The American Fenian Invasion and the 1866 Battle That Made CanadaBook - 2011
In this groundbreaking narrative , historian, investigative journalist and filmmaker Peter Vronsky uncovers the hidden history of the Battle of Ridgeway and explores its significance to Canada's nation-building myths and traditions.
On June 1, 1866, more than 1,000 Fenian insurgents invaded Canada across the Niagara River from Buffalo, N.Y. The Fenians were mostly battle-hardened Civil War veterans; the Canadian troops sent to fight them came from a generation that had not seen combat at home for more than 30 years. Led by inexperienced upper-class officers, the volunteer soldiers were mostly young, some as young as 15 years old. They were farm boys, shopkeepers, apprentices, schoolteachers, store clerks and two rifle companies of University of Toronto students hastily called out from their final exams. Many had not fired live rounds from their rifles even once.
When they fought the Fenians near the village of Ridgeway the next day, a single rifle company of 28 students took the brunt of a counter-attack by 800 insurgents and suffered the most killed and wounded. The events of June 2, 1866, were covered up by the Macdonald government. The story was falsified so thoroughly that most Canadians today have not heard of the first modern battle in which Canadians died.
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On June 2, 1866 Canada was invaded by Irish-American Fenian insurgents from their bases in the United States. The invasion culminated with the Battle of Ridgeway near Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada's first modern battle and the first fought exclusively by Canadian soldiers and led entirely by Canadian officers.
Nine militia volunteers from Toronto's Queen's Own Rifles were killed in the battle, including three student soldiers from a University of Toronto rifle company called out while writing their final exams and which took the brunt of a Fenian charge at Limestone Ridge. While Canadians had not fought a major war in Canada since the War of 1812, the Fenians were all battle-hardened veterans of the Civil War which had just concluded the year before.
The "Ridgeway Nine" were Canada's first soldiers killed in action and Ridgeway was the last battle fought in Ontario against a foreign invader, but after the disastrous battle the Macdonald government covered-up what happened at Ridgeway so thoroughly that most Canadians today have never heard of this battle.
- from www.ridgewaybattle.ca
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