Branch 154 Remembers – Caledonians at the Battle of Ridgeway

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In June of 1866, a group of around one thousand discharged Irish veterans of the American Civil War, known as the Fenians, hoping to force Britain to grant Ireland independence, invaded Canada at Fort Erie.

The Caledonia Volunteer Rifle Company, consisting of four officers (Captain William Jackson, Lieutenant Robert Thorburn, Ensign George Crystal and Ensign Ronald McKinnon) and forty-four men, was attached to the 13th Battalion of Infantry (now the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry).  Along with the Queen’s Own Rifles from Toronto and the York Volunteer Rifle Company, they travelled by train down the peninsula and debarked to face the Fenians at Ridgeway on June 2nd.  The militia had the worst of the battle, suffering nine deaths on the battlefield and twenty-two who died of wounds and disease, but the Fenians returned to the United States and the invasion was over.

The Fenian invasion and the Battle of Ridgeway were major factors leading to the formation of Canada the next year.  The anniversary of the battle, Decoration Day, was observed as a remembrance of those who gave up their lives for Canada till 1930, when 11 November was established as Remembrance Day.

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