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BATTLE OF RIDGEWAY – A GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF THE ENGAGEMENT.

This Story as Told by Dr. Ryall, of Hamilton, A Surgeon of the 13th Battalion.

[Welland Telegraph, 5 June 1891]

Twenty five years ago Tuesday the battle of Ridgeway was fought in this county, and the following narrative published some time ago in the Hamilton Spectator, although it relates more particularly to the movements of the Thirteenth Battalion, will never the less at this time be very interesting to TELEGPAPH readers.

The first day of June, 1866, was a beautiful summer morning, when my father called me from peaceful slumber, saying that there must be some unusual excitement in the city as he heard the bugle call repeated several times. He then called my two step-brothers, both of whom were members of No.4 company. One was a private, the other carried a bugle. They started then, for the first time, that the battalion had received orders at the previous drill to assemble immediately at call of the bugle. We went down to the armory and there learned that the Thirteenth was under marching orders to repel the raiders. The battalion responded quickly to the call. Those members who were absent on business from the city joined their companions as speedily as possible. Two officers were absent who did not participate in the engagement. Although rumors of hostile intentions were rife, the most remote idea of a Fenian invasion never occurred to me. At that time I had not fully made up my mind to remain a member of the battalion, but when the order to march came I had to proceed in civilian costume, having neglected to procure the necessary military outfit.

The Thirteenth had been drilling for a considerable period and was in excellent order. The general appearance of the battalion was better than it has been for several years since, although it did contain at that time a few members who would scarcely have passed a medical examination. The men were as efficient in drill as indoor drill could make them. They were also fairly equipped for the service which they were supposed then to perform, and which I presume was expected to consist of a few hours’ pleasure excursion. I don’t think that a single member of the regiment from the colonel down ever expected to hear a shot fired on that occasion. Read the rest of this entry »

A FENIAN RAID VETERAN

Death of an Old Time Wellander and Former Municipal Clerk

[ Welland Telegraph, 30 November 1909]

             Early Friday morning one of Welland’s oldest and most highly respected residents passed to the great beyond in the person of Henry Boyd. The late Mr. Boyd was suffering from Bright’s Disease for nearly a year. He was taken to his bed about three months ago and since that time has been gradually declining. On Friday morning at four o’clock he passed away at his home, East Main Street, aged 65 years, 10 months and 16 days.

             The Boyd family is a very old one, the late Mr. Boyd’s father, James Boyd, coming from Ireland and settling at what is now Welland Junction many years ago. His mother, whose maiden name was Sarah Page, came from Vermont, U.S.

             Henry Boyd was born at Welland Junction on the 29th day of January, 1844. When fifteen years of age he left his parental home and went to St. Catharines, where he worked for some time, later going to Thorold., from which place he sailed on the Great Lakes for ten seasons. Tiring of this work he went to Oswego, where he enlisted  in the 104th Regiment of New York and fought in the engagements of the American Civil War. After that he came to Thorold where he joined a company of volunteers and fought in the Battle of Ridgeway for which he received a medal. He joined the Orange Lodge in 1863, and was a chartered member at the time of his death.

             He was united in marriage at Thorold in 1870 to Amelia Hanna. In 1880 he returned to Welland and from that time, twenty-two years, until he received the appointment of Town Clerk, he was employed by M. Beatty & Sons. In 1902 he was appointed Town Clerk of Welland, which position he held until his death. He was librarian for the public library for fourteen years and during that time discharged his duties in a most commendable manner.

             The deceased leaves behind him a sorrowing wife and one son, George, now Town Clerk. Three sons predeceased him. Mrs. Armstong of Peterboro is a sister.

             The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon from his late residence on East Main Street to Holy Trinity Church, where service was conducted by the Rev. James Thompson. The funeral procession was one unusually large and was headed by the Welland Brass Band playing the Dead March. In the ranks was a large presentation of Wallace L.O.L, and there were many others from nearby lodges. The following acted as pall-bearers-George Turner, Wm. McCoomb, Thorold; W.D. Bowman, Niagara Falls; M. Whinney, Fonthill; J.D. Stephens and John Leach, Welland.

             Interment took place  in St. Paul’s cemetery, Port Robinson.

FENIAN RAID VETERANS

Four Local Men to Get Grants

[Welland Telegraph, 22 March 1912]

             Four local men, who fought against the Fenians when they attempted to take this country, will share in the grants to be made to veterans of that war by the Dominion Government. They are-J.J. Sidey, editor of the Tribune, L.V. Garner, Nelson Current and H.J. Gonder. Mr. Gonder has a medal for his services.

             The grant of $100 to be made to veterans of these wars was brought about by Hon. Col. Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia.

OLD FENIAN FLAG

Battle-Scarred Banner Presented at Buffalo Historical Society

IT WAS AT RIDGEWAY

It Bears Two Marks of Canadian Shots-Belonged to Late Mrs. M’Elroy

Buffalo Express, Dec. 1

[Welland Tribune. 12 December 1902]

              A faded green flag, with one corner torn into ribbons, was placed in the collection of the Buffalo Historical Society yesterday afternoon. It is a relic of the Fenian invaders who crossed into Canada from Buffalo on the night of May 31, 1866, and who had to come back a few days later, after having thrown Canada into a spasm of terror. The flag went through what is known as the Battle of Ridgeway, which village is now more familiar to Buffalonians as the town back of Crystal Beach.

             The flag was formally presented to the Historical Society by James McElroy of No. 621 West avenue, in whose family it had been for a long time and by D.E. Mahoney. The exercises were held in the society’s lecture room at 4 p.m. About 200 persons were present. President Andrew Langdon in response to a few remarks made by Mr. Mahoney said he was reminded of an incident that came under his observation while in the office of the president of a large New York bank.

             “It was during a political campaign and one of the other officers coming into the room hung up the portrait of one of the candidates,” he said. The president immediately said, “Take that down. We have no politics here.” “It’s the same way with us. We accept relics whether we approve of them or not and we accept this flag for its historical interest.”

             Secretary Edward D. Strickland then took possession of the flag and from now on it will be a public reminder of the small but bloody skirmish that took place on the Canadian frontier across from Buffalo between the ragged, but experienced fighters of General O’Neil’s command and the youths in the Canadian militia to whom the whistling bullets was a new and terrifying tune.

             The flag, which was carried by the Buffalonians who took part in the invasion, is nine feet long and six feet wide. In the upper left hand corner a golden sunburst was once painted on the background of green silk, but its outlines were destroyed by a Canadian ball that tore through the flag at the Battle of Ridgeway. That portion of the flag is merely a collection of tatters now. Running in a line slanting upward and that begins beneath the sunburst are the following words in golden letters: “Buffalo, Seventh Regiment, Irish Army of Liberation.” Beneath this is the following inscription placed on the flag after the Fenians had returned from Canada. “Ridgeway and Fort Erie, June 2, 1866.” Occupying the center of the right hand half of the flag is the following also in golden letters: “Presented by the Fenian Sisterhood of Buffalo, May 6, 1866.” Part of this lettering is torn, the result of a bullet.

             This flag was presented to the Buffalo organization of Fenians through the efforts of the Buffalo Sisterhood of Fenians. Especially prominent in the movement to raise funds for the flag were Ann and Maria Cruice. Maria Cruice was later married to James McIIroy of this city, who yesterday took part in the presentation exercises at the Buffalo Historical Society’s building. The flag was presented to the Buffalo Fenians on the night of May 6, 1866 at the home of Mr. Gallagher, at the corner of Front avenue and Caroline street. The flag was carried to Fort Erie, Ont., with the 900 Fenians who took part in the invasion. After having driven the Canadian militia near Ridgeway to retreat and then having to retreat themselves before a body of Canadian regulars, the Fenians hurried back to Fort Erie. While trying to cross the river, the Fenians were arrested by American forces. Later they were released. The United States Government authorities returned the torn flag to the local Fenian organization and it later came into the possession of Daniel Cruice, a member of the organization and a brother to the two women who had been so desirous to present the flag to the Fenians before the invasion. Mr. Cruice gave the flag to his sister, Maria, in whose possession it remained until the time of her death last March. It was in her name that the flag was presented to the Historical Society yesterday.

FENIAN RAID OF ‘66 (Part 10)

[People’s Press, 30 June 1908]

EXTRACTS FROM THE TRIBUNE OF FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO, TELLING OF THE NOTED INVASION.

             “Now that the first Fenian invasion has taken place, and the enemy has, for a time held possession of Canada soil, we may speculate more definitely upon their intentions and prospects, and the light in which the U.S. Government views them.

             The secrecy with which the late movement was concocted makes it evident that the Fenian Brotherhood have money and arms and can procure the services of plenty of drilled men to assist them in furthering their designs.

             It is hard to determine upon what was really the object of the late isolated attack at Bertie. The conduct of the invaders would lead us to believe that they came not solely for plunder, and their unwillingness to leave the vicinity of the river, shows that they either did not wish to destroy public property, or that they were arrant cowards and afraid to venture. And again, if the invaders had intended to try to hold the soil, they would probably have been better supported with reinforcements.

             We are forced to the conclusion that the movement was either a feint or that it was undertaken in order, if possible, to embroil the Canadian and United States authorities in a quarrel, in the hope that it would ultimately prove a casus belli.

             If their movement was a feint it has failed most signally in its object, for no other attack has been made, and instead of deceiving us, it has acted as an alarm , and we are now prepared at all points. If their object was to cause a disagreement between us and our neighbors, they, the Fenians, will probably find out to their severe cost, that it will only cause their movements to be more closely watched in the future.

             Let the object of the raid have been what it might, the temporary measure of success gained by the invaders, and their escape through the blundering of our Colonel, will certainly ensure another attack unless they are put down by the strong arm of the U.S. Government. That Government is now no doubt seizing all the Fenian arms its agents can find, and had it not been for their promptness in doing this, Lower Canadians would no doubt have been the scene of strife as now. But it does not depend on this. If the raiders themselves can avoid punishment, they no doubt find arms somewhere. The spirit of the law is not always carried out, as was proven by the release of St. Albans raiders, and if O’Neill and his men can procure their release, we may expect to hear from them or their friends in some other quarter very shortly. If, on the other hand, the United States is made too hot for the Fenians to organize in, we may expect the whole thing to die gradually away for the present, perhaps forever, unless in case of national war, when the Fenian element would be a potent engine for our reduction.

             One good end was accomplished by the invasion, and that is the bringing forth more prominently before the world the indomitable courage and heroism of which our gallant volunteers are possessed. The Welland Canal Battery, the Queen’s Own and all the troops engaged at Lime Ridge, acquitted themselves most nobly. The only blot on the side of the whole history of the campaign is the painful evidences of mismanagement on the part of some our commanding officers.

             Orders to Retreat- The President’s proclamation having afforded Sweeney an excellent excuse for avoiding the halter which awaited him, upon his arrival to Canada, he has sent the following dispatch to his confrere Roberts, now confined in jail.

To W.R. Roberts, President, Fenian Brotherhood-196 Bowery St. Albans, June 10

             Send no more men to the front. The stringent measures of the United States Government have rendered success impossible at present.-Promulgate this immediately. T.W. Sweeney”

The above dispatch was printed in the Tribune of June 14, 1866.

             “Watertown, June 11- An extra train of eight cars loaded with homebound Fenians passed here at seven o’clock this evening. Every train from the north brings a few stragglers. They are badly demoralized and very hungry.” – Tribune, June 14, 1866.

FENIAN RAID OF ‘66 (Part 9)

[People's Press, 23 June 1908]

EXTRACTS FROM THE TRIBUNE OF FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO, TELLING OF THE NOTED INVASION.

              “The privates have been released from the scow on their own recognizance for $500 to appear if charge is laid against them. This news was received by the captive Fenians with great rejoicings.

             President Johnson has at last issued a proclamation against Fenianism.

             The Fenians have been gathering on the lines below for some time, and are now supposed to number about 10,000. Want of arms only deters them from crossing.

             The Fenian loss is killed and wounded will probably be about the same as ours. We have also a large number of prisoners.

             The volunteer arrested in this town on Tuesday night, while making his way towards Wainfleet, was conveyed to Chippawa by the deputy sheriff and Mr. Lampman. He proved to be a deserter, and his capture was hailed with delight by his comrades.

             It is reported that five captured Fenians were shot on Sunday last by our troops. They are said to have been caught in the woods and were given no quarter. We can scarcely believe this. Let us by all means do nothing hastily but give the murderers and robbers their due as awarded by the proper authorities.

             On Friday, when the Fenians took possession of the eastern part of Bertie township, a small party of them proceeded to near Ridgeway and burned the bridge on the Grand Trunk railway, known as Saurwine’s bridge.

             In the column from Chippawa complaints were loud against Col. Peacock for being slow. Among the foot artillery Col. Dennis is blamed greatly for his foolishness in pitting 80 men against 400, and at Port Colborne Col. Booker is strongly accused not only of rashness, but of something like cowardice. Between the three the Fenians escaped being bagged.

             It is reported that Col. Dennis gave his parole to the Fenians prior to being released. Col. Dennis denies the assertion.

             Three more Fenians prisoners arrived here yesterday evening and the whole batch in all eleven-were taken to Niagara and lodged in the jail. A detachment of the Home Guard accompanied them. They were all hard looking, desperate fellows.

             Welland During the Raid- Our town was one grand scene of confusion during the last two days’ raid. The excitement ran highest on Friday, when all manner of false reports were eagerly circulated and believed by many. To the reeve of the village, T.W. Hooker, Esq., the people are indebted for the active measures inaugurated for their defense and protection. A public meeting was called for on Friday and it was determined to appoint a Vigilance Committee, and the body kept in session night and day during the raid. No arms could be procured, and the operations of the committee were enabled to contradict the sensational reports and “extras” circulated throughout the town.”

- The above extracts were taken from the Welland Tribune, dated Thursday, June 7, 1866.

FENIAN RAID OF ‘66 (Part 8)

[People's Press, 16 June 1908]

EXTRACTS FROM THE TRIBUNE OF FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO, TELLING OF THE NOTED INVASION.

             Advance of Col. Peacock’s Forces. “On Saturday afternoon Col. Peacock, learning that the Fenians were falling back, immediately ordered his forces at New Germany, consisting of artillery and infantry, to advance. This was well done and the troops marched till dark, encamping on the ferry road about four miles from Fort Erie.

             Early on Sunday morning the whole force started for Fort Erie, the 47th Regulars acting as skirmishers. Before reaching the village, tidings of the escape of the marauders arrived, and on entering the village the unpleasant truth became known that the birds had flown, and thus ended the invasion of Canada.

             The Prisoners-In attempting to cross the river, however, Gen. O’Neill with 400 of his men were intercepted by the tug Harrison and steamer Michigan, and compelled to heave to, when a hawser was attached and the Fenians with their craft were made fast to Michigan, which proceeded to anchor in midstream, where she still continues at this writing, awaiting orders from Washington as to the final disposal of the prisoners.

             Besides the 400 on the scow, a large number have made their escape across in small boats, etc., and probably a hundred or so were left in the woods. Of these latter, many have been captured by the troops and others are still turning up.”-Taken from the Welland Tribune, dated June 7, 1866.

FENIAN RAID OF ‘66 (Part 7)

[People's Press, 9 June 1908]

EXTRACTS FROM THE TRIBUNE OF FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO, TELLING OF THE NOTED INVASION.

“The Fight at Fort Erie-After having captured 56 prisoners and secured them by placing them in the hold of the tug “Robb,” Capt. King wished to withdraw, it being a most unwise and suicidal policy to attempt to keep a foothold on Fort Erie against the whole horde of Fenians, but Col. Davis erected the brave little band again to land and engage the enemy who approached in force about 4 p.m. The Fenians delayed and concentrated their forces on the hill, opening the engagement by a surprise right flank movement. The Battery sustained a murderous file nobly, although their men began to fall fast, their leader, Dr. R.S. King of Port Robinson, being one of the first wounded. He was shot in the ankle and taken to Buffalo, where his leg was amputated. Our brave men then retired with three exceptions to a house near the “Robb,” and were followed by the enemy making a charge down the hill, their object evidently being to obtain possession of the tug. This was frustrated, however, by Capt. McCallum moving his boat out into the river under a heavy fire. After running the gauntlet and finding out that the tug could be of no further use at Fort Erie, Capt. McCallum came directly to Port Colborne, from whence the prisoners were sent to Brantford for safe keeping. They would probably have been sent to Welland, but that place is so near the lines that their presence would only tempt a rescue. After the tug escaped, the Fenians turned upon those left on the land, taking all but three, after most desperate fighting, during which much personal bravery and daring were displayed on the part of the besieged. When the Fenians evacuated Fort Erie these prisoners were let go unharmed. The three who were not taken prisoners ran down along the river for a long distance to the unpleasant tune, occasioned by Fenian bullets whistling by in close proximity to their persons. After they had made good their escape from Fort Erie, they were chased repeatedly by Fenian pickets, and could only get away from them by entering a farm house and leaving off their uniforms. They finally made their escape to New Germany almost dead with fatigue. From their reports and the news brought to Port Colborne by the “Robb,” it was thought that nearly all of the Welland Battery had been shot dead, and it was with feelings of relief of their capture and subsequent release. This pleasurable emotion was only allowed by the knowledge that Capt. King and others were dangerously _. Three of the wounded had each a leg amputated-and nearly all the others were wounded in the lower part of the body. This we suppose is accounted for by the fact that men were shot from a height, causing a deficiency in the Fenian aim.”

FENIAN RAID OF ‘66 (Part 6)

EXTRACTS FROM THE TRIBUNE OF FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO, TELLING OF THE NOTED INVASION.

[People's Press, 2 June 1908]

               “The following is an account of the Battle of Limestone Ridge as told by Rev. Mr. Ingles, an eye-witness of the whole affair, and we judge it to be about correct:”

             “As we approached Stevensville we heard the first firing from Fenian skirmishers, who had been thrown out in a woods along on the left side of the road. These were soon driven back and rejoined the main body who were drawn up in a line, the centre of which faced the road along which we were marching. They were to some extent protected by a small house and barn, a stone wall and a temporary fortification composed of fence rails. Our men were ordered to advance, which they obeyed gallantly. The firing at this time was sharp and constant. We had left the ambulance wagon and were immediately in rear of the centre of our forces. At this moment a party of men came towards us bearing Ensign McEachren; badly wounded. The captain of the Company and surgeon, Dr. May, were with him, and took possession of a small house on the left of the road as an hospital. Finding that he had been an old parishioner of Mr. Burwash, I left him in his charge, and tried to aid the men in making lifters to bring in the wounded. A few men, not seriously wounded, had been brought in, when we were startled and delighted by a good hearty British cheer. This was caused by the Fenians retiring from their position to a wood some distance behind. This moment I left the hospital, and took up my position on the stone fence already mentioned. Skirmishers of the Queen’s Own had advanced on the left, and three companies of our own battalion had advanced forward as skirmishers on the right. The long red line on the one side and the green line on the other presented a fine appearance, but I was startled to notice that our men, with the exception of some who were in an orchard, were either in the open field or protected by a rail fence, while the Fenians were completely hidden in the woods, their presence being made apparent only by the sharp quick volleys which they fired from behind the trees. A glance sufficed to show me the position of affairs, and with some fear for the result, I hastened back to the hospital. On returning to my post of observation a bugle sounded, and the men of the 13th formed into a square. The men of the Queen’s own attempted the same, but from the position they occupied it was impossible to accomplish it thoroughly. I have since understood that this was in obedience to a call to prepare to receive a cavalry charge. The bugle was again sounded, and there was some confusion among the men. A third time the bugle sounded (as I understood) a call to advance, which from my want of knowledge of military tactics, I cannot well describe. Then the bugle sounded a fourth time (as I understand) the retreat. A general confusion ensued. The men of the Queen’s Own towards the right broke and began to retreat and a general confusion appeared amongst the men of the 13th. At this moment I ran to the hospital and informed the surgeon of the state of matters in the field, but hoping that it might be only a temporary retreat. I hastened back to my former position. On reaching it the Fenian bullets were whistling over my head. Some companies of the Queen’s Own rushed pass me, followed by a large body of the 13th. I attempted to return to the hospital, but finding this impossible, as I was on the opposite side of the road, with feelings which I cannot attempt to describe. I made my way to the ambulance wagon. The right wing of the Queen’s Own followed the main body of the 13th. The skirmishers of the 13th were the last to leave the field. It was at this point that Mr. Routh in rallying his men received the wound. These men, with Major Skinner at their head, formed a rear guard which beyond all doubt saved us from more serious disaster.

             After the volunteers began their retreat, the Fenians slowly advanced to Ridgeway, and, after doing some mischief there, began hurriedly retreating towards Fort Erie. This retrograde movement of theirs was no doubt occasioned by their having learned of the arrival of Col. Peacock’s Regulars and Artillery at New Germany, as well as by the movements of the Welland Canal Field Battery which afterwards landed at Fort Erie and gobbled up all the stray Fenians they could find.”

             Taken from the Tribune of June 7, 1866.

FENIAN RAID OF ‘66 (Part 5)

EXTRACTS FROM THE TRIBUNE OF FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO, TELLING OF THE NOTED INVASION.

[People's Press, 26 May 1908]

             “Early Saturday morning the Fenians broke camp, started westward, and then turned and almost doubling on their track, took the road leading south past Buck’s tavern and proceeded on towards Ridgeway. Before reaching the Black church, however, their ammunition wagon had stuck fast in a mudhole, and they abandoned some 3,000 cartridges, which were on Sunday taken possession of by a detachment of the 10th Royals. When nearing Ridgeway, and between that place and Stevensville, the volunteers from Port Colborne under Col Booker were encountered, and here the Battle of Lime Stone Ridge took place, the principal fighting being done on the farms of Messrs. Teal and Anker. Our forces numbered about 800, comprising the Queen’s Own of Toronto, under Major Gilmore, and the Thirteenth Battalion of Hamilton, with the York and Caledonia Rifles. Had this engagement, which was brought on by mismanagement on the part of the officers, been avoided, a junction of Booker’s and Peacock’s forces would have been formed, and the main body of the Fenians no doubt bagged on Saturday.”

             The above was taken from the Welland Tribune, dated June7, 1866. Next week we reprint the account of the battle of the Ridge, as described by an eye-witness.