1 June

Raid at Ridgeway, near Fort Erie, Ont., 1866

Fenians Raid Niagara

On June 1, 1866, Canada was attacked by a military force which traveled in two rented tugs and some canal boats! The invaders were Fenians (see March 17) who sailed across the Niagara River to Fort Erie, Ontario! As nobody was awake, they had to knock on doors to get people up. They wanted Canadians to join them and be liberated from the "tyranny of Britain." The good folk of Fort Erie couldn't see things that way, but they wanted to be nice to the strangely dressed men carrying green flags with harps and gold crowns on them. They fed them cooked ham, tea and coffee.

The Fenians had intended to spread out through the Niagara Peninsula after landing at Fort Erie, but they had been up all night. The weather was warm, and so they lay down under the trees and slept for a while. The rest of the day was spent in handing out proclamations from "General" Sweezy and "General" O'Neill, saying that their only quarrel was with the oppressors of Ireland, and that they offered Canadians "the olive branch of peace and the honest grasp of friendship."

Meanwhile, official opinion in Canada West (Ontario) wasn't friendly at all. The Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto, the 13th Battalion from Hamilton, and a force of regulars from St. Catharines were rushed to the area. The Caledonian and York Rifles Companies also arrived. The Canadian troops had only thirty five bullets each and no food or water. Some of their commanding officers had no experience in warfare and little military training.

The Fenians suddenly realized that the invasion was no picnic; there were already casualties. General O'Neill was hoping for reinforcements from Buffalo where 10,000 Fenians had assembled. They were having a good time listening to speeches and drinking whisky, and did not want to leave. The United States Government then decided that 'it had better do something, and sent an armed revenue cutter to patrol the Niagara River. Some of the Fenians who had landed in Canada tried to swim back to the United States and were drowned. General O'Neill then shaved off his whiskers and fled in disguise. The tugs and canal boats came back and took off the rest of the force, towed by the American patrol boat. The skirmishing lasted until Sunday, June 3.


1 June

-1797    The Legislature of Upper Canada met at York for the first time.

-1813    H.M.S. Shannon captured the U.S.S. Chesapeake and took it to Halifax (sec December 30).

-1831    Sir James Ross discovered the position of the North Magnetic Pole.

-1873    Joseph Howe, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, died (see January 1).

-J876    Royal Military College opened at Kingston, Ontario.

-1882    Gas lighting was introduced in Winnipeg.

-1909    Governor-General Lord Grey donated the Grey Cup to Canadian football.

-1916    Manitoba adopted prohibition.

-1927    William Phillips, the first United States Minister to Canada, arrived at Ottawa.