Friday, March 15, 2019

The Queen's Own Rifles Museum - The Fenian Raids

Sir Henry Pellat in addition to being a financier and builder of Casa Loma was also a member of and later became Colonel of the Queen's Own Rifles in 1910, and ended his sixty years of military service as a Major General.

The Queen's Own Rifles museum is located on the third floor of Casa Loma, and is well worth a visit if you're in Toronto.

The Museum exhibits start with the formation of the regiment and its early history. Formed in 1860, The QOR's riflemen armed with Snider-Enfields and Spencer Rifles, had their first engagement occurred in June 1866 at the Battle of Ridgeway against the Fenian raiders.

The Fenians were Irish Americans, many of them veterans of the Civil War, who came up with a rather cunning plan to obtain independence for Ireland from Great Britain:

Invade Canada, and then trade Canada for a free Ireland.

As you might imagine, the plan wasn't quite fully thought through, and did not achieve its aims, but Fenians began invading Canada, under a name that would be far more famous in the 20th century - The Irish Republican Army.

The first raid led to the Battle of Ridgeway.

Unfortunately The Battle of Ridgeway was not the QOR's finest hour and earned the Queen's Own Rifles a rather derogatory nickname - "Quickest out of Ridgeway" for their rather disorderly retreat from the Fenian assault - a battle that turned out to be the only successful attack perpetrated by the Fenians.

The first Canadian soldier to die in that battle, Ensign Malcolm McEachren of the QOR was shot in the abdomen and died. The uniform jacket he wore that day is on display at the museum.

The exhibit on the Battle of Ridgeway was an interesting look at early Canadian military history.

The Fenian raids and the fear of further invasion was one of the factors that led to the unification and formation of Canada in 1867.

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