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Victoria County, Ontario Canada
The Fenian Raids Stimulate Enlistment
But let us return to the sixties. After the Trent
affair, the next stimulus to defensive zeal came from the Fenian
raids. In 1865 the American branch of the Fenian Brotherhood (more
recently reincarnated as the Sinn Fein) planned an invasion of
Canada to avenge the failure of an uprising in Ireland. On June 1,
1866, a force of 1500 Fenians, chiefly veterans of the Civil War,
crossed the Niagara River under the command of General John O'Neil,
and reached Ridgeway by the following morning. Here they inflicted a
sharp defeat on a Canadian force of 850 men under Lt. Col. A.
Booker. Stronger contingents menaced them, however, and they
withdrew to the American side.
The immediate effect of this initial loss to the Canadians was the
enthusiastic organizations of defense forces throughout the whole
country. In Victoria county three independent infantry companies
were formed at Lindsay, Omemee, and Bobcaygeon respectively.
The Lindsay company was officered by Capt. John D. Smith, Lieut.
Adam Hudspeth, and Ensign George Matthews. The Omemee company was
under Capt. W. H. Cottingham, Lieut. J. J. English, and Ensign Thos.
Stephenson. The officers of the Bobcaygeon company were Capt. H. D.
Sheffield, Lieut. Gardiner Boyd, and Ensign Lewis Parker.
While the Fenian menace lasted, the companies drilled every evening
and three afternoons a week. They were however, to have no share in
active service for the Fenians' first success was their only success
and every subsequent foray became a fiasco.