On June 1, 1866 Canada was invaded by Irish-American
Fenian insurgents from their bases in the United States. The Fenian
Brotherhood planned to take Canada hostage in an attempt to free Ireland
from the British Crown and establish an independent republic. The
invasion culminated on June 2, with the Battle of Ridgeway near Fort Erie, Ontario,
Canada's first modern battle and the first fought exclusively by
Canadian soldiers and led entirely by Canadian officers.
Nine militia volunteers from Toronto's Queen's Own Rifles Regiment were
killed in the battle, including three student soldiers from a University
of Toronto rifle company called out while writing their final exams and
who took the brunt of a Fenian charge at Limestone Ridge. While
Canadians had not fought a major war in Canada since the War of 1812,
the Fenians were all battle-hardened veterans of the American Civil War,
many having served in crack Irish brigades.
The "Ridgeway Nine" were Canada's first soldiers killed in action and
Ridgeway was the last battle fought in Ontario against a foreign
invader, but after the disastrous conclusion the Macdonald government
covered-up what happened so thoroughly that most Canadians
today have never heard of this battle.
Ridgeway: The American Fenian Invasion and the 1866 Battle
That Made Canada by Peter Vronsky is the first book length study of the battle
published in 100 years and is now available from Penguin Books wherever books are sold.