted 320 acres of Crown lands each. That was quite proper, but why should our paternal Government make any invidious distinctions? Surely those who helped to make the Dominion, and bravely guarded her shores in times of danger, are at least entitled to justice in the matter of receiving due recognition for their services. Emigrants have been assisted into Canada from all parts of Europe and given slices of our public domain, while the bone and sinew of our own people have been "passed by on the other side." This is not right--it is not patriotic, neither is it good public policy. Let justice prevail in all things, and our country will prosper and flourish. One by one the old Veterans of 1866 and 1870 are being finally "mustered out," and in a few years the last of them will have "crossed the bar." While they are still living the Government should bestow upon them that tardy recognition which they have a right to expect, and it is to be hoped that in its wisdom and sense of justice this act will not be long delayed. Let it never be said of Canada that--

          When war clouds break, and danger is nigh.
          "God and the soldiers" is the people's cry.
          But when war is o'er and all things righted.
          God is forgot and the soldiers slighted.

Not a single volunteer ever thought for one moment of a monetary or other reward for his services when he shouldered his rifle and went forth in defence of his country when the bugles sounded. All were moved by a common patriotic impulse, and unselfishly and faithfully did their duty. At that time the Government appreciated their service, and was profuse in thanks, and there the national gratitude seems to have ended so far as the Fenian Raid Veterans are concerned. But, perhaps, they may yet be accorded fair play. Let us hope so, for the honor of our country.


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Troublous Times in Canada, A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870

Fenian Raids of 1866 - 1870

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