Formed as #6 Company on January 6, 1983
Presentation by Ken Willis 15 Jan 2020
After Confederation 1867, the Province of Ontario (Canada West) was under British governance. Due to fears of what would happen after the American Civil War (1861-1865), the British authorities formed volunteer militia companies in hundreds of communities across Ontario, including our own.
The British authorities were concerned about a secret society of Irish patriots who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States with the intent of ending British rule by taking Canada by force and exchanging it with Britain for Irish independence. This secret revolutionary organization was founded on St. Patrick’s Day in 1857, by James Stephens in Dublin, Ireland. It was called the Fenian Brotherhood.
It is fascinating to imagine local kitchen table discussions about the Irish “terrorists” . Only our ancestors didn’t just talk about local politics at the coffee shop. They obeyed orders, formed militias and showed up.
On 3 Jan 1863, Wardsville volunteers formed independent militia company No. 6 within the 26th Middlesex Battalion headquartered in London. It was commanded by James T. Ward.
In early 1866, with tensions very high and Fenian attacks were anticipated along the St. Clair River. The Wardsville company was dispatched on March 8th to the Sarnia area and the local men “went under canvass” in full readiness to meet the enemy — in March .
But the Fenians didn’t show up. Instead, the Fenians attempted to invade Canada at Campobello Island at the Maine, US / New Brunswick border. It was a complete disaster.
The British authorities relaxed, but the clever Fenians took heart and re-organized an invasion across the Niagara River. They captured the undefended town of Fort Erie and its railway and telegraph terminals. The revolutionaries arrested the Town Council, Customs and border officials before cutting outgoing telegraph lines so help could not be summoned.
To find out the details, click here for a download of Ken’s Paper or read on: