Ridgeway: The American Fenian Invasion and the 1866 Battle That Made Canada
by Peter Vronsky
8vo. pp. xxxviii, 394. b/w illustrations. bibliography. index. wrs. [Toronto]: Penguin, .
The invasion that tested a nation's courage
On June 1, 1866, more than a thousand Fenian insurgents invaded Canada across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York. The Fenians, mostly battle-hardened Civil War veterans, were bent on driving the British out of Ireland by taking Canada hostage.
Canadians had not seen combat at home for more than thirty years, but thousands volunteered to fight the invading army. They were mostly young men and boys: shopkeepers, apprentices, farm boys, schoolteachers, store clerks, and two rifle companies of University of Toronto students hastily called out from their final exams. Many had not practiced even once firing live rounds from the rifles issued to them. When they fought the Fenians the next day near the village of Ridgeway, a single rifle company of twenty-eight students took the brunt of a counterattack by eight hundred insurgents and suffered the highest number of wounded and killed.
What happened at Ridgeway and in Fort Erie on June 2, 1866, marked a signal moment in Canada’s emerging sense of itself in the year before Confederation. The actual events of that day were covered up by the Macdonald government. The history was falsified so thoroughly that most Canadians today have never heard of Canada’s first modern battle or of the first military casualties. Historian and investigative journalist, and filmmaker Peter Vronsky uncovers the hidden history of the Battle of Ridgeway and its significance to Canada’s nation-building myths and traditions.