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Trent Affair, 1861, Victoria County, Ontario Canada

The year 1861 brought a new war scare and consequent reactions in the defensive organization of Canada. The American Civil War was in progress. On November 8, an over zealous Federal captain, Commodore Wilkes of the U. S. S. "San Jacinto" stopped the British steamer "Trent" on the high seas and took off by force two Commissioners of the Confederate Government, who were on their way to London and Paris. Britain demanded reparations and ,an apology for this affront, and, for a time, war, involving Canada, of course, as a British dependency, seemed imminent. The militia was got into a state of comparative readiness, while many( volunteer infantry and rifle companies were raised and drilled. In Lindsay the "Queen's Own Lindsay Rifles" were organized on December 20, 1861. The officers were Captain John David Smith, Lieut. Adam Hudspeth, and Ensign Robert Green. Fortunately, however, the apprehended emergency had not to be faced. The wise diplomacy of the Prince Consort in England and of Lincoln in the United States healed the breach. The stimulus of danger passed. On August 18, 1865, the Queen's Own Rifles were officially disbanded.

A more permanent result of the Trent Affair came through the appointment in 1862 of a Royal Commission, to consider a more effective reorganization of the militia. As a result of its deliberations there was created in 1863 .a Militia Department, presided over by a cabinet minister. Provision was made for an active or volunteer militia force of 35,000 men, backed by a sedentary militia of first and second class service men and reserves. While many minor amendments to this system have been made from time to time, the most important reconstruction was accomplished by a Militia Act introduced in 1904 by Sir Frederick Borden, then Minister of Militia. By this Act Canada was divided into thirteen military districts, each under a District Officer Commanding, All male inhabitants between the ages of eighteen and sixty were to be liable for military service. The first line of defence in time of war, as well as the training school of the nation in time of peace, was to be the Active Militia, with its authorized establishment and annual training. The rest of the eligible classes of the population might be called out to serve in times of emergency, as was done with certain classes by the Military Service Act of 1917.

Military Annals

Victoria County


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