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On the St. Lawrence and Eastern Frontiers

On the St. Lawrence and Eastern Frontiers--Muster of Troops at Kingston, Brockville, Prescott, Cornwall and Other Points.


While the sanguinary engagements which have been related in the preceding pages were in progress on the Niagara frontier, the danger of invasion was just as imminent at many other points along our border line, and excitement was consequently as intense. It was felt at the time, and subsequently confirmed as correct, that the diversion of Gen. O'Neil at Fort Erie was only a prelude to cover more formidable attacks along the line of the St. Lawrence, and the frontier of the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

To guard this lengthy border was the first precaution taken by the Government, and all troops that were available east of Toronto were promptly called out for active service. Along the St. Lawrence River the points most seriously threatened were Kingston, Brockville, Prescott and Cornwall, and the attention of the Lieutenant-General Commanding was immediately directed towards making adequate provision for the protection of those places.

At Kingston the 14th Battalion of Rifles, the Kingston Field Battery, the First Frontenac Troop of Cavalry, and the Garden Island and Portsmouth Infantry Companies, were assembled and equipped, ready to proceed to any point where their services might be required. The forts were garrisoned by regular troops, and the city put in a proper state of defence. On Sunday, the 3rd of June, just as the garrison was returning from church parade, Lieut.-Col. John Paton received orders to proceed at once with the 14th Rifles to Cornwall. The Battalion started that evening by special train for their destination, amid tremendous cheering by the patriotic citizens.

The force which was mobilized at Prescott on June 3rd consisted of one division of the Ottawa Field Battery, with two guns; the Gananoque Battery of Garrison Artillery; three companies of the Prince Consort's Own Rifle Brigade (regulars), under Major Newdegate; the left wing of the 25th King's Own Borderers (regulars); the 18th (Hawkesbury) Battalion, under command of Lieut.-Col. John Hamilton; Nos. 1 and 2 Companies of the Ottawa Rifles; the Pakenham and Fitzroy Companies of Infantry; and the 15th (Belleville) Battalion of Infantry, under command of Lieut.-Col. A. A. Campbell. Old Fort Wellington was strengthened and well equipped with three batteries of garrison artillery, and every detail arranged to properly protect the town. All of the danger points were so securely guarded by this efficient garrison (which was under the command of Col. F. T. Atcherly, D.A.G.) that the invaders would have met with an amazingly hot reception had they carried out their threatened intentions to cross the river anywhere in that vicinity.

Lieut.-Col. Crawford had command of the force which was assembled at Brockville, consisting of a battalion composed of the Brockville Rifles, Gananoque Rifles, Brockville Infantry, Perth Rifles, Perth Infantry, Carleton Place Rifles, and Almonte Infantry. These companies were exceedingly efficient, and did great service in guarding the river front and railway communications at Brockville. Col. Crawford and his troops received great praise from the Major-General for the very satisfactory manner in which they did their duty on these trying occasions.

The City of Ottawa was garrisoned by the Civil Service Rifles, Major Ross' Artillery Company, the Bell's Corners Infantry Company, and other companies from the neighborhood, assisted by a strong Home Guard.

The Grand Trunk Railway bridges at Vaudreuil, St. Ann's and Lachine were guarded by the St. Therese, Como and Varennes Infantry Companies, this arduous duty being very accurately and vigilantly performed by the corps mentioned.

At Cornwall the situation was exceedingly serious, as it was known that Gen. Sweeny had particular designs on that place, and was making every preparation to deliver an attack. The possession of the canals was one of his chief desires, and to ward off such an attempt a strong force was quickly mobilized at this point of danger. On the 2nd of June a public meeting of citizens was called and a committee appointed to act in concert with the military commandant in putting the town in a thorough state of defence. A patrol was established for ten miles up and down the river by the local companies, and navigation on the river and through the canal was stopped. Early on the 3rd of June troops began arriving from different points, and by the following morning over 2,000 had been assembled under the command of Col. T. H. Pakenham, of H. M. 30th Regiment. The Canadian force which was mustered at Cornwall was composed of the 14th (Kingston) Battalion, the 25th Regiment (King's Own Borderers), the 11th Argenteuil Rangers, a portion of H. M. 30th Regiment, one division of the Ottawa Field Battery, the 6th Hochelaga Light Infantry, two companies of Ottawa Rifles, and two Cornwall companies.

On the St. John's and Missisquoi frontiers the local companies of Frelighsburg, Philipsburg, Granby and Waterloo were posted, under command of Col. F. R. Elrington, of the P. C. O. Rifle Brigade, and kept a sharp look-out for the appearance of the enemy. They received numerous "alarms." but beyond a general expectancy of a conflict which kept them on the alert, they did not have an opportunity of proving their valor.

Lieut.-Col. W. Osborne Smith, D.A.G., had command of the troops which were assembled on the Huntingdon and Hemmingford frontiers, which consisted of the 1st Prince of Wales Rifles (Lieut.-Col. B. Devlin), of Montreal; the Victoria Rifles, of Montreal; one division of Capt. A. A. Stevenson's Field Battery, of Montreal; the Hemmingford. Roxham and Havelock Infantry Companies, and a detachment of the Montreal Cavalry. With this force he proceeded to Hemmingford, where he halted on the 3rd and sent out scouts to observe the operations of the enemy on the frontier. Learning that an attack was likely to be made on the Huntingdon frontier. Col. Smith left next morning at daybreak with his column for the threatened point. The weather was exceedingly unfavorable, as it rained incessantly all day, and the roads were in a very bad state. Still he pushed on, and covered 37 miles, which his troops accomplished in a splendid manner, and went into camp that night with only two patients reported on the hospital returns as being incapacitated by the fatiguing march. The direct approach to Huntingdon from Malone, where the Fenians were mobilizing, is by the Trout River Road, and across this path Col. Smith constructed a line of breastworks and awaited the approach of the enemy. His position was admirably chosen, and had Gen. Sweeny made an advance down the Chateauguay Valley, he would have met with such a stout resistance that his defeat would have been certain, as the Canadian position was impregnable. For a few days all kinds of rumors were current of an advance being made by the Fenians, and constant vigilance was maintained, but the attack failed to eventuate.

Lieut.-Col. George Browne, D.A.G., with the 1st and 2nd Huntingdon Infantry Companies; the Athelstan, Durham and Rockburn Infantry Companies, and the Hinchinbrooke Rifle Company, also assisted to hold the Huntingdon line, and did good service in keeping guard on the frontier.

With the salient points along the Canadian border being thus securely guarded, and every soldier on the qui vive, the Fenian troops would most certainly have encountered very strong opposition before they could carry out their designs to conquer Canada.


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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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