Troublous Times in Canada - A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870
by John A. Macdonald
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BY CAPT. JOHN A. MACDONALD (A Veteran of 1866 and 1870)

Troublous Times in Canada.



CHAPTER I.—Unhappy, Ireland Seething in Sedition—The Fenian Brotherhood—Hatching the Plot—The Movement of '65—A Split in the Fenian Camp.

CHAPTER II.—The Fenian Convention at Cincinnati—The Birth of the Irish Republic—"On to Canada"—Gen. Sweeny's Programme.

CHAPTER III.—The First Alarm—Canadian Volunteers Promptly Respond to the Call of Duty—The Campo Bello Fizzle—Fenians Gather on the Border—Operations on the Niagara Frontier.

CHAPTER IV.—The Landing in Canada—Preliminary Operations of the Fenian Forces Near Fort Erie—Advance into the Interior.

CHAPTER V.—The Second Alarm—Grand Uprising of the Canadian People—Departure of Troops for the Front—Gen. Napier's Plan of Campaign—List of the Various Corps Called out for Active Service.

CHAPTER VI.—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 Honor Roll—Incidents of the Fight—Public Funerals for the Dead.

CHAPTER VII.—The Expedition on the Steamer "W. T. Robb"—Fierce Fight at Fort Erie—Stiff Resistance of a Gallant Band of Canadians Against a Fenian Force Ten Times Their Number—List of the Wounded and Captured.

CHAPTER VIII.—The Governor-General's Body Guard—Denison's Rapid Ride—Col. Peacocke's Movements from Chippawa to Fort Erie—The Bivouac at Bowen's Farm—Arrival of Col. Lowry's Force at Fort Erie.

CHAPTER IX.—Hurried Evacuation of Canada by Gen. O'Neil—Capture of the Escaping Fenians by the United States Gunboat "Michigan."

CHAPTER X.—The Chicago Volunteers—A Noble Band of Patriots Return Home to Defend Their Native Land—A Striking Example of Canadian Patriotism.

CHAPTER XI.—"Johnny Canuck" Afloat—The Toronto Naval Brigade—Splendid Service on Board the Gunboats—The Beginning of the Canadian Navy—Arrival of British Tars.

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

CHAPTER XIII.—On the Vermont Border—Fenians Gather in Large Numbers—The Fizzle at Pigeon Hill—Arrest of the Fenian General Spier.

CHAPTER XIV.—Fenian Mobilization at Malone, N.Y., and Elsewhere—Gen. Meade's Prompt Action Stops the Invasion—Arrest of Gen. Sweeny and Staff.

CHAPTER XV.—The Fenian Prisoners—Correspondence Between the British and United States Governments Regarding Them.

CHAPTER XVI.—The Canadian Volunteers Receive the Thanks of the Government, and Warm Praise from the General Commanding and Other Officers for Their Patriotic Service in Defending the Country.

CHAPTER XVII.—A Retrospect of Events—A Combination of Unfortunate Circumstances Involve Leading Officers.

CHAPTER XVIII.—Dangers which Existed Previous to Confederation of the Provinces—Proposals of Annexation to the United States—Lessons Learned by the Fenian Raid.

Fenian Raid of 1870

CHAPTER I.—Gen. O'Neil Prepares for Another Raid on Canada—Secret Shipment of Arms to the Frontier.

CHAPTER II.—Another Call to Arms—The Canadian Volunteers Promptly Respond to the Summons.

CHAPTER III.—Fenians Again Invade Canada—A Raid from Vermont Promptly Repulsed by a Handful of Canadians.

CHAPTER IV.—Operations on the Missisquoi Frontier—The Battle of Eccles' Hill—Complete Defeat of the Fenian Army—Arrest of Gen. O'Neil.

CHAPTER. V.—The Canadian Frontier Vigilantly Guarded—Volunteers on Service at Danger Points all Along the Line.

CHAPTER VI.—Fenians Gather en the Huntingdon Border—Skirmish at Trout River—The Enemy Routed by the Canadian Troops.

CHAPTER VII.—The Dawn of Peace—The Volunteers Relieved from Further Service—Thanked by the Dominion Government, Lieutenant-General Commanding, and the Imperial Government—Medals Bestowed and Crown Lands Granted to the Veterans in Recognition of Their Services.


CHAPTER I.—Full Report of the Investigation by the Court of Inquiry in Regard to the Conduct of Lieut.-Col. Booker at the Battle of Lime Ridge, Together with the Evidence Submitted and the Finding of the Court.

CHAPTER II.—Report of the Charges Made Against Lieut.-Col. Dennis, Regarding his Conduct During the Fight at Fort Erie, with the Opinion Delivered by the Court of Inquiry who Investigated His Case.


One of the most dangerous and critical periods in the history of Canada was that which closely followed the termination of the Civil War between the Northern and Southern States of America in the year 1865. It is a strange fact that Canadian authors and historians do not seem to have fully realized the gravity of the situation that then existed, as the event has been passed over by them with the barest possible mention. Thus the people of the present generation know very little of the Fenian troubles of 1866 and 1870, and the great mass of the young Canadian boys and girls who are being educated in our Public Schools and Colleges are in total ignorance of the grave danger which cast dark shadows over this fair and prosperous Dominion in those stormy days. It was a period of great peril to this rising young Nation of the North, which might possibly have ended in the severance of Canada from British dominion. But happily this was prevented by the prompt measures that were taken to defend our soil, and the quick response that was made by the resolute Canadian Volunteers when the bugles sounded the call to assemble for active service on our frontiers.

The fierce conflict which had been waged in the United States of America for four long years between the North and the South was terminated by the subjugation of the latter in the spring of 1865, and the tattered battle flags of the Confederate forces were furled forever. Over a million of men, veteran soldiers of both armies, were still in the field when the Civil War ended, and when these mighty forces were disbanded, hundreds of thousands of trained warriors were thrown upon their own resources, without occupation or employment. While the majority of these soldiers quickly resumed their old business or farming pursuits, yet there remained idle a vast number of turbulent and restless spirits who were ready and willing to embark in any fillibustering expedition that might present itself. These men were all trained and seasoned veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies—soldiers who were inured to the hardships and rigors of many campaigns and fierce battles, and thousands of them readily enrolled themselves under the Fenian banners in anticipation of a war being inaugurated against the British nation, with the invasion of Canada as the first step.

The defence of our extensive Canadian frontier depended mainly upon the volunteer militia force of the scattered Provinces, and to their patriotism and gallantry in springing to arms when their services were needed to defend their native land, may be ascribed the glory of frustrating the attempts of the Fenian invaders to establish themselves on Canadian soil. True, there were some British regular troops on duty in Canada in 1866 around which to rally, and they did their duty nobly, but in the operations on the Niagara frontier especially, it was the Canadian volunteers who bore the brunt of battle, and by their devotion to duty, courage and bravery under hostile fire, succeeded in causing the hasty retirement of the Fenian invaders from our shores, and again, as in days of yore, preserved Canada to the Empire, as one of the brightest jewels in the British Crown.

Having personally seen active service on the Niagara frontier during both of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870, and retaining vivid recollections of the situation of affairs at the front during these two campaigns, I will endeavor in the succeeding chapters of this book to give the reader a faithful account of what occurred on these stirring occasions. I have not relied on memory alone to present these facts, but have corroborated my personal knowledge by reference to official records, and reports of officers, which may be found in the archives of the Militia Department at Ottawa, and the Ontario Bureau of Archives at Toronto.

I have endeavored to fully cover the subject, and put on record the splendid service which our gallant volunteers rendered to their country in 1866 and 1870. Hoping that the reader will find these pages interesting, and at all times be ready to emulate their example,

I am yours faithfully. JOHN A. MACDONALD. 41 Macdonell Ave., Toronto, May, 1910.



Every student of history is aware that for centuries the condition of affairs in Ireland has not been altogether happy, owing largely to the revolutionary schemes which have from time to time been hatched by so-called "patriots" to "free Ireland from the yoke of the oppressor," as they termed it in their appeals to the people to incite rebellion, but more properly speaking to bring about a repeal of the union between Great Britain and Ireland and establish an Irish nation on Irish soil. Many brave but misguided men have been led to their death by joining in such rebellious conspiracies against constitutional government in years gone by, and still the spirit of discontent and hatred of British rule is kept smouldering, with occasional outbursts of revolt as succeeding leaders appear on the scene to inflame the passions of the people.

Of the Irish troubles of earlier years it is not the purpose of the writer to speak, but rather to deal with events which occurred immediately prior to and during the period involving the Fenian invasions of Canada.

For some time previous to the year 1865 the leader of the revolutionary movement in Ireland was James Stephens. He was a man of considerable influence among his compatriots, possessed of good executive ability, and had great capacity for organization along revolutionary lines. Being an energetic worker and a forcible speaker, he quickly enlisted the cooperation of other "patriots" in promoting the establishment of the Fenian Brotherhood, of which he was chosen the "Head Centre" for Ireland. This organization spread with such rapidity throughout Ireland and America that it soon became one of the most dangerous and formidable revolutionary forces ever known in the history of any country. Its members were oath-bound to use every means to bring about the emancipation of Ireland from the rule of Great Britain, and to encompass the downfall of "the bloody Sassenachs" on every hand. After thoroughly planting the seeds of sedition in Ireland, Head Centre Stephens and his coadjutor General John O'Mahony visited America for the purpose of invoking the aid of their compatriots on this side of the Atlantic. Their idea was to make an attempt to emancipate Ireland by striking a blow for freedom on the soil of the Emerald Isle itself, and if successful to establish their cherished Republic firmly, become recognized as a nation by the different nations of the earth, and thereafter govern their own affairs. On their arrival in the United States the Irish envoys received a most enthusiastic welcome from their countrymen, and receptions were arranged in their honor on their visits to all of the principal cities in the Union. The speeches delivered at these gatherings were of the most fervid and enthusiastic nature, and the hopes of the Irish people rose high in the belief that an Irish Parliament would soon hold a session in Dublin. Money and men were asked for from America by Head Centre Stephens, both of which were freely promised "for the sake of the cause." In due course of time the Irish-Americans contributed over $200,000 in cash, besides an immense quantity of war material, towards making the proposed insurrection a success. Volunteers for active service on Irish soil were numerous, and everything looked rosy for Head Centre Stephens when he left America for Ireland to direct "The Movement of '65." But, alas, his high hopes were doomed to be shattered. The initial steps in the campaign had barely been taken when "dark clouds in the horizon" began to loom up. A small vessel, called the "Erin's Hope." had been despatched from America with a cargo of rifles, ammunition and other war supplies for the use of the Fenians in Ireland. A company of adventurous patriots were on board to assist their brethren in "the rising," and all were brave and confident of success. They had hoped to run into a secluded bay on the coast of Ireland during the favored hours of night, and land their expedition and supplies. But on arrival at the chosen point the ship was hailed by a British man-of-war and captured without resistance. The officers and crew were consigned to a British dungeon, and the ship and cargo confiscated. A British spy had kept the authorities informed, and the war vessel was at the designated point of landing to gather in the "forlorn hope" of the invaders. Other Irish-Americans who were constantly arriving as passengers by the ocean steamships to take part in the conflict were promptly arrested as they landed on the quays, and the rebellion of 1865 was nipped in the bud. Much dissension and dissatisfaction then arose within the Fenian Councils. A great deal of money had been spent and the attempt had proved a failure. The vigilance of the British authorities was so keen, and arrests so numerous, that the available prisons were soon filled, and the hopeful warriors who so valiantly boasted that they would quickly unfurl the "Sunburst of Erin" on the walls of Dublin Castle were obliged to retire into strict seclusion until an opportunity occurred to be smuggled out of Ireland by their friends and stowed away on ships bound back for America.

The failure of the rising in 1865 caused a serious division among the adherents of the cause in both America and Ireland, and the Fenian Brotherhood was split into two hostile camps thereby. It was considered that Stephens' policy of carrying on the rebellious operations in Ireland was an impossible and suicidal one to the success of the cause. Many Irish-Americans were languishing behind the bars of British prisons, with an uncertain fate awaiting them when they were arraigned for trial, and their comrades in the United States bitterly blamed Stephens and O'Mahony for the fiasco. Consequently the majority in America revolted, and seceded from the Stephens faction, claiming that he had woefully misrepresented the state of affairs that existed in Ireland, both as regarded preparations for a successful issue, and also the enthusiasm that was said to sufficiently dominate the people there to induce them to take up arms when the American contingent arrived.

Col. Wm. R. Roberts, of New York, was the leader of the American secessionists, who declared their belief that "No direct invasion or armed insurrection in Ireland would ever be successful in establishing an Irish Republic upon Irish soil, and placing her once more in her proper place as a nation among the nations of the earth." The forces of Col. Roberts gathered strength daily, and soon usurped control of the Fenian forces in America, much to the chagrin of Stephens and his followers.

Gen. O'Mahony, who Head Centre Stephens had placed in supreme charge of the affairs of the Fenian Brotherhood in America, was charged by Colonel Roberts and his colleagues with having dipped too deep into the treasury and by extravagance and other questionable methods dissipated the funds of the Brotherhood. This widened the breach, and Roberts became the popular idol with the majority of the American Fenians. Yet O'Mahony held on to office with a ragged remnant of his old retainers to support him, until finally Roberts triumphed and became the star around which all of the other Fenian "planets" revolved.



The seceders from the Stephens faction met in Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, in September, 1865, a very large number of delegates being present from all of the States in the Union. After the usual preliminary oratory and the adoption of several resolutions, the delegates formed themselves into a body which they termed "the Senate Wing of the Fenian Brotherhood." They ridiculed the idea of invading Ireland successfully, and changed their base of operations. "On to Canada" became their slogan, and the idea was so popular that they quickly secured the allegiance of thousands of disappointed Irishmen who were anxious and ready to strike a blow at England in any quarter In order that there should be some recognized source from which all orders, proclamations and edicts could be officially promulgated, it was resolved to form an Irish Republic (on paper), as the Fenians were without territory until they captured it. This was accomplished by the adoption of a constitution framed on the model of that used by the United States. Its provisions included the usual regulations (both civil and military) for a Republican form of government, and its unanimous acceptance by the delegates was received with glad acclaim. Col. Wm. R. Roberts was chosen as President of the new Republic, and Gen. T. W. Sweeny (who was then commanding officer of the 16th United States Infantry) as Secretary of War. The other Cabinet port-folios were handed out to "lesser lights" in the Fenian fold.

As even Republican governments cannot be maintained, or military campaigns conducted without the expenditure of money, the Irish Republic could prove no exception to the rule, and therefore the work of collecting funds and gathering munitions of war for the invasion of Canada was immediately commenced. Fenian "circles," or lodges, were organized in every possible corner of the United States for the purpose of stirring up the enthusiasm of the Irish people and securing money to purchase arms and ammunition. Military companies and regiments were formed wherever practicable, and drilling and parading was pursued openly during the fall of 1865 and winter of 1866, getting ready for the coming fray.

Funds were raised in various ways—by voluntary subscriptions, by holding picnics, excursions, fairs, bazaars and other methods. But the largest source of revenue was derived by imposing upon the credulity of the sons and daughters of Erin by the sale to them of bonds of the Irish Republic, a chimerical dream which was painted in such glowing colors and presented with such stirring appeals to their patriotism that hard-earned dollars were pulled out from every nook and cranny in many Irish homes to invest in these "securities" and thus help along the cause. The following is a copy of the bond, which will serve to show its wording:—

No. ...... No. ......

It is Hereby Certified that

The Irish Republic is indebted to ....... or bearer in the sum of TEN DOLLARS, redeemable six months after the acknowledgment of THE IRISH NATION, with interest from the date hereof inclusive, at six per cent, per annum, payable on presentation of this Bond at the Treasury of the Irish Republic.

Date ......

[Stamp. Office of the Treasury.]

JOHN O'NEILL, Agent for the Irish Republic.

In the light of subsequent events, when the dreams of the visionary enthusiasts have been so rudely dispelled, the sight of one of these bonds must present as much sadness and pathos to the beholder as the vision of an old Confederate bank note does to the erstwhile defenders of the "Lost Cause" of the Southern States.

As the coffers of the Irish Republic began to fill rapidly, the Fenian leaders became more hopeful and bombastic, while enthusiasm among the rank and file continued to be worked up to fever pitch. President Roberts gathered a select coterie about him at his headquarters in New York to assist in upholding his dignity, and incidentally help to boost the cause. Plots and plans of all kinds were hatched against Great Britain, and loud-mouthed orators were kept busy for several months fanning the embers of Irish patriotism into flame.

General Sweeny was very active during the winter of 1865 and 1866 in getting his "War Department" fully organized and his field forces ready for the spring campaign against Canada. His staff was composed of the following officers, all of whom had seen active service in the Civil War:—

Chief of Staff—Brigadier-General C. Carroll Tavish. Chief of Engineer Corps—Col. John Meehan. Chief of Ordnance—Col. C. H. Rundell. Engineer Corps—Lieut.-Col. C. H. Tresiliar. Assistant Adjutant-General—Major E. J. Courtney. Ordnance Department—Major M. O'Reilly. Quartermaster—Major M. H. Van Brunt. Aide-de-Camps—Capt. D. W. Greely and Capt. Daniel O'Connell.

This galaxy of officers strutted majestically around Headquarters garbed in the gorgeous green and gold uniforms of the Fenian Army, looked wise, and promised all enquirers that important movements would be made in the spring. Secret meetings were held almost daily at Headquarters, when the plan of campaign would be discussed over and over again, and amendments made wherever necessary. Finally the following plan of operations was given out in March, 1866, as the gist of one evolved by the Council, which is said to have embodied Gen. Sweeny's whole strategic programme:—

"Expeditions for the invasion of Canada will rendezvous at Detroit and Rochester, and at Ogdensburg and Plattsburg, and at Portland. The forces assembled at the two first-named points are to operate conjointly against Toronto, Hamilton, and the west of Upper Canada. From Ogdensburg and Plattsburg demonstrations will be made against Montreal, and ultimately Quebec; Kingston will be approached by Cape Vincent, while Portland will be the general place of embarkation for expeditions against the capitals of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia."


"The Canadian and provincial borders once crossed, bases of operations will be established in the enemy's country, so that international quarrels with the Washington Government may be evaded. There are to be lands chosen at the head of Passamaquoddy Bay, Saint John's, on the Chambly, close to the foot of Lake Champlain; Prescott, on the Saint Lawrence; Wolfe Island, at the foot of Lake Ontario; Hamilton, Cobourg Goderich, and Windsor, in Upper Canada. These places are all within convenient distances of the United States, and afford by water an easy retreat, as well as cunning receptacles for fresh American levies."


"The Irish Republic calculates to have, by the first of April, fifteen millions of dollars at its disposal in ready cash. This will give transportation and maintenance for one month to thirty thousand men, a greater number than were ever before mustered to the conquest of the Canadian possessions. Of this force, eight thousand will carry the line of the Grand Trunk road west of Hamilton; five thousand, crossing from Rochester to Cobourg, will be prepared to move either east, in time to act jointly with three thousand men from Wolfe Island, upon Kingston, or to take part with the western detachment in the capture of Toronto. All this, it is believed, will be the work of two weeks. Thus entrenched securely in Upper Canada, holding all the routes of the Grand Trunk, sufficient rolling stock secured to control the main line, the Fenians hope to attract to their colors fifty thousand American Irishmen, and equip a navy on Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario. The avenues to return so being secured, thirty thousand men, under General Sweeny, will move down the Saint Lawrence, upon Kingston, simultaneously with ten thousand men by the lines of the Chambly, and these will converge upon Montreal; in the meantime isolated expeditions from the rendezvous at Saint Andrews will reduce Saint John and Halifax, these furnishing depots for privateers and ocean men-of-war to intercept British transports and effectually close the Saint Lawrence. Quebec will thus fall by the slow conquest of time; or, if the resources of the garrison should be greater than the patience of the invaders, the same heights which two Irishmen have scaled before, will again give foothold to the columns of the brotherhood."


"At Chicago the Fenians already possess five sailing vessels, a tug, and two steam transports; at Buffalo they are negotiating for vessels; at Bay City, Michigan, and at Cleveland they have other craft in process of refitting; these will simultaneously raise the green flag and stand ready to succor the land forces. Goderich, Sarnia and Windsor will be simultaneously occupied; all the available rolling stock seized, and the main line of the Grand Trunk cut at Grand River, to prevent the passage of cars and locomotives to Hamilton. The geographical configuration of the western half of Upper Canada will permit of a few thousand men holding the entire section of the country between Cobourg and the Georgian Bay. These are connected by a chain of lakes and water courses, and the country affords subsistence for a vast army. Horses sufficient to mount as many cavalry as the Brotherhood can muster, quartermasters' teams in quantity, and a vast amount of lake shipping, will at once be reduced to a grand military department, with Hamilton for the capital, and a loan advertised for. While this is being negotiated, Gen. Sweeny will push rapidly forward on the line of the Grand Trunk, in time to superintend the fall of Montreal, where ocean shipping will be found in great quantity. With the reduction of Montreal a demand will be made upon the United States for a formal recognition of Canada, whose name is to be changed at once to New Ireland. While this is being urged, the green flag will scour all the bays and gulfs in Canada; a Fenian fleet from San Francisco will carry Vancouver and the Fraser River country, to give security to the Pacific squadron, rendezvousing at San Juan, and the rights of belligerents will be enforced from the British Government by prompt retaliation for the cruelties of British courtmartials."


"The population of the British provinces is little above two and a half millions, and the military resources of the united provinces fall short of sixty thousand men. Of these nearly ten thousand are of Irish birth or descent. The States will furnish for the subjugation of these, eighty thousand veteran troops. With the single exception of Quebec, it is believed the whole of the British provinces will fall in a single campaign. During the ensuing winter diversions will be put in motion in Ireland, and while it is believed the Brotherhood can defy the Queen's war transports to land an army in the west, arrangements will be developed to equip a powerful navy for aggressive operations on the sea. Before the 1st of June, it is thought, fifty commissioned vessels of war and privateers, carrying three hundred guns, will be afloat, and to maintain these a tremendous moral influence will be exerted upon every Irish-American citizen to contribute the utmost to the general fund for the support of the war.

"By the tempting offer of a surrender of Canada to the United States, Mr. Seward, it is hoped, will wink at connivance between American citizens and the Fenian conquerors, and by another summer it is thought the dominion of the Brotherhood north of the St. Lawrence will be formally acknowledged by the United States, Russia, and each of the American republics. The third year of Irish tenure in Canada will, it is believed, array two of the great powers against Great Britain. John Mitchell, at Paris, will organize the bureau of foreign agents; and Ireland, maintaining a position of perpetual revolt, will engage for her own suppression a considerable part of the regular British levies."


"At the present time a bureau of operations is being quietly organized in Paris, where the opposition press has already proclaimed for Irish nationality. It is Mr. Mitchell who sees that the funds of the Brotherhood are distributed in Ireland; he also is in correspondence with liberal statesmen in Great Britain, and conducts the disintegration of the British army by touching the loyalty of the Irish troops, who constitute one-third of the Queen's service."


"Among the earliest aggressive operations will be the overhauling of a Cunard steamer between New York and Cape Race, with her usual allotment of specie. In like manner the British lines of steamers proceeding from England to Quebec, Portland, Boston and Halifax, will be arrested and their funds secured."


"Military operations in Ireland must, of necessity, be confined to the interior. Three military departments will be organized—the Shannon, the Liffey, and the Foyle—and the campaign will be entirely predatory or guerilla in its conduct. The British Coast Guard stations will fall easy conquests, their number and isolation contributing to their ruin; while from the Wicklow Mountains, through all the rocky fastnesses of Ireland, the cottagers will descend upon the British garrisons, maintaining perpetual and bloody rebellion till the better news comes across the sea or the patience of England is quite worn out."

This was a mighty and stupendous programme truly, but oh how visionary! It embraced the extreme aspirations of the boldest and most sanguinary Fenian's, and its publication no doubt served to bring more money into their treasury. But, alas for human hopes, its execution never happened. Yet it fired the hearts of the soldiers of the Irish Republican Army, and they eagerly awaited the summons to march "On to Canada." All through that winter drilling and preparation continued, and the enthusiasm of the men was kept warm by fervid oratory appealing to their patriotism, while they boldly chanted their song:—

"We are a Fenian Brotherhood, skilled in the arts of war. And we're going to fight for Ireland, the land that we adore. Many battles we have won, along with the boys in blue. And we'll go and capture Canada, for we've nothing else to do."

Meanwhile the Canadian Government deemed it prudent to place troops at some of the exposed points along the border, and on the 15th of November, 1865, the following volunteer corps were called out for Frontier Service, and were stationed at the following places, the whole force being under the command of the Lieutenant-General commanding Her Majesty's Forces in North America:—

At Prescott—The Ottawa Garrison Battery of Artillery; Capt. A. G. Forrest. First Lieutenant W. Duck, and Second Lieutenant Albert Parson.

The Morrisburg Garrison Battery of Artillery; Capt. T. S. Rubidge. First Lieutenant Peter A. Eagleson, and Second Lieutenant G. S. L. Stoddart.

At Niagara—Quebec Rifle Company; Capt. D. Gagnier, Lieut. Elzear Garneau, and Ensign Thos. H. A. Roy.

Montreal Rifle Company; Capt. P. J. M. Cinqmars, Lieut. J. O. Labranche, and Ensign G. d'O. d'Orsonnens.

At Sarnia—Toronto Rifle Company; Capt. Wm. D. Jarvis, Lieut. Farquhar Morrison, and Ensign W. C. Campbell.

Woodstock Rifle Company; Capt. Henry B. Beard, Lieut. John Matthewson, and Ensign James C'oad.

At Windsor—Hamilton Infantry Company; Capt. Henry E. Irving, Lieut. Robert Grant, and Ensign J. J. Hebden.

London Infantry Company; Capt. Arch. Macpherson. Lieut. Edward W. Griffith, and Ensign George Ellis.

At Sandwich—Port Hope Infantry Company; Capt. A. T. H. Williams, Lieut. James F. McLeod, and Ensign Francis E. Johnson.

Major C. F. Hill, of the First Prince of Wales Regiment (Montreal), was in command of the forces stationed at Sandwich, Windsor and Sarnia. These troops were kept on service for several months, and their presence at the points named and the constant vigilance maintained, had an effect in warning the Fenians that Canada's sons were alive to the duty of the hour, and were resolved to guard and protect their homes and firesides from desecration by invading foes or sacrifice their lives if necessary in performing that sacred duty.


While the above detachments were on service at the points named, the danger was equally great at other places, especially along the St. Lawrence frontier. The town of Brockville was particularly exposed to attack, as during the winter months the river is usually frozen over, which would afford the Fenians an easy way of crossing on a solid bridge of ice. At this time the town was exceptionally fortunate in having a most excellent volunteer military corps as one of its most popular local institutions, which was known as the Brockville Rifle Company. This command figured so prominently in the service of the Volunteer Militia Force of Canada in the early days that it deserves special mention in the records of the country.

The Brockville Rifles was one of the first companies organized under the Volunteer Militia Act, being promoted in the spring of 1855 by Capt. Smythe (who was afterward captain of a company in H. M. 100th Regiment, which was raised in Canada in 1857 and 1858 for service in the British Army, and who subsequently became commanding officer of that regiment).

As Brockville and vicinity was first settled in 1783 and 1784 by the U. E. Loyalists (all of whom had borne arms in defence of the British Crown), their descendants have always been noted for their unswerving loyalty and fealty to the Mother Country. Therefore when the opportunity was offered to its citizens to exemplify their patriotism by serving their Queen and country, they promptly obeyed the call, and in a short time the ranks of the Brockville Rifles were filled up, and drilling commenced. The muster roll was sent in to Militia Headquarters, and the Company was formally gazetted on September 5th, 1855. Among the names that appear on the first roll of this Company are those of William H. Jackson and Wilmot H. Cole, both of whom are still living at this date, and are supposed to be the only two survivors of the old corps. Each of these gentlemen took a great interest in military affairs, and after duly qualifying themselves, were gradually promoted in the service until they attained high commands—the former being appointed one of the first Brigade Majors under the Militia Act of 1862 (and subsequently becoming a Deputy Adjutant-General, who discharged important duties at Brockville, London, Winnipeg and Ottawa), while Wilmot H. Cole, after serving through all the grades, rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of the Forty-first Battalion (of which the Brockville Rifles was always No. 1 Company), the duties of which position he filled with great ability and credit for twenty-seven consecutive years, retiring on July 1st, 1898.

The Brockville Rifle Company was selected by the Government as one of the units to form the regiment organized in 1864, under command of Lieut.-Col. W. Osborne Smith, to guard the St. Clair and Detroit River frontiers (extending from Sarnia on the north to Amherstburg on the south) for the purpose of preventing raids from Canadian territory on the United States by organized gangs of desperate men from the Confederate States, who had come north for that purpose.

The Canadian regiment had its headquarters at Windsor, with detachments posted at that point, and at Sarnia, Chatham, Sandwich and Amherstburg. To the latter point the Brockville and Belleville Rifle Companies were sent in command of the following officers:—

Brockville Rifle Company—Major James Crawford, Lieut. W. H. Cole, and Ensign Edmund W. Windeat.

Belleville Rifle Company—Capt. Charles G. Le Vesconte. Lieut. James Brown, and Ensign Mackenzie Bowell.

The two companies at Amherstburg improved their time by engaging in constant drill, and by the maintenance of strict discipline and close attention to the duties required of them, they became very efficient. After five months of frontier service the regiment was relieved on the 4th of May, 1865, and returned to their homes.

In the fall of 1865 the Fenians began to get very active, and the feeling prevailed among the people of Brockville that some provision should be made for the protection of that town. The Brockville Rifles at that time was in a very efficient condition, having four officers and 85 rank and file, as follows:—Major James Crawford in command, Lieut. W. H. Cole, Ensign E. W. Windeat and 65 non-commissioned officers and men, with an additional gun detachment composed of one officer and 20 men, equipped with a 6-pound brass field gun, under command of Lieut. Robert Bowie, who had been at Amherstburg with the company the year previous. (Lieut. Bowie was born a soldier, his father having held an important command in the Tower of London, and had private quarters there with his wife when Robert, his only son, was born.)

Major Crawford called his officers together, and after a discussion of what might happen to Brockville in its unprotected condition, it was decided to make the following offer to the Militia Department:—As the Company was now 85 strong, they would enlist 15 more men, making a total of 100. The men would be called out at 6.30 p.m. every day, given a two hours' drill; an officer's guard to be mounted, to consist of one sergeant, one corporal and 24 men; sentries to be posted at seven of the most exposed places, including one at each of the two banks; the non-commissioned officers and men to be paid 25 cents each per day, the officers giving their services free, and if the Department would furnish the necessary bedding the Company would have 60 of the remaining men sleep in the Armory every night, to be ready for any emergency. This would enable the men to attend to their usual daily avocations and not interfere with the business requirements of their employers. This patriotic offer was at once accepted by the Government, and orders were issued to have the duties carried out as above stated, which was done in every detail from the 15th of December, 1865, to the eventful day in March, 1866, when the first general call was made on the Volunteer Force for service on the frontier.



Early in the month of March, 1866, considerable activity was observable among the Fenians in both the United States and Ireland, and it became known to the authorities that a "rising" was contemplated, to occur on St. Patrick's Day. That a simultaneous raid on Canada had been planned was evident, and as the Government maintained a force of secret service agents in the principal American cities to keep watch on the movements of the Fenians, reliable information was furnished which was regarded of sufficient importance by the Canadian authorities to warrant prompt action in putting the country in a state of defence. Accordingly on the 7th of March a General Order was issued by Col. P. L. Macdougall, Adjutant-General of the Canadian Militia, calling out 10,000 volunteers for active service. The summons was flashed across the wires to all points in the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, and fourteen thousand men promptly responded to the call. By 4 o'clock on the following day these forces were all assembled at their respective headquarters, awaiting further orders. So eager were the young men of Canada to perform their duty in those trying times that a force of 50,000 could have been raised as easily as the number called for. Most of the companies and battalions were reported "over strength" when the returns were received at headquarters, and the Government decided to retain the whole 14,000 on service pending developments of the enemy's movements. Lieut.-General Sir John Michel (then commanding Her Majesty's forces in North America) was placed in supreme command, with Major-Gen. James Lindsay in command of the troops in Canada East, and Major-Gen. G. Napier, C.B., in charge of the forces in Canada West.

On the 8th of March, the following companies were ordered to report for duty to Major Crawford at Brockville for the purpose of forming a Provisional Battalion:—

Perth Rifle Company—Capt. Edmund Spillman. Gananoque Rifle Company—Capt. Robert McCrum. Carleton Place Rifle Company—Capt. James Poole. Perth Infantry Company—Capt. Thomas Scott. Almonte Infantry Company—Capt. James D. Gemmill. Brockville Infantry Company—Capt. Jacob D. Buell.

The above units promptly reported, and the organization of the Battalion was effected by a mergement of them with the Brockville Rifles, which was placed on full service and divided, the right half forming a company of 50 men under Capt. W. H. Cole, and the left half (50 men) placed in command of Lieut. Windeat. Lieut. Robert Bowie was appointed Adjutant of the new Battalion thus created.

Thirty Spencer rifles were issued to the Brockville Rifles, and given to Capt. Cole's company. That officer compiled a drill manual which instructed the men armed with the repeating rifles to act on the same words of command issued to those who had the muzzle-loading Enfields, which was so excellent in practice that he was afterwards highly complimented by Major-General Lindsay when the Battalion was inspected by him in the following May. This Battalion remained on duty at Brockville until about the 16th of May, when they were released from further service and permitted to return to their homes.

For several weeks the country was kept in a state of feverish, excitement, as all sorts of rumors of intended raids at different points were prevalent. Constant drilling and vigilance was maintained, and all the avenues of approach to the frontier towns and exposed points were closely guarded. The weather was very severe that winter, especially during the period the troops were on duty, and many of the survivors of those eventful days will doubtless remember the frost-bites they received while pacing their dreary beats on guard duty, and the many other discomforts which fell to their lot.

The 17th of March passed without the anticipated attacks being made, however, and the fears of the people were gradually allayed. The Fenians had evidently reconsidered their plans so far as Canada was concerned, as the Frost King held sway with rigid severity, and decided to delay their invasion until early summer. On the 28th of March the force on active service was reduced from 14,000 to 10,000 (the original prescribed number), and on the 31st of March all were relieved from permanent duty with the exception of the advanced frontier posts, but were required to parade and drill on two days of each week at local headquarters.

Meanwhile the Fenians kept up their drill and warlike preparations. Immense quantities of arms and ammunition were purchased and shipped to various points in the United States contiguous to the Canadian frontier, where they could quickly be obtained by the invaders when wanted.

During the early part of April a number of Fenians gathered in the towns of Eastport and Calais, in the State of Maine, with the avowed purpose of capturing the Island of Campo Bello, a British possession at the mouth of the St. Croix River, on the boundary line between the Province of New Brunswick and the United States. This expedition was under the direction of "General" Dorian, Killian, who was one of the leading lights of the O'Mahony faction of the Fenian Brotherhood. This move was made contrary to the fixed policy of the Stephens-O'Mahony wing of the Fenian organization, but something had to be done to satisfy the impatient people who were providing the funds to inaugurate the war and were clamoring for immediate action. So after considerable deliberation and hesitation, General O'Mahony gave his consent to the proposed invasion, and preparations were hurriedly made. A vessel was chartered at New York, and being loaded with arms and ammunition, sailed for Eastport, Maine. The rank and file of the Fenian force gathered quietly at Eastport, Calais and adjacent towns, and awaited the arrival of their armament. In the meantime the Canadian military authorities were getting ready to meet the filibusters, and strong forces of volunteers were posted along the New Brunswick frontier to watch events and be prepared for action as soon as the Fenians attempted to make a landing. Three British war vessels steamed quietly into the St. Croix River, ready for instant service, and a couple of American gunboats were also on guard to prevent a crossing. General Meade, with a battalion of United States troops, arrived at Eastport, with orders from the American Government to see that a breach of the Neutrality Act was not committed. On the same day the vessel with arms for the Fenians sailed into Eastport harbor and was promptly seized by the United States officials. This was "the last straw" to break the hopes of the Fenians, and they left for their homes without accomplishing anything, utterly dejected, hungry and weary, and bitterly cursing their leaders, and the American authorities particularly, for preventing them from crossing the line. This fiasco was a mortifying blow to General O'Mahony and his supporters, and the cohorts of Roberts and Sweeny gained more confidence and support as the star of the Stephens faction grew dimmer.

The remainder of April and the month of May passed away quietly, and the people of Canada had almost dismissed the Fenian "bugaboo" from their minds, and were enjoying a period of peace and prosperity, when again the Demon of War loomed up on the border more terrible than ever. This time it was the Roberts-Sweeny section of the Fenian Brotherhood who were bent on making trouble for Canada, and if possible carry out their elaborate plan of campaign for conquering our Provinces. All during the winter and spring the Fenian leaders had been secretly and sedulously at work making preparations for simultaneous raids on Canada at different places, and towards the end of May the Irish Republican Army began massing on the border for that purpose. At strategic points all along our extensive frontier the Fenian forces were quietly gathering, evidently with the purpose of trying to work out the wide scheme of Gen. Sweeny to capture Canada and hand us over body and bones to the United States.

At St. Albans, Vermont, and adjacent villages, a large force gathered for the purpose of making a raid from that quarter, in the possible hope that with the reinforcements they expected, they might be able to hold that section of country and operate against the City of Montreal with some degree of success, in conjunction with two other columns which were expected to carry the St. Lawrence line.

At Malone, New York, another strong force assembled under the command of the Fenian Gen. M. J. Heffernan, who announced his intention of making an attack on Cornwall. Gen. Murphy and Gen. O'Reilly, both veteran officers of the Union Army in the Civil War, were attached to this column, and were very assiduous in their efforts to make it an efficient fighting force.

At Ogdensburg, New York, Gen. Sweeny personally supervised the mobilization of a large contingent of his warriors. This column was organized for the purpose of attacking Prescott, Brockville, and other points along the St. Lawrence, and after taking possession of the Canadian shore and the Grand Trunk Railway, be available for his plan of sweeping the whole country east as far as Montreal, and join with the other columns (which were to start from Malone and St. Albans) in capturing that city.

Cape Vincent, Oswego, Rochester and other points along the Upper St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario were places of rendezvous for the Fenian troops who were steadily arriving from the interior of New York State, while the Western and Southern contingents gathered at Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie and Buffalo.

As the Niagara frontier possesses many attractions for an invading force (as in the days of 1812 and 1814), it was decided to again make that historic territory one of the arenas for hostile operations. Gen. Sweeny fondly nursed the hope that while our forces were busily engaged there, that he would be able to make crossings at two or three other points along the border. As the scene of the first active operations was presented on the Niagara Peninsula, I will relate those events first, and then return to a description of what was occurring on the St. Lawrence and Vermont borders.

For some days previous to the 31st of May large numbers of mysterious strangers were noticed to be gathering in some of the towns and cities adjacent to the Niagara frontier. In Buffalo particularly this mobilization of men with a purpose was observable, but so reticent were they, and so careful of their movements causing comment, that suspicions were partially disarmed. Yet these strangers were all Fenian soldiers, who were silently and quickly gathering from various States of the Union with a determined intention to make a quick dash on Canada, which they hoped to capture, and set up their standards upon our soil. All preparations for the coup had been made, and yet the people of Canada seemed to dream not of their peril.

Towards midnight on the 31st of May those strangers in Buffalo were noticed to be assembling in groups, squads and companies, and moving as if by a pre-arranged programme in the direction of Black Rock, two or three miles north of the city, on the Niagara River. Suspicious-looking waggons and furniture vans were also moving in the same direction. These were loaded with arms and ammunition for the use of "the Army of Conquest," but no attempt was made by the United States authorities to stop the expedition, although it was a clear breach of the Neutrality Act then in force between the two countries. At the hour of midnight, when the peaceful citizens on the Canadian side of the Niagara River were slumbering in their beds, the Fenian hordes were steadily gathering on the other side of the shimmering stream and making preparations to effect a crossing. Two powerful tugs and several canal boats had been chartered to convey the Fenians across to Canada, and these were quickly and quietly loaded with men and munitions of war, As the grey dawn of day was breaking on the morning of the 1st of June, the Fenian transports started across the river. The troops consisted of one brigade of the Irish Republican Army, under command of Gen. John O'Neil, a veteran soldier who had seen much active service and hard fighting in the American Civil War. This brigade was composed of the 13th Regiment (Col. O'Neill), from Tennessee; 17th Regiment (Col. Owen Starr), from Kentucky; 18th Regiment (Lieut.-Col. John Grace), from Ohio; the 7th Regiment (Col. John Hoye), from Buffalo, N.Y., and a detachment of troops from Indiana. The whole number was estimated to be about 1,500 men, who were principally veteran soldiers of the Northern and Southern armies.

This was the "forlorn hope" who were expected to make the first landing and hold the country until sufficient reinforcements could be rushed across the border to enable them to make a success of the campaign. Buffalo was full of Fenians and their sympathizers at that time, and thousands were coming into the city every day to take part in the invasion.

It was an opportune time for such a movement, as the popular feeling of the American people was not altogether amicable or friendly to the British nation, and it was the hope of the promoters of the raid that something might occur which would give them the countenance and support of the United States. It is a well-known fact that under the political system of America the Irish vote is a dominant factor in elections, and all classes of citizens who aspire to public office are more or less controlled by that element. Consequently the vigilance of many of Uncle Sam's officials was relaxed, and they winked the other eye as the invaders marched towards Canada, instead of endeavoring to stop them from committing a breach of the law of nations in regard to neutrality.

It was asserted in the public press of the United States and proclaimed by the Fenians themselves at that time, that Andrew Johnson (who was then President of the United States) and Secretary of State Seward openly encouraged the invasion for the purpose of turning it to political account in the settlement of the Alabama Claims with Great Britain. In view of the fact that he held back the issuance of his proclamation forbidding a breach of the Neutrality Act for five full days after the Raid had been made, there was manifestly some understanding between President Johnson and the Fenian leaders, as the American authorities were perfectly cognizant of what was intended long before Gen. O'Neil crossed the boundary, and might have been prevented from doing so, had the United States officials at Buffalo exercised such due vigilance as Gen. Meade did in the Campo Bello affair.



About half-past three o'clock on the morning of June 1st the peaceful shores of Canada were reached by the invaders. The embarkation was made at Pratt's Iron Furnace Dock on the American side, and the landing took place at what was then known as the Lower Ferry Dock, about a mile below the village of Fort Erie. Just as the boats struck the shore, the color-bearers of Col. Owen Starr's 17th Kentucky Regiment sprang on to Canadian soil and unfurled their Irish flags amid terrific cheering by the Fenian troops. This was the first intimation that the people of the quiet vicinity received that an invasion had actually occurred, and it was a terrible awakening from peaceful slumber to most of them. There were no Canadian troops whatever within 25 miles of Fort Erie, and the invaders had it all their own way. The war material was quickly unloaded from the canal boats, and Gen. O'Neil at once began making dispositions of his force to hold his ground. The total number of troops that came over by the first boats was stated to be 1,340, with 2,500 stand of arms. This force was rapidly augmented during the day by reinforcements, so that by evening the strength of the Fenian army in Canada amounted to about 2,000 men.

After posting guards and throwing out pickets in various directions, Gen. O'Neil marched up to the village of Fort Erie with the main portion of his brigade, which he occupied without resistance. He then made requisition on the village authorities for meals for his men. He stated that he would do no personal injury to private citizens, but wanted food and horses, and these he proposed to take forcibly if they were not furnished willingly. Dr. Kempson, the Reeve of the village, in order to protect the citizens and prevent pillage, at once called a meeting of the Municipal Council, who decided to provide the food demanded. In some cases Fenian bonds were offered in payment for articles, but were not acceptable to the Canadian people, and were courteously and firmly refused.

Immediately after breakfast had been served and rations distributed, Gen. O'Neil made details of troops for various purposes. Guards were posted all along the river front, from the ruins of old Fort Erie to a point below Haggart's Dock, who were instructed to shoot any person who attempted to interfere with them. Detachments were sent to cut the telegraph wires and destroy part of the Buffalo and Lake Huron railway track (now the Grand Trunk), which was quickly done. A detail under command of Capt. Geary, of the 17th Kentucky Regiment, was despatched to burn Sauerwine's Bridge, on the railway track between Fort Erie and Ridgeway, and tear up the rails. This was only partially accomplished, as after the Fenians left some of the people residing in the vicinity rallied and extinguished the flames in the burning bridge before much serious damage was done. The railway track, however, was torn up for a considerable distance by the raiders.

An early morning train on the B. & L. H. Railway narrowly escaped capture by a detail of troops sent for that purpose. The train had just succeeded in transferring its passengers to the ferry boat "International" and was starting back westward empty, when the Fenians put in their appearance. The plucky engineer, seeing the danger, pulled the throttle of his engine wide open and saved the train from capture by a narrow margin.

After committing sundry other depredations in the way of cutting telegraph wires and destroying public property. Gen. O'Neil marched the main body of his troops down, the River Road to Frenchman's Creek, where they encamped in an orchard on Newbigging's Farm, about half, a mile north of the Lower Ferry. Here the Fenians began work on the construction of a line of breastworks and entrenchments, which kept them busily employed all afternoon.

A detachment of the 7th Buffalo Regiment, under command of Capt. Donohue, made a reconnaissance in the direction of Chippawa during the afternoon, and after discovering a party of mounted farmers, who they mistook for Canadian cavalry, fired a volley at them without effect and then retreated valiantly back to the Fenian camp, bombastically boasting that they had routed a strong force of British troops.

Other details had been busy seizing horses and food supplies, and mounted scouts galloped for miles in all directions, scouring the country seeking information as to the whereabouts of the Canadian forces, and at the same time distributing copies of the following proclamation:—

"To the People of British America:

"We come among you as the foes of British rule in Ireland, We have taken up the sword to strike down the oppressors' rod, to deliver Ireland from the tyrant, the despoiler, the robber. We have registered our oaths upon the altar of our country in the full view of heaven and sent up our vows to the throne of Him who inspired them. Then, looking about us for an enemy, we find him here, here in your midst, where he is most vulnerable and convenient to our strength... We have no issue with the people of these Provinces, and wish to have none but the most friendly relations. Our weapons are for the oppressors of Ireland. Our bows shall be directed only against the power of England; her privileges alone shall we invade, not yours. We do not propose to divest you of a solitary right you now enjoy... We are here neither as murderers, nor robbers, for plunder and spoliation. We are here as the Irish army of liberation, the friends of liberty against despotism, of democracy against aristocracy, of the people against their oppressors. In a word, our war is with the armed power of England, not with the people, not with these Provinces. Against England, upon land and sea, till Ireland is free... To Irishmen throughout these Provinces we appeal in the name of seven centuries of British iniquity and Irish misery and suffering, in the names of our murdered sires, our desolate homes, our desecrated altars, our million of famine graves, our insulted name and race—to stretch forth the hand of brotherhood in the holy cause of fatherland, and smite the tyrant where we can. We conjure you, our countrymen, who from misfortune inflicted by the very tyranny you are serving, or from any other cause, have been forced to enter the ranks of the enemy, not to be willing instruments of your country's death or degradation. No uniform, and surely not the blood-dyed coat of England, can emancipate you from the natural law that binds your allegiance to Ireland, to liberty, to right, to justice. To the friends of Ireland, of freedom, of humanity, of the people, we offer the olive branch of peace and the honest grasp of friendship. Take it Irishmen, Frenchmen, American, take it all and trust it... We wish to meet with friends; we are prepared to meet with enemies. We shall endeavor to merit the confidence of the former, and the latter can expect from us but the leniency of a determined though generous foe and the restraints and relations imposed by civilized warfare.

"(Signed) T. W. SWEENY.

"Major-General Commanding the Armies of Ireland."

During the afternoon and evening there was considerable excitement and uneasiness in the Fenian camp, caused by rumors of the near approach of the Canadian troops, and officers and men steadily prepared for any emergency. Gen. O'Neil had been expecting heavy reinforcements all day, but they failed to appear, although it was estimated that there were over 10,000 Fenians then assembled in Buffalo and vicinity, with a plentiful supply of arms and ammunition. A few came over in rowboats as evening approached, but the large forces that were expected remained on the other side, cautiously awaiting developments.

It was the evident intention of the Fenian army to penetrate the country and capture and destroy the Welland Canal, and subsequent events confirmed that as part of their plan of campaign.

As the shades of night fell, strong guards were posted around the Fenian camp, and the roads leading thereto were effectively picketed. From reports brought in by his scouts and spies, Gen. O'Neil learned that two Canadian columns were being mobilized—one at Chippawa and the other at Port Colborne—and he resolved to make a quick dash on one of these before a junction could be effected between the two, counting upon a surprise and the prestige of his men as veteran soldiers to win a victory. A council of war was therefore held by O'Neil and his officers, and it was resolved to make an advance immediately.

About 10 o'clock that night the men were aroused and commanded to "fall in" for the movement forward. A large quantity of arms and ammunition which had been brought over for the use of the expected reinforcements was now found to be an impediment, and O'Neil decided to destroy them to prevent their falling into the hands of the Canadians. Consequently hundreds of rifles and other munitions of war were burned or thrown into Frenchman's Creek before leaving their camp.

The Fenian column then started down the River Road towards Black Creek. On arrival at a point near that stream they bivouacked by the roadside and awaited reports of scouts. It was here that Gen. O'Neil learned that a force of Canadian volunteers would leave Port Colborne for Ridgeway early on the morning of June 2nd, and he decided to go forward and attack them. It was just about daybreak that he put his brigade in motion and moved west by an old bush road until he struck the Ridge Road, which bears south-west from the river to Ridgeway. As they marched along the latter highway in the early hours of a bright, beautiful morning, the Fenians were in fine fettle and "spoiling for a fight." They had some mounted scouts in advance, cautiously feeling the way. When within a few miles of Ridgeway Station this advance guard heard the whistle of a locomotive, and soon after bugle calls, which signified the arrival of the Canadian troops. The scouts galloped back to O'Neil with the information, and he at once halted his brigade, closed up his column, and began making preparations for battle.

Gen. O'Neil's experience in the military campaigns of the Civil War had taught him many useful lessons, which he had evidently profited by, as his choice of a battleground on Limestone Ridge was admirable, and the skilful disposition he made of his forces was commensurate with the ability of a high-class tactician.

Limestone Ridge, along which the so-called "Ridge Road" runs, has an elevation of about 35 feet over the surrounding country, and at the point where O'Neil took up his main position is about half a mile wide, with patches of bush and clumps of trees alternating with open fields. On both sides the country is comparatively cleared, so that an extensive view is obtainable from the summit of the ridge, which was of decided advantage to O'Neil, as he could watch the approach of advancing troops from almost any direction. Here he posted his brigade and hastily began the construction of breastworks and barricades of fence rails and earth. A force of sharpshooters and skirmishers were thrown out well to the front and along the flanks of this position, and after all dispositions for battle had been carefully made, Gen. O'Neil coolly awaited the arrival of the Canadian troops, who were advancing from Ridgeway totally ignorant of the fact that there was a lion in their path.



Late on the night of the 31st of May, 1866, the second call to arms was telegraphed from Ottawa, and within an hour the sound of bugles and alarm bells was heard echoing and ringing in nearly every city, town and village in the country. The alacrity with which our volunteers responded to the summons on that eventful night is without a parallel in the history of any nation. The whole country was aroused, and all were eager to go to the front. Many young men pleadingly begged for a chance to join the already "over strength" companies who could not be accommodated, and were reluctantly obliged to satisfy their military ardor by enrolling themselves in the Home Guards and shouldering rifles for patrol duty.

In the town of St. Catharines the excitement was intense, on account of its near proximity to the border and the alarming reports that were being circulated of the near approach of the enemy. The town companies of the 19th Lincoln Battalion, under command of Lieut.-Col. J. G. Currie, and the St. Catharines Battery of Garrison Artillery, under Capt. George Stoker and Lieut. James Wilson, were speedily mustered, and all through the night kept faithful vigils on guard duty, anxiously awaiting orders to move to the frontier. A Home Guard was hastily organized and equipped, and every citizen vied with his neighbor to shoulder his share of the responsibility in defending their homes and kindred from the attacks of the invaders.

At Toronto the Queen's Own Rifles, the Tenth Royals, the Toronto Garrison Battery, and the Toronto Naval Brigade, were quickly assembled at the drill shed and preparations made to leave for the front at a moment's notice. The citizens of the loyal old city of Toronto, who had on many previous occasions rallied around the flag of their country when danger threatened, were so strongly imbued with that patriotic feeling which prevailed everywhere that they immediately enrolled a Home Guard to defend the city in the absence of the volunteer regiments, and faithfully and well was that duty performed.

The same intense patriotism was manifested by the people of Canada generally, and a general muster of all military commands prevailed wherever organized.


As a matter of record and interest to the survivors of the Fenian Raid of 1866, copies of the General Orders issued by the Militia Department, designating the troops that were called out for active service on the 1st and 2nd of June. 1866, together with a list of the new companies organized, are herewith given:



The Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief directs that the following named corps be called out for active service, and that the said corps be immediately assembled and billetted at their respective headquarters, there to await such orders for their movement as may be directed by the Commander-in-Chief:


Windsor Garrison Battery. Goderich Garrison Battery. St. Catharines Garrison Battery. Toronto Garrison Battery. Port Stanley Naval Company. Dunnville Naval Company. Hamilton Naval Company. Toronto Naval Company. Mount Pleasant Infantry Company. Paris Rifle Company. Brantford Rifles, 2 Companies. Kincardine Infantry, 2 Companies. Paisley Infantry Company. Southampton Rifle Company. Vienna Infantry Company. St. Thomas Rifle Company. Windsor Infantry Company. Sandwich Infantry Company. Leamington Infantry Company. Amherstburg Infantry Company. Gosfield Rifle Company. Durham Infantry Company. Mount Forest Rifle Company. Leith Rifle Company. Dunnville Rifle Company. York Rifle Company. 20th Battalion, St. Catharines, 5 Companies. 7th Battalion, London. 6 Companies. Komoka Rifle Company. Villa Nova Rifle Company. Simcoe Rifle Company. Port Rowan Rifle Company. Walsingham Rifle Company. Ingersoll Infantry Company. Drumbo Infantry Company. 22nd Battalion Oxford Rifles, Woodstock, 4 Companies. Brampton Infantry and Rifle Companies. Albion Infantry Company. Derry West Infantry Company. Alton Infantry Company. Grahamsville Infantry Company. Stratford Infantry Company. Bradford Infantry Company. Barrie Infantry and Rifle Companies. Collingwood Rifle Companies. Cookstown Rifle Company. Orangeville Infantry Company. Fergus Rifle Company. Elora Rifle Company. Caledonia Rifle Company. Stewartown Infantry Company. Georgetown Infantry Company. Norval Infantry Company. Oakville Rifle Company. Seaforth Infantry Company. Chatham Infantry, 2 Companies. Blenheim Infantry Company. 19th Battalion, St. Catharines, 6 Companies. 13th Battalion, Hamilton, 6 Companies. Aurora Infantry Company. Lloydtown Infantry Company. King Infantry Company. Scarborough Rifle Company. 2nd Battalion, Queen's Own Rifles, Toronto, 11 Companies. 10th Battalion (Royals), Toronto, 8 Companies.


Franklin Infantry Company. Durham Infantry Company. Hinchinbrooke Rifle Company. Athelstan Infantry Company. Rockburn Infantry Company. Huntingdon Infantry, 2 Companies. Hemmingford Infantry Company. Roxham Infantry Company. Lacolle Infantry Company (21st Battalion). St. John's Infantry Company (21st Battalion). Havelock Rifle Company. Granby Infantry, 2 Companies. Waterloo Infantry, 2 Companies. Freleighsburg Infantry Company. Phillipsburg Infantry Company. Montreal Infantry, 6 Companies.

OTTAWA, 2nd June. 1866.


The Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief has been pleased to call out for active service the following corps in addition to those called out by General Order No. 1, of yesterday's date:


1st Frontenac Troop Cavalry, Kingston. 1st Squadron Volunteer Light Cavalry, County of York. Grimsby Troop Cavalry. London Troop Cavalry. St. Thomas Troop Cavalry. Governor-General's Body Guard, Toronto. Kingston Field Battery. Hamilton Field Battery. Welland Canal Field Battery. London Field Battery. 14th Battalion Rifles. Kingston. Brockville Rifle and Infantry Companies.


Varennes Infantry Company. Napiersville Infantry Company. St. Remi Infantry Company. St. Luc's Infantry Company, 21st Battalion. Sherbrooke Rifles, 2 Companies. Danville Rifle Company. Bury Infantry Company. Richmond Infantry Company. Melbourne Infantry Company. 2nd Lennoxville Rifle Company.

On 2nd June the following new companies were placed on the list of the Volunteer Militia of Canada:


Oil Springs Infantry Company. Bayfield Infantry Company. Galt Infantry Company. Oro Infantry Company. Aylmer Infantry Company. Strathroy Infantry Company. Orillia Infantry Company. Woodstock Infantry Company. Wolfe Island Infantry Company. Tamworth Infantry Company. Kemptville Infantry Company. Sydney Infantry Company Hillsboro Infantry Company. Dundas Infantry Company. Bobcaygeon Infantry Company. Bearbrook Infantry Company. St. Mary's Infantry Company. Clinton Infantry Company. Huntley Infantry Company. Widder Infantry Company. Peterboro Infantry Company. Edwardsburg Infantry Company. Parkhill Infantry Company. Stirling Infantry Company. Ottawa Garrison Artillery (3rd Battery). Waterloo Infantry Company. Warwick Infantry Company. Amherst Island Infantry Company. Napanee Garrison Artillery. Port Hope Garrison Artillery. 10th Royals, Toronto (2 additional Companies).


Stanstead Infantry Company. Coaticooke Infantry Company. Ste. Hyacinthe Infantry Company. Sorel Infantry Company. Tingwick Infantry Company. Winslow Infantry Company, Clarenceville Infantry Company. Elgin Infantry Company. Longueuil Infantry Company. Boucherville Infantry Company. Vercheres Infantry Company. Abercorn Infantry Company. Huntingdon Infantry (3rd Company). St. Pie Infantry Company. Vaudreuil Infantry Company. St. Martine Infantry Company. St. Athanase Infantry Company. Beauharnois Infantry Company. Knowlton Infantry Company. Sutton Infantry Company.

On the evening of the 2nd of June the whole of the Volunteer Force not already called out or enumerated in the above-mentioned lists, was placed on active service, and on Sunday, the 3rd of June, the Province had more than 20,000 men under arms, besides the numerous companies of Home Guards. The entire force turned out not only willingly, but eagerly, although at a season of the year when their business interests suffered greatly by their absence. It was enough for every militia man to know that the country needed his services, and personal interests were cheerfully sacrificed. Instances of devotion to Queen and country were general. Business matters were but a secondary consideration. Merchants and their clerks left their shops, students their colleges, professional men their offices, while factories were shut down and farmers left their ploughs in the furrows to take up their rifles to assist in the national defence. Those who were obliged by age or infirmities to stay at home were not idle, but nobly did their part in raising funds to assist the families of those bread-winners who had gone to serve on the frontier posts. All over the country large sums were raised for this purpose, and the patriotic Relief Committees were exceptionally busy attending to the proper distribution of food and supplies, both among the volunteers and the needy families who were depending upon them.

In the order calling out the troops for active service the Governor-General placed the whole force under the command of Lieut.-Gen. Sir John Michel, and added:

In former times the Commander-in-Chief has had occasion to call for the active services of the volunteer force to maintain international obligations, and as a precaution against threatened action. These threats have now ripened into actual fact. The soil of Canada has been invaded, not in the practice of legitimate warfare, but by a lawless and piratical band in defiance of all moral right, and in utter disregard of all the obligations which civilization enforces on mankind. Upon the people of Canada this state of things imposes the duty of defending their altars, their homes and their property from desecration, pillage and spoilation. The Commander-in-Chief relies on the courage and loyalty of the volunteer force and looks with confidence for the blessings of Providence on their performance of the sacred duty which circumstances have cast upon them.


As the Niagara district was chosen by the Fenians to be the theatre of their first operations, Gen. Napier quickly made preparations to occupy the salient points of this important territory. The Welland Canal, connecting Lake Erie with Lake Ontario, runs from Port Colborne on the former lake to Port Dalhousie on the latter (a distance of 26 miles), and lies at an average distance of about 13 miles inland from the Niagara River. The Welland Railway also connected these two points, running nearly parallel with the canal. To protect these two arteries of commerce from destruction was a desideratum to the General commanding, and his plan of campaign was framed on these lines. Port Colborne lies about 19 miles west of Fort Erie, and Gen. Napier decided to mobilize a force at that point and another at St. Catharines, 10 miles west of the Niagara River. These were two very strategic points at which to concentrate troops for the defence of the Niagara frontier, as they possessed excellent advantages as bases of supply for the sustenance of columns operating in any quarter of the district. On account of the favorable rail communication with each of those places, troops could be moved rapidly by trains from the interior, and would always be within easy striking distance of an invading force on any portion of the Niagara frontier. Therefore orders were issued to commanding officers to assemble their corps immediately at their respective local headquarters, and await further instructions.

The first body of troops which left for the front was the Queen's Own Rifles, of Toronto, with a total strength of 480 of all ranks. The regiment was assembled at the Drill Shed on Front Street at 4 o'clock on the morning of June 1st, and received orders to proceed to Port Colborne without delay. At 6.30 a.m. they embarked on board the steamer "City of Toronto" for Port Dalhousie, where they entrained on the Welland Railway for Port Colborne. Lieut.-Col. J. S. Dennis, Brigade Major of the Fifth Military District, was in command. This officer had received orders from Gen. Napier to occupy Port Colborne, and if necessary entrench a position there and await reinforcements and further orders before an attack was made on the enemy. The Queen's Own arrived at Port Colborne about noon, and there being no indications of the enemy in the near vicinity, the men were billetted among the citizens for dinner, as by somebody's oversight no rations or food supply of any kind had been forwarded for the sustenance of the troops.

Lieut.-Col. Dennis sent out couriers and mounted scouts to glean information of the whereabouts of the enemy, who he finally located at their camp near Fort Erie. During the afternoon the Thirteenth Battalion, of Hamilton, under command of Lieut.-Col. A. Booker, arrived at Port Colborne from Dunnville, accompanied by the York and Caledonia Rifle Companies. These reinforcements made a total force of about 850 troops at Port Colborne, and as Lieut.-Col. Booker was the ranking officer present, he took command of the column.

Meanwhile other troops were on the move towards the frontier. As before mentioned. Gen. Napier had decided to also mobilize a force at St. Catharines, and orders were given to Col. Geo. Peacocke, commanding Her Majesty's 16th Regiment, to proceed thither with the forces at his command, and assume charge of the operations for the defence of the frontier. At 12.40 o'clock (noon) a force consisting of three companies of Her Majesty's 47th Regiment, under command of Major Lauder, and the Grey Battery of Royal Artillery, commanded by Lieut.-Col. Hoste, C.B., left Toronto via the Great Western Railway for St. Catharines. At Hamilton this contingent was joined by Col. Peacocke with 200 men of the 16th Regiment, and the whole force proceeded to their destination. On arrival at St. Catharines Col. Peacocke received telegrams advising him that a strong body of Fenians were marching towards Chippawa, so he resolved to move forward his force at once to that point and endeavor to save the bridges across the Welland River (or Chippawa Creek) from destruction.

[Picture (page 47) 0047.gif, a map


(a) Where Fenians landed, (b) Fenian Camp 1st June, (c) Fenian bivouac night of 1st June, (d) Point at which Fenian pursuit was abandoned, (e) Fenian Camp near the old Fort, night of 2nd June, from which point they evacuated Canada, (f) Col. Peacocke's forces, night of June 1st. (g) Col. Peacocke's Camp at noon, June 2nd. (h) Col. Peacocke's bivouac at Bowen's Farm, night of 2nd June.]

He issued immediate orders for the Tenth Royals of Toronto, two more companies of H. M. 47th Regiment, the Nineteenth Lincoln Battalion, and Capt. Stoker's Battery of Garrison Artillery, from St. Catharines, to reinforce him at Chippawa. These troops moved promptly forward, and before daylight all were bivouacked on the streets of the quiet village of Chippawa. No provision had been made for sheltering our volunteers, as neither tents or blankets had been issued, so the weary, jaded troops were content to lie out on the green sward under the star-lit canopy of heaven, with the gentle June dew falling on their sleeping forms, until at sunrise the bugles sounding the reveille awoke them to a realization of the hard fare of a soldier's life on active service. By some blunder of somebody no food had been provided for the volunteer battalions, nor haversacks to carry it in if they did have it, so fortunate indeed was he who received breakfast that morning. As the majority of the men had left their homes early the day before, and had eaten very little since, they keenly felt the pangs of hunger. But the patriotic people of Chippawa did their best to cater to their needs, and were unsparing in their efforts to provide the meals so urgently required, while the regular troops shared their rations of hard tack, cheese, meat and tea cheerfully with their Canadian comrades.

Although the Fenians had openly flaunted their intention of invading Canada, and the secret service agents had made minute reports of the determination of the marauders to make a raid, still the Canadian military authorities seemed apathetic, and took very little heed of the warnings until the eve of the event. Plenty of time was accorded the Government to have the whole force properly equipped and in readiness, but when the bugles sounded the alarm and the volunteers promptly assembled to meet the foe, there was a woeful lack of the necessaries which are indispensable to a successful campaign, namely, an available supply of military stores, commissary and medical supplies. Many of the companies and battalions which moved promptly to the front were totally unprovided even with canteens or water bottles, and had to depend on creeks or roadside ditches for a drink of water wherewith to allay their thirst, which they scooped up in their hands or caps as best they could. But "Johnny Canuck" never murmured, and marched cheerfully onward in the shoes in which he usually stood, without provisions and weighted down with heavy padded uniforms (which were designed for winter wear), carrying a heavy rifle and accoutrements, with forty rounds of ball cartridges in his pouch and twenty more in his pockets for ballast. Still he had a stout heart within his breast, and a resolute determination to do his duty in assisting to drive the invaders from the shores of his native land served to impel him onward as he marched through the choking dust of clay roads on a blazing hot June day, gaily joining in the refrain of the old marching song:—

"Tramp, tramp, tramp, our boys are marching. Cheer up, let the Fenians come! For beneath the Union Jack we'll drive the rabble back And we'll fight for our beloved Canadian home."

Those were stirring days, and many an old volunteer who participated in the forced marches and hardships of the campaign on the Niagara frontier particularly, still retains vivid recollections of that strenuous period.

On the evening of the 1st of June, Col. Peacocke received definite reports that the Fenians were still occupying their camp at Frenchman's Creek, and at once conceived the plan of uniting the forces at Port Colborne with his own column at Stevensville (a small country hamlet about seven miles south-west of Chippawa) and make a combined attack on Gen. O'Neil's position as soon as the junction of the two columns was effected. He accordingly despatched Capt. Chas. S. Akers (an officer of the Royal Engineers) across the country about midnight with orders to Lieut.-Col. Booker to leave Port Colborne for Ridgeway by rail at five o'clock next morning, and after detraining his troops at that station to march by the nearest road to Stevensville, where he expected to meet him with his column about 10 o'clock. Capt. Akers was given minute instructions by Col. Peacocke as to the time he proposed to leave Chippawa (6 o'clock) and also the route of his march, so that Lieut.-Col. Booker could be thoroughly informed of his plans.

Capt. Akers arrived at Port Colborne about 2 o'clock a.m., on June 2nd, and after delivering his despatches and verbal orders, had a conference with Lieut.-Col. Booker and Lieut.-Col. Dennis as to the situation of affairs at the front, which resulted in a proposal by Lieut.-Col. Dennis that Col. Peacocke's plans should be altered (contingent on that officer's consent) and that Lieut.-Col. Booker's column should advance on Fort Erie direct and join Col. Peacocke near Frenchman's Creek, instead of at Stevensville. This proposal was telegraphed to Col. Peacocke, who promptly negatived any change in his plans, and insisted on his original orders being obeyed.

Previous to the issuance of his order to Lieut.-Col. Booker, Col. Peacocke had telegraphed to Lieut.-Col. Dennis that he had ordered the International Ferry steamer to proceed from Fort Erie to Port Colborne, and instructed him to put a gun detachment on board and patrol the Niagara River from Fort Erie to Chippawa. As this steamer had not arrived at 10.30 p.m., Lieut.-Col. Dennis availed himself of the patriotic offer of Capt. Lachlan McCallum, owner of the powerful tug "W. T. Robb," to place that boat at his disposal. Capt. McCallum was the commanding officer of the Dunnville Naval Brigade, and the boat was lying at her dock at that place when he received a telegram from Lieut.-Col. Dennis shortly after midnight to proceed to Port Colborne without delay. He quickly mustered his crew and the members of his Naval Brigade and left Dunnville at 2 o'clock a.m., arriving at Port Colborne at about 4 a.m. Meanwhile the Welland Canal Field Battery, under command of Capt. Richard S. King, of Port Robinson, had reported at Port Colborne, and received orders to embark on the "W. T. Robb," for the proposed reconnaissance to the Niagara River. For some unaccountable reason the field guns of this splendid Battery, which was one of the most efficient in the Province at that time, had been removed to Hamilton a few months previously, and their only armament on this occasion was short Enfield rifles with sword bayonets. They mustered three officers and 59 men when they joined the Dunnville Naval Brigade on board the tug. The latter corps consisted of three officers and 43 men, armed with Enfield rifles and equipment, but were without uniforms. Thus the total strength of the combatant forces which left Port Colborne on the "W. T. Robb" was 108 of all ranks. Without waiting for a reply from Col. Peacocke relative to the change in plans suggested by the conference, Lieut.-Col. Dennis, accompanied by Capt. Akers, went on board the tug, and assuming command of the expedition, ordered the vessel to proceed at once to Fort Erie.

Shortly after the "W. T. Robb" left the harbor, a telegram was received by Lieut.-Col. Booker from Col. Peacocke, ordering him to adhere to his original instructions, and to leave Port Colborne for Ridgeway not later than 5.30 a.m., to disembark there and march to Stevensville, so as to effect the junction with his column at the specified hour. Lieut.-Col. Booker's troops were already on board the train, having remained in the cars nearly all night with very little sleep, and after being served a hasty and very meagre breakfast, the train started from Port Colborne about 5 o'clock. The total strength of the forces (which consisted of the Queen's Own Rifles, the Thirteenth Battalion, and the York and Caledonia Rifle Companies) was about 840 men. Preceded by a pilot engine the train moved carefully eastward until it reached Ridgeway station, where the force was detrained and formed up in column of march. It was then found impossible to obtain horses and waggons at Ridgeway for the transport of the stores, so that a large quantity of supplies and other material which was urgently required had to be sent back to Port Colborne by the returning train. This was a lamentable state of affairs, which did not reflect much credit on the ability of some officer whose duty it was to look after such matters.

Although Col. Peacocke had notified Lieut.-Col. Booker that he would leave Chippawa with his column at 6 o'clock on his march for Stevensville to form the proposed junction of forces, he was nearly two hours late of his scheduled time in doing so, which had an important bearing on the fortunes of the day, and the events which might have been averted. The reinforcements (consisting of two companies of H. M. 47th Regiment, the 19th Lincoln Battalion, the 10th Royals of Toronto, and Stoker's Battery of Artillery, from St. Catharines) had arrived during the night and early hours of the morning. Some time was lost in getting the column ready for the advance, and it was not until 7 o'clock that the "assembly" was sounded for the companies to "fall in." The troops hurriedly bundled on their accoutrements and equipments, and in a quarter of an hour were ready for the march. Another half hour was lost in inspection, "telling off" the battalions, serving out ammunition and other preliminaries, so it was nearly 8 o 'clock when the bugle sounded "the advance" and the column was put in motion.

H. M. 16th Regiment supplied the advance guard, with the usual look-out and flanking files. The main body of the advance was commanded by Capt. Home and Lieut. Taylor, and the support by Lieut. Reid. The remainder of the column was formed in the following order: The right wing of H. M. 16th Regiment, under command of Major Grant; the Grey Battery of Royal Artillery (with six Armstrong guns), under Col. Hoste; H. M. 47th Regiment, under Lieut.-Col. Villiers and Major Lauder; the Nineteenth (Lincoln) Battalion (seven companies, with a strength of 350), and the Tenth Royals of Toronto (417 strong). The volunteer battalions were officered as follows:

NINETEENTH BATTALION—Lieut.-Col. James G. Currie in command; Majors, John Powell and T. L. Helliwell; Adjutant, Silas Spillett. No. 1 Co.—Capt. Ed. Thompson. Lieut. Johnson Clench. No. 2 Co.—Capt. Fred W. Macdonald, Lieut. F. Benson. No. 3 Co.—Capt. Wm. Kew, Lieut. J. K. Osborne, Ensign Kew. No. 4 Co.—Capt. Mathias Konkle, Lieut. G. Walker, Ensign Wolverton. No. 8 Co.—Capt. Henry Carlisle, Lieut. Edwin I. Parnell, Ensign Josiah G. Holmes. Surgeon, Edwin Goodman, M.D.; Quartermaster, Wm. McGhie. (The Clifton and Port Dalhousie Companies of this Battalion were left to guard the Suspension Bridge, and the Thorold Company was sent to Port Colborne to guard the Welland Canal).

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