Category Archives: Fenian Raid

The Toronto Company of Highland Rifles

The article below is an excerpt from The 48th Highlanders of Toronto, by Alexander Fraser, M.A. which was published in 1900 as “The Origin and History of this Regiment and a short account of the Highland Regiments from time to time stationed in Canada.”

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Among the things around which military memories linger in Toronto is the Company of Highland Rifles, at one time attached to the Queen’s Own Rifles. The veterans of to-day delight, as veterans only do, in reminiscences of the time when they served in its ranks, and to them it is a source of regret that no adequate account of it has been preserved.

Within the scope of this work only a brief notice is permissible; yet, as a company in which the Highland idea of soldiering was enthusiastically upheld and exemplified, a short sketch is obviously in place in this volume.

The company was raised on the 18th of September, 1856, those chiefly instrumental in its organization being: A. M. Smith, at one time in the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders; A. T. Fulton, merchant; John Gardner, at one time in the 71st Highland Light Infantry: Robert Sutherland and Mr. R. H. Ramsay. The first officers were: A. M. Smith, Captain; A. T. Fulton. Lieutenant; John Gardner, Ensign; Francis McMannus Russell, Surgeon. It was then known as No. 3 Independent Volunteer Rifle Co. of Toronto.

When the independent companies were formed into No. 2 Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles, the Highland Company was designated No. 4 (Highland). At that time Captain A. M. Smith was appointed Major in the Queen’s Own Rifles, and his place was taken in the captaincy of the Highland Company by Lieutenant Fulton. Ensign Gardner becoming Lieutenant, and John Sheddon, Ensign. This was in May. 1860. Captain Fulton is said by Mr. Chadwick to have been “a splendid drill, and aided by the natural steadiness of the Highlanders, soon obtained a reputation for his company which they ever afterwards maintained.”

In 1863 Captain Fulton retired, and Lieutenant John Gardner was, on the 21st August of that year, appointed to the command of the company, with R. H. Ramsay as Lieutenant, and Donald Gibson as Ensign. ln 1866 Captain Gardner retired from active command and was succeeded by Lieutenant Ramsay as Captain with Ensign Gibson as Lieutenant. and Mr. Henry Scott as Ensign. These were the officers of the company at the time of its dissolution.

Although No. 4 of the Queen’s Own Rifles, at first, the company was, being dressed in the kilt, always placed on the left of the line of the parade, and for this reason the number was changed from 4 to 10, the latter number being the one by which it is familiar to the survivors of those connected with it.

In 1866 Captain Gardner was associated with Captain Ramsay in the Fenian Raid expedition, and commanded at Ridgeway. It is related with pride how the Highland Rifles was the last to retire from the field. Mr. Matheson, druggist, Toronto, acted as company bugler that day, and when the “retreat” was sounded he did not interpret it as a retire call. Some one in the front ranks called out to Captain Gardner that he had heard a retire call. That officer was enraged at the idea and shouted back: “If you say it again I’ll cut you down with my sword. It’s a charge. Are you ready?” Pouches were examined and those who had three or more cartridges left had to share one or more of them with those who had only one or none. The ammunition was nearly all spent. These are said to have been Captain Gardner’s orders We are now to charge. Steady men! Go forward at the double, keeping steady as if on parade. You know how to do it, you’ve done it often at drill. Keep steady as you march on, but cheer for all you’re worth.” The company advanced about twenty paces at the double when an officer rode up and shouted Halt! where are you going with these men, sir? Can’t you see the line has retired?” The order was then given: “The shortest way to the reserve” and the company retired. Among those wounded were John Whyte and Forbes McHardy.

The company lay at Stratford for some weeks, and there a photograph was taken of the company, with its officers in front, which is a much cherished relic in many homes now scattered over Canada and the United States, for members of the Highland Rifles have followed Fortune wherever her smile beckoned.

No 10 (Highland) Company, June 1866
No 10 (Highland) Company, June 1866

On the 1st of October, 1868, the company disbanded because the Government refused to grant an allowance in lieu of the ordinary uniform: or perhaps it would be more correct to say that for the sake of uniformity the military authorities insisted upon the company adopting the same uniform as the other companies of the regiment wore and as the Highlanders were not permitted to wear the kilt, they declined re-enrollment under the Militia Act of 1868. and so became extinct.

The members continued to meet at their old rendezvous, and not having now the bond of military duty to keep them together, the idea occurred to some of them that they should form themselves into a Scottish society. About that time the old Highland Society of Toronto was less active than usual, and an amalgamation was brought about between it and the members of the Highland company, the combined body being named the “Caledonian Society of Toronto,” including Highlander and Lowlander, under the Gaelic name “Caledonia,” usually derived from “CoilIe daoine.” “Woodlanders.” It is interesting to note that the society thus formed. should, twenty-three years afterwards, in 1891, have retained so lively a recollection of the experiences associated with the old Highland Rifles as to be among the most enthusiastic promoters and generous donors of the 48th Highlanders at the period of its organization.

Pipe Major Alexander M. Oliphant, Toronto 1865
Pipe Major Alexander M. Oliphant, Toronto 1865

The interesting list of the original members is as follows: the officers as already mentioned Quarter-Master-Sergeant George Ocil. Col.-Sergeant Robert Sutherland, Sergeants Robert Morrison and James Gray. Corporals Robert Jaffray and Wm. Ramsay. Piper Donald MacRae, Bugler Wm. Wallace, Privates Archie McFarlane, Wm. Bansley, Alexander Barrie, Henry Braid, John Calver, William Cos, Nicholas Cumming, Andrew Fleming, Peter Gardner. George Gilchrist, William Goldie. George Gratton, Alexander Gray, Allan Walker, Walter Wilson, Daniel Rose, James Mowan, John Atchison, Neil Johnston, Wm. G. Kemp. Alexander Moodie, Malcolm Morrison, Joseph McGeorge, Wm. McGeorge. Alaistair MacDonald. Thomas MacIntosh. Duncan MacKjnnon, Alistair H. Oliphant. Henry McLeod, Robert H. Ramsay, Adam Reid, David Ross, Alexander Thorburn, George Wills, James Wilson, and Sam. Hutcheson.

The uniform was the same as that of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, with the exception of the feather bonnet the glengarry being worn —and the tunic, which was of green material with red facings.

Another Highland company which was connected with the Queen’s Own Rifles. Toronto, was “F” or No.6 company of Whitby. It was incorporated with the Queen’s Own on the formation of the latter in 1860. It does not appear to have ever paraded with the regiment although not gazetted out until November. 1862. It is now No. 1 Company of the 34th regiment.

Museum display at 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway

The morning of 2 June 1866 was hot and humid as the volunteers of the Queen’s Own and 13th Battalion marched down main street of Ridgeway, Ontario towards battle with the invading Fenian Army. 150 years later, Saturday 4 June 2016 was just as hot and humid but for the volunteers of the Queen’s Own Museum and Archives the biggest enemy was trying to assemble the army tentage as they set-up their display at the Crystal Ridge Arena in Ridgeway. The museum volunteers had been preparing since early spring when it was decided that the museum would participate in the commemoration event of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway.

It was agreed upon that despite the risk, we would take one of our most important artifacts; the tunic belonging to Ensign Malcolm McEachren who fell in the battle that day and would become the first soldier to die in battle from the regiment. The tunic would be the centre piece of the display.

Ensign McEachern's tunic on display
Ensign McEachern’s tunic on display

The volunteers also produced a set of pop-up signs and posters describing the battle and the part the Queen’s Own played in it.

museum-display-2
Museum display tent

At the last minute it was determined that the Snider Enfield rifle that was carried by Rifleman John Mewburn during the battle until he was shot would also be available to be put on display thanks to a generous and trusting owner. The rifle was taken back to the University of Toronto by his student comrades after he fell in battle. It was held by the school for many years but it is said it was sold-off after a fire in the late 1890’s.

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from L-R, Rifleman Mewburn’s Snider Enfield, listing of casualties, Fenian Raid medal, trophy presented to Mrs Pring by officers of the regiment in 1866

 

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One of the most popular exhibits was a cut-out of QOR soldiers for people to pose for pictures with.

The day turned out to be a complete success; almost 500 people visited the display, the weather was perfect, the volunteers were able to to tell the story of the regiment and its soldiers, and all the artifacts were returned safely to the museum and their owners.

Thomas Lockie: The First to wear the London Scottish uniform in Battle; 1866

The following article was written by Anthony Partington in June 2015 for the London Scottish regimental news and we are pleased to repost it here with his permission as we anticipate the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway. {Photo above No. 10 Highland Company after Battle of Ridgeway]

The Battle of Ridgeway, June 2 1866, was probably the first battle fought entirely by members of the Volunteer Movement in either Britain or Canada. It was also the last battle fought in Canada against a foreign invader. For the London Scottish Regiment, and long forgotten, the battle was the first time that our uniform was worn in action.

Lady Elcho, speaking in the Fall 1866 prize-giving, said: “It is with no small pride that we, this year, heard of one who had served in the ranks of the London Scottish having greatly distinguished himself by his enthusiasm and steadiness in the field against the Fenians in Canada. This refers to Colour-Sergeant Lockie, of No. 8 Company, who went into action in the uniform of the London Scottish, which thus came under fire for the first time.”

Thomas E. Lockie, – a Volunteer from the London Scottish

In June 1866, the Governor General presented to both houses of the Legislature the Adjutant-General of Militia in Canada’s report on the state of the Volunteer system in the Province of Canada (note Confederation was yet to come in 1867). It makes special note of the presence of young Thomas Lockie who fought in the Battle of Ridgeway (also known as Lime Ridge) with the true martial spirit of the British and Canadian Volunteer Movement.

“It would be impossible to detail the many individual instances of devotion to Canada which have been afforded by her sons; but the behavior of a stranger not long arrived in the country from England should not be left without notice. Mr. Lockie, a young gentleman of the London Scottish (Lord Elcho’s Regiment), who had distinguished himself at Wimbledon, came to Canada 18 months ago. When the Fenians landed at Fort Erie he had only been a few weeks returned from England with a young bride. He immediately fell into the ranks of the Queen’s Own as a private, and fought at the Battle of Lime Ridge, where the grey colour of his uniform, that of the London Scottish, exposed him particularly to the fire of the enemy. His coolness and bravery were conspicuous, and during the retreat he was always seen in the rear, encouraging his comrades and leading and firing with as much deliberation as if on a field day.”

Col. Garnet Wolseley, Deputy Adjutant-General of Militia in Canada, had arrived on the battlefield on June 3 and took command of the British forces in the area. In all probability, it was he who placed the glowing praise of Mr. Lockie in the Addenda to the Militia Report. Wolseley had served in the 84th Regiment in the Indian Mutiny with Lord Elcho’s brother-in-law Major Augustus H.A. Anson V.C., M.P. They were both best friends with Lord Elcho. Their reports back to Lord Elcho of the unsuitability of scarlet, blue and green uniforms in a modern battle probably sensitized Wolseley to the presence of the Hodden Grey on the battlefield.

There is a photo of No 10 Company taken at Stratford where the British and Canadian forces regrouped after the battle under the command of Col. Wolseley. The muster roll shows three official Volunteers in the company, including Lockie, discharged from strength by June 6. He could be the man in the photo as it would be of those who had fought. Of note is how the civilian dress in grey of the one Volunteer stands out against the rifle green tunics and Black Watch tartan trews of the Highland Company supporting the comment in the Adjutant-General’s report. The Hodden Grey uniform of the London Scottish would have been similar.

Thomas Eman Lockie was born 6 January 1838 in Kelso, Roxburghshire to Andrew Lockie, a wealthy farmer with 800 acres of arable land and 100 acres of grass employing 13 men, 8 women and 3 boys. Thomas spent his formative years in a boarding school and, by 1861, he was a merchantile clerk living in Lambeth. Lockie was noted as being a Colour-Sergeant of No. 8 Company, under Captain Macgregor in March 1862. He arrived in Canada in late 1864 or early 1865 but returned to England to marry Janet Eman in Lambeth in the first quarter of 1866 (curiously a woman with the same surname as his mother and most likely his cousin). Within a matter of weeks, Lockie and his bride made the long voyage back to Canada and a new life in Toronto. Despite his young age, he had both strong qualifications and good connections as, in short order, he became the secretary for the newly founded Toronto Steel, Iron and Railway Works. The young couple’s domestic tranquility, however, was short-lived and within a few days of arriving back, Lockie was volunteering to fight the Fenians.

Serving as a Private in the Queen’s Own Rifles, Lockie fought at the Battle of Ridgeway on June 2 1866 near Fort Erie in the Niagara peninsula. He survived the battle but just over a year later, he died of liver failure, a disease contracted during his military service. His fate and his connection to the London Scottish were again duly reported in local and national newspapers and by the QOR.

The Globe of Oct 21, 1867 stated:

“ DEATH OF A VOLUNTEER- Mr T. E. Lockie, a member of the Highland Company of the Queen’s Own Rifles, died in this city on Saturday, and will be buried today with military honours. The deceased prior to his arrival in this country, was a member of the London Scottish Regiment of Volunteers, and, during his connection with the Queen’s Own, experienced all the hardships of their Fort Erie campaign, and there contracted a disease which accelerated his death. At the Battle of Ridgeway, he appeared in the grey kilt and hose of his former regiment, and at the retreat his conduct was marked by bravery. After the fight, the behavior of the peculiarly-dressed individual, as he was styled, elicited the admiration of even the Fenians, he, while the retreat was going on, having remained so far behind as to be under the fire of both sides, while his cool and collected behavior during the engagement was a source of encouragement to his comrades-in-arms. He was secretary of the Toronto Steel and Iron Works since the opening of that establishment, and conducted himself there to the satisfaction of his employer.”

The Globe of Oct 22, 1867 stated:

“VOLUNTEER FUNERAL- The funeral of the late Corporal Lockie, of the Highland Company, Queen’s Own Rifles, took place from the residence of the deceased to the Necropolis yesterday afternoon. The deceased was buried with full military honours. A firing party from the company to which the deceased belonged, headed the funeral cortege and immediately in rear was the regimental band of the battalion, the hearse, a number of the volunteer force, and friends of the deceased in carriages, bringing up the rear. On their arrival at the ground, a volley was fired over the grave by his comrades, and the earth closed over a volunteer whose record in our force was honourable, and whose memory deserves to be warmly cherished.”

“Aperture Sight”, the columnist in the Volunteer Review and Military and Naval Gazette of October 28 credits both reports above originally to Lt. Col. Gillmor, O.C. the QOR. As an aside to the battle report, many southern Fenians wore their ex-Confederate States’ grey uniforms with green facings in the battle, which was why friendly forces would shoot at Lockie.

Curiously, Lockie lies in an unmarked grave belonging to John Lang Blaikie, along with two of Blaikie’s infant children, in the Toronto Necropolis. Both Blaikie and Janet Eman Lockie were Executors of Lockie’s will and estate in Canada. These facts suggest both Executors did not do justice to this man, considering that he left an estate worth $4,078, and probably some collusion. Blaikie was a wealthy and prominent Toronto stockbroker and businessman; a man who, like Lockie, had immigrated to Canada from the small Scottish shire of Roxburgh. While the connection between Blaikie and Lockie is not clear, one may assume that Blaikie had known Lockie’s family in Scotland and had most likely mentored the young Lockie on his arrival in Toronto into the Toronto Steel, Iron and Railway Works and managed his investments.

Eight months later, the Department of Militia and Defence in Ottawa also recognized Lockie’s contributions. There is a post in the Canada Gazette on June 1, 1868 noting that Thomas E. Lockie, “Queen’s Own Rifles, died of disease contracted at the Battle of Ridgeway” and that his widow had been awarded a gratuity of $200.

What had started out with such promise ended in the bitter loss of a brave and promising young man so soon after his moment of glory.

The 1866 Fenian Raid

For a young man with military experience, Thomas E Lockie’s arrival in Canada was opportune. With the conclusion of the American Civil War, the Fenian Society decided to organize disbanded Irish soldiers from both the Union and Confederate Armies into Volunteer units for the invasion of Canada. The intent was to secure a piece of Canada by force that could be traded for the freedom of Ireland. Some 1500 Fenian troops crossed the Niagara River north of Fort Erie with many more waiting to cross. The campaign was the first to be fought under the flag and title “Irish Republican Army”.

The British forces mobilized to fight this Fenian incursion were split into two. Included in the northern force were elements of the 16th and 47th Foot of British Infantry, a battery of Royal Artillery, along with local companies of Volunteer Militia from the Niagara area. Their objective was to protect the railway routes north to Niagara Falls and the only bridge to the USA and west towards the Welland Canal. The southern force, consisting of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto (QOR), the 13th Battalion Canadian Volunteer Militia (later The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry), the Caledonia and York companies of Militia, the Dunnville Naval Brigade, the Welland Canal Field Artillery Battery (with no field guns), were to protect the railway line leading west to Port Colborne and the southern entrance to the Welland Canal.

Despite a massive call-out in March 1866, preparations were inadequate for an attack.
Ammunition ration for target practice was limited and few Militiamen had ever fired their rifles. The Militia units had no knapsacks or water bottles to campaign with. This wasn’t as obvious a problem until the QOR went into battle unfed, with no water and only 20 rounds of ammunition –sufficient for about seven minutes of heavy fire! No fear – they proposed to bayonet the Fenians, a tactic almost unheard of in the American Civil War. Many soldiers drank ditch water because of the lack of water bottles and possibly this was the reason for Lockie’s disease. The March call-out had been a ‘cry wolf’- nothing had happened and nothing was done to correct deficiencies. Many small businessmen and students suffered commercially and time-wise such that many did not report for the June call-out. The shortfalls allowed Thomas Lockie an opportunity to serve as a trained soldier.

The Fenian intelligence was excellent. They knew that the northern force was mainly British regular soldiers while the southern force was untried Canadian Militia. They chose to attack the 841 Militia at Ridgeway first, then the British regulars. The ill-equipped and relatively untrained Militia troops attacked aggressively. A ‘cavalry’ alarm caused the Canadians to form square (a Napoleonic War tactic still in the British Drill Book) in front of trained American infantry, resulting in many fatalities and injuries. Nine men died that day from the QOR with others in the weeks following. Perversely, the error in command probably saved lives since the QOR and the 13th Battalion were just about to engage the Fenian main force with insufficient ammunition. The experienced and well-supplied Fenians would have cut them to pieces. The battle at Ridgeway was a tactical defeat for the Canadians, yet a strategic victory, since the Fenians withdrew back to the USA the next day after the US Government cut off reinforcements and supplies to the Fenians.

The Canadian Volunteer Militia

The Volunteer Movement in England produced many fine battalions including The London Scottish Volunteer Rifles and also influenced the creation of many Volunteer regiments in Canada that in time became the majority of the Canadian Army. Many were called out in March and June 1866 and at other times up to 1870 in response to the three-pronged planned Fenian attack. The western attack from Detroit never happened. The eastern attack into Quebec was effectively a police action while the central attack through Fort Erie was an actual battle involving the Queen’s Own Rifles.

The 2nd Battalion, Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada was formed April 26, 1860 in Upper Canada from four independent rifle companies in Toronto and a company each from Barrie and Whitby. The ‘Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto’ title was given in March 1863 when they became part of the Service Militia of Canada with a role as a fighting force in contrast to the remainder of the Volunteer companies that acted generally as military police / Frontier Constabulary. The impetus in Upper and Lower Canada was the American Civil War with numerous small raids by Union or Confederate forces across the border and the desire by Britain to withdraw the remaining regular regiments. By 1866, the QOR consisted of 10 companies solely from Toronto including No. 10 (Highland) Company. The Highland Societies of Toronto formed the Highland Company in 1860, similar to the foundation of the London Scottish, but disbanded it in 1868. Later the Highland Societies raised the 48th Highlanders of Toronto in 1891.

The 48th Highlanders contained a number of expatriate London Scots who corresponded with the London Scottish Gazette for many years and who were known to Lt. (later Captain) Colin C. Harbottle. Lt. Col. CC Harbottle later commanded the 75th Battalion in WW1 and The Toronto Scottish Regiment after the war. The London Scottish Regiment has deep and abiding connections with Canada and now one more can be added to the roster – the story of Thomas E. Lockie, the first to wear the regimental uniform in battle.

Strike Sure and Carry On
Anthony Partington

Artifact Spotlight: March 1866 Nominal Roll

QOR museum volunteer Alex Meyers recently graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Master’s degree in Public History.  He has worked on the City of Toronto’s “Great War Attic” project, researched historical plaques for Heritage Toronto, served as a Curatorial Assistant at London’s Fanshaw Pioneer Village, and a Historical Interpreter at Toronto’s Pioneer Village. With the skills and experience Alex brings, we are very pleased to have him working on our team!

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In the early hours of 7 March 1866, the men of the Queen’s Own Rifles were called to arms. They enthusiastically assembled and paraded at the drill shed near Toronto Habour, and remained on active duty for the next few weeks. In winter and spring 1866, Canadians were wary of the threatening Fenian Brotherhood, a group of militant Irish nationalists, who were openly organizing in the United States. The Fenians talked about seizing part of Canada, to be used as a bargaining chip towards Irish independence from the United Kingdom. The QOR were called to active duty in anticipation of trouble around St Patrick’s Day (March 17), which was frequently a day of sectarian conflict between members of Toronto’s Protestant and Catholic Irish communities.

Toronto Globe, 10 march 1866
Toronto Globe, 10 march 1866

One particularly revealing document we have of that period is the regimental nominal rolls, a record of every man and officer in the regiment. The roll was written in a large hardcover book, the black cover is heavily worn. This particular book was used by the Queen’s Own from 1866 to 1882. Inside, there are more than 400 pages, each page number is neatly printed in the top outside corner. The pages are ruled and lined book like a school notebook.

The nominal roll as a physical artifact is quite fragile. It is at least 150 years old and was in active use for 16 years. Fortunately we don’t need to use the artifact to study its contents. The nominal rolls were manually scanned by some anonymous, but much appreciated, archivist. The whole book can be viewed as a PDF through the Archives section of this website. Being able to scroll through the nominal rolls as a PDF on my computer screen is great but to really understand it, I needed to sort and manipulate the data. If the tables of the nominal rolls were typed I could have used an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) program, which interpret scanned text and turn it into machine-readable ones and zeros. But even the best OCR programs have trouble with handwriting, so the next step was to transcribe the data for the whole regiment, nearly 600 men.

Nominal Roll, March 1866
Nominal Roll, No. 3 Company, 20 March 1866

Military clerks would take a record the regiment’s strength at regular intervals during times of peace and active-duty. This task fell to rotating cast of Non Commissioned Officers (NCO). The rolls are not without gaps though. Human error shows up from time to time. A whole page seems to be missing between No. 6 and 7 coys, so the record for both companies is incomplete. There is also a note where No. 10 coy should be, indicating that the roll of that company was never brought to the orderly room, so we lack a record for that company as well.

Each pages neatly drawn into a ledger. The data being collected changes from year to year. We chose to analyze the entry for March 1866 because it is the first entry in the book, it contains the most data, and because it marks the beginning of a particularly active period for the regiment. The nominal roll entry for March 1866 tells us a lot about the regiment at the time. This entry collects the following data: Rank, Name, Date of Service, Country, Religion, Trade or Calling, Age, and Remarks. From this data we can learn about the demographics of the regiment, and draw comparisons to Toronto of 1866 and 2016.

In some ways the QOR represented the demographics of Toronto in 1866, in other ways it did not. Like the general population of Toronto, the members of the regiment were almost exclusively born in Great Britain or a British colony. Fifty five percent of the regiment are listed as born in Canada, but in the year before Confederation that would be the Province of Canada, composed of Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario). New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, each represented in the nominal rolls by one individual, were still distinct colonies. Finally, three soldiers were born in the United States. The soldiers born in Canada were patriotic British subjects, but there was an emerging sense of uniquely Canadian identity.

Country of Orgin
Country of Orgin

The regiment was as overwhelmingly Protestant as it was British. More than half the soldiers identified as Episcopal, another name for the Church of England and Ireland. Taken together with the Presbyterians (22%) and the Wesleyan/Methodists (17%), the three dominant Protestant denominations made up 94% of the regiment. British and Protestant identities were central to military service and feelings of loyalty. The proportion of Roman Catholics in Toronto peaked at 27% in 1861, but they are disproportionately underrepresented among the QOR, making up just 2%. Almost all of the Catholics in Toronto at the time were from Ireland. Catholics were considered outsiders by the dominant Protestant culture, but unlike the small numbers of Jews, Germans, and Italians in the city they were not considered ‘foreigners’.

Religious affiliation
Religious affiliation

British Protestants were not the only Torontonians ready to defend Canada from the Fenian menace. The Globe newspaper reported [10 March, 1866] that 120 men of the city’s “coloured population” had assembled in two companies and had offered their services to the government. Toronto had a small population of people of African descent, some of whom had come to the city along the famous Underground Railroad after escaping from slavery in the United States.

By 1866, Toronto was established as a regionally-important commercial, administrative, and educational centre. It was also valuable as a transportation hub for the export of Canadian agricultural products and the import of manufactured goods from Britain. In addition, it was becoming an important centre of industrial manufacturing. The men of the regiment represent 66 different occupations and reflect Toronto’s increasingly diverse economy. The heterogeneous occupational composition of the QOR provides an interesting contrast to its homogenous religious and ethnic origins. Several companies of the regiment were initially affiliated with particular trades or institutions and later became numbered units: Merchant’s Company, No. 5 Coy; Civil Service Company, No. 7 Coy; Trinity and University companies, No. 9 Coy. Students from the city’s colleges, universities and medical schools were the largest occupational group, making up 26% of the total; 8 and 9 coys were almost exclusively composed of students. The students were closely followed by clerks who made up 23% of the regiment, many of them concentrated in the No. 5 coy (Merchant’s Company). No other occupations were nearly as numerous as the students and clerks, but several were well represented, including merchants (17), shoemakers (13), laborers (11), and printers (9). There are also many more niche trades among the regiments, including Private R. Watson, silversmith; Private J.C. Smith, sailmaker; and Corporal J.B. Howe, dentist, age 19.

The nominal rolls for 1866 provide a glimpse into the spiritual and working lives of the Queen’s Own Rifles and of Victorian Toronto. The city retained its British Protestant identity well into the 20th century, even as it became increasingly diverse. The QOR has also evolved to reflect the cosmopolitan city.

See also The Fenian Raid 1866.

QOR and Upper Canada College: 150th Anniversary of Affiliation

Major Francis Collier Draper
Major Francis Collier Draper

On 12 January 1866 No 11 Company “Upper Canada College” of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (QOR) was formed under the command of Captain Frank C. Draper.

Draper seems like an excellent choice to fill this role as he was both a UCC Old Boy (1844-52) and had been a QOR officer since 1863. In 1874 he would resign his commission and become Toronto’s Chief Constable (i.e. Police Chief).

Creation of Upper Canada College Company of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada (Gazette)
Creation of Upper Canada College Company of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (Gazette)

The following article is excerpted from “COLBORNE’S LEGACY: Upper Canada College 1829-1979″ by Richard B. Howard

“It is Difficult to Establish a Date on which the College Rifle  Company, alias the Rifle Corps, later the Cadet Battalion, held its first official parade…..

The first hint of any military enthusiasm at UCC is mentioned earlier, when during the 1837 Rebellion, a troop of boys offered their services to the Lieutenant-Governor. …..

Early in Principal Cockburn’s regime, military drill was the subject of much attention in schools in England, Canada, and the United States. Ways were sought to promote what was thought of as a patriotic  spirit. The aim was to foster love of country along with a disposition to defend it, and to develop obedience and discipline. The important habit of prompt obedience could then be carried over into the classroom. By 1865 drill had been introduced into schools in many Ontario centres, including Toronto, London, and Port Hope. The College was probably one of the earliest participants; it is known that in 1863 the older boys paraded weekly under a Major [Henry] Goodwin, a strict disciplinarian but “kind-hearted” and “cheery.”

In 1865 Fenian troubles were creating much unease in Canada, and several Upper Canada College students asked Principal Cockburn’s permission to transform the recently formed cadets into a company of the Queen’s Own Rifles.

In December of that year an unknown number of pupils were enrolled, and in January 1866 the company was attached to the 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Rifles.

Thus , Upper Canada College was possibly the second Canadian school to have an “official” cadet corps, following Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, Quebec, whose corps was organized in 1861.
……………….

The Queen’s Own were called out on March 8, 1866 , and though the College boys were not specifically mentioned, they appeared at every parade and march anyway (they even had their own marching song).

On St. Patrick’s Day the company waited for any trouble arising
out of the parade, but nothing happened . When the Fenians actually struck at Fort Erie on June 1 , the Queen’s Own were ordered out to meet them.  School was dismissed for the day and the College company reported for duty only to find that, by orders of General Napier, they must “…. remain in garrison to guard the armouries and official stores. Some students wanted to “desert” to join the battalion at the front, but evidently no one did.

“They performed the duty which was given them. ” After the raid there were plenty of volunteers in Toronto, and so the College company was released; but, just in case, it was “agreed that should the College bell ring at any time out of class hours, the members of the Company would . . . assemble at the Armoury.” The bell did, in fact, ring once, and the College boys were the first to report to the armoury, but it was a false alarm. A dense crowd gave them three cheers.

It has been thought that the Upper Canada College Rifle Company received “battle honours” for its passive though honourable role in the Raid. Not so. The Queen’s Own Rifles did not receive such honour; neither did the College. However, General Napier did give them honourable mention in his report, and it is true that they were called out for service (along with Bishop’s College School) — apparently the only time in Canadian military history this has happened.

Over thirty years later, the government decided to present medals to those who were engaged on active service in the Fenian Raid: the College Rifle Company, though denied the privilege of fighting, had performed some important functions, and all the members of the company still living received a medal.”

As of October 22, 1886, the Rifle Company officially became a Cadet Corps (#17) affiliated with The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. During the First World War, the Cadets’ association with the Queen’s Own had lapsed, and by 1923 two regiments, the Toronto Regiment (now the Royal Regiment of Canada) and QOR were requesting that the Corps affiliate itself with them. After some dispute between the three parties, the College settled on the Queen’s Own again by 1927.

In 1976 the compulsory “Battalion” was disbanded to be replaced the following year by a voluntary Cadet Corps. This lasted until 1988 when it was officially disbanded as of April 15th.

Over most of these 144 years, the connection between UCC and the QOR remained very strong. Many Old Boys went on to serve with the QOR – some even becoming Commanding Officer. Even today, the Regiment values this long and distinguished relationship between one of Canada’s oldest continuously operating schools and Canada’s longest continuously serving infantry regiment.

You can read more:

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Decoration Day held once again at Volunteer Memorial

Last week, for the first time in decades, citizens gathered to lay flowers on the National Volunteer Memorial which was created to remember those militiamen who served and died in the service of their country at and following the the Battle of Ridgeway (or Limeridge) on June 2, 1860.

Nine of those were members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada – 7 killed in action and 2 more died shortly thereafter of wounds. Several others were wounded – two requiring amputations.

KILLED

Rifleman William D. Smith No. 2 Company
Lance-Corporal Mark B. Defries No. 3 Company
Ensign Malcolm McEachern No. 5 Company
Rifleman Christopher Alderson No. 7 Company
Rifleman William Fairbanks Tempest No. 9 Company
Rifleman Malcolm McKenzie No. 9 Company
Rifleman John Harriman Mewburn No. 9 Company

WOUNDED

No. 1 Company Ensign William Fahey knee
No. 1 Company Rifleman Oulster leg (calf)
No. 2 Company Sergeant Hugh Matheson thigh
(died June 11)
No. 2 Company Corporal Francis Lakey mouth
(died June 11)
No. 2 Company Rifleman William Thompson neck
No. 3 Company Captain J. B. Boustead contused
No. 3 Company Lieutenant J. H. Beaven thigh
No. 3 Company Rifleman Chas. Winter thigh
No. 4 Company Chas. Lugsdin lung and arm
No. 5 Company Chas. Bell knee
No. 5 Company Rifleman Capp wrist
No. 6 Company Lieutenant W. C. Campbell shoulder
No. 6 Company Corporal Paul Robins knee (since
amputated)
No. 6 Company Rifleman Rutherford foot
No. 7 Company Sergeant W. Foster side
No. 9 Company Rifleman E. T. Paul knee
No. 9 Company Rifleman R. E. Kingsford leg
No. 9 Company Rifleman E. G. Paterson arm
No. 9 Company Rifleman W. H. Vandersmissen groin
No. 10 Company Colour-Sergeant F. McHardy arm
No. 10 Company Rifleman White arm (since
amputated)

You can read more about the battle here.

Thanks to journalist, author and educator, Peter Vronsky for organizing the ceremony. Participants included QOR Skirmishers, bugler and padre; and period soldiers from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry who fought at Ridgeway as the 13th Battalion.

Photos below are courtesy of retired Captain Larry Hicks, CD.

9 Reasons the QOR Remember Decoration Day

You might be excused if you’ve never heard of Decoration Day – but from 1890 to 1931 it was our first official day of remembering those who had died in the service of their country.

Peter Vronsky wrote:

“After nearly twenty-five years of silence, in 1890, suddenly murmurs and whispers of Ridgeway began to bubble to the surface in public discourse. A short paragraph in the Globe, ―Ridgeway Remembered‖ reported that the veterans of the battle had ―taken the matter in hand and would meet for the first time publicly on the twenty-fourth anniversary to lay flowers on the monument to the fallen on the U of T campus near Queens Park. The Globe described the ceremony under the headline, ―Our Decoration Day and reported that from now on it would be commemorated annually. It was the beginning of Canada‘s national Remembrance Day.”

As time passed it also came to also serve as a day to remember those who had died in the Northwest Rebellion and the South African War. Then came the First World War and the massive casualties which soon overshadowed these earlier and in comparison, less significant conflicts. An Act of Parliament in 1931 would change our national day of remembrance to November 11 and as the last of the Fenian Raid survivors died off, so did the June 2nd Decoration Day.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve all seen those “lists” designed to tweak your interest and click through to their website – hotels with breathtaking views, amazing animal photos, abandoned Olympic facilities. Today we present our own list – the list of those of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada who were the first to die in the service of their country and the reason we still remember Decoration Day:

1. Ensign Malcolm McEachern – No. 5 Company
Thirty five years of age, this father of five young children was the first to fall on June 2nd.

2. Rifleman William D. Smith – No. 2 Company
Sadly we know very little about Rifleman Smith.

3. Lance-Corporal Mark B. Defries – No. 3 Company
He worked as a cellarman or malster in this brother Robert’s East-end Brewery.

4. Rifleman Christopher Alderson – No. 7 Company
He’d married his wife Janet Black exactly 3 months before the Battle of Ridgeway.

5. Rifleman William Fairbanks Tempest – No. 9 Company
His father, a Whitby medical doctor who had rushed to Ridgeway to assist the wounded, discovered the corpse of his son.

6. Rifleman Malcolm McKenzie – No. 9 Company
He enlisted in the University Company and was the first in his to fall, killed instantly with a shot to the heart.

7. Rifleman John Harriman Mewburn – No. 9 Company
His father had scraped together nearly $400 to put him through a year of school, but his grades were so good that he was expected to win the annual University College Scholarship.

8. Sergeant Hugh Matheson – No. 2 Company
Matheson was wounded in the leg on June 2nd but infection set in and despite amputation, we would die on June 11th.

9. Corporal Francis Lakey – No. 2 Company
Lackey also suffered horrible wounds to his face and head on June 2nd and would like Matheson, die a few days later.

Each year members of the Queen’s Own and the QOR Association still travel to the Battle of Ridgeway Memorial and conduct a ceremony of remembrance and decoration.

The QOR at Ridgeway Memorial on Decoration Day 2012
The QOR at Ridgeway Memorial on Decoration Day 2012

Rifleman John Harriman Mewburn

John Harriman Mewburn, died of wounds while in Fenian captivity during the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866

Mewburn served with the volunteer company (No. 9) of University of Toronto students that was a company of The Queen’s Own Rifles.

On June 1st, he was called out from his final exams to go to Ridgeway to defend Canada against the Fenian invaders. He sustained a head wound. He was left on the field and he died in Fenian custody. The Fenians behaved relatively gallantly everywhere, but in this one case, they treated him rather roughly. He was tied, thrown onto a floor of a cabin and he died on the floor of a cabin.

Chief Warrant Officer Mark Shannon (left) and Lt.-Col. John Fotheringham, of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, examine the tombstone of Niagara Falls rifleman's John Mewburn at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church. Mewburn was one of nine members of the Queen's Own who was killed during the Battle of Ridgeway on June 2, 1866.
New (November 12, 2011) gravemarker of Rifleman John Harriman Mewburn, killed at the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866

Ensign Malcolm McEachren

Ensign Malcolm McEachern, first QOR soldier to fall at the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866

“At thirty-five, he was older than the average militia volunteer. Born in Islay, Scotland and raised in Lower Canada, he came from a humble background and had originally wanted to be a minister. Born a Presbyterian, he had only recently joined the Wesleyan Methodist and was a Sunday school teacher. McEachren was married to Margaret Caroline, aged thirty-one and the couple had five children: two boys, eight and twelve, and three daughters, two, four and six years old. He was a store manager in Toronto with an annual salary of nine hundred dollars, plus free rent for the family in an apartment above the premises. McEachren was sufficiently organized to have purchased life insurance but not sufficiently wealthy to acquire more than a $250 policy – in [2005] dollars about $6,675.

Ridgeway (Vronsky) pp.61-62

He was gazetted as an Ensign March 30, 1866 and was the first to fall in the Battle of Limestone Ridge, fought against American Fenians near the town of Ridgeway in the vicinity of Fort Erie on June 2, 1866.

McEachren’s green tunic with bullet hole in the lower chest is displayed in our Museum.

Tunic of Ensign Malcolm McEcheran, first casualty of the Queen's Own Rifles at the Battle of Ridgeway (or Limeridge) June, 1866
The rededication of Malcolm McEachern's headstone in the Toronto Necropolis is shown. McEachren was Canada's first combat casualty.

Rifleman William Fairbanks Tempest

Rifleman William Fairbanks Tempest, Killed in Action at the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866.

William Tempest was born in Whitby or Oshawa on November 30, 1845, son of Dr. William Tempest and Mary H. Fairbanks.

One of his uncles was Colonel Silas B. Fairbanks, the first commanding officer of the 34th Ontario Regiment which was formed in 1866 after the Battle of Ridgeway in the Fenian Raids. Another uncle was Hugh J. Macdonell, Clerk of the Peace and Clerk of the Ontario County Council. A third uncle was Duncan C. Macdonell, Division Court Clerk of Ontario County.

The family moved to Toronto in 1860 and William joined the Queen’s Own Rifles, No. 9 Company (University of Toronto). On June 2, 1866 at the age of 23, he was killed in the Battle of Ridgeway when a bullet cut his jugular vein. In the weeks before the battle, he had premonitions about his death.

Tributes were paid to him by the Ontario County Council, then in session at Whitby and all the town’s businesses were closed from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the date of his funeral in Toronto. The town bells tolled mourning and the Whitby Brass Band marched through the streets playing the Dead March. All flags on public and private buildings were at half mast. He was buried in a public funeral at St. James’ Cemetery in Toronto.

In 1873, the Federal Government granted his mother a yearly pension of $298 in compensation for his death. She died in Toronto on July 7, 1902.