Joseph Edmund Collins.

Life and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada online

. (page 22 of 57)
Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 22 of 57)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

unscathed from the encounter, pursued her way. The name of
the Alabama now became one of tenor and hate, and few vessels-
ventured from their ports while it was known that she \va
near their track. The American government equipped a nuni-

•»f heavily-armed and speedy cruisers, which scoured th<


in search of the marauder ; and several narrow eaCJfW
tokl S.iniiH's tliat Northern w rftfeBM wciv no longer safe. So he
set sail fof the Cape of Good Hope, and preyed upon all the
Northern merchant vessels (which were not many) that he
i nt - 1 there: but BOOB finding tliat the merchant shipping of
the enemy was beginning to forsake the seae, lie sailed for
Europe, llld put into Cherbourg to repair his vessel, now much
battered, and no longer unrivalled for bet Hpeed, Bitter re-

rhes followed the captain of the privat»'i\ and he WM
burning for an opportunity to distinguish himself by some
valorous deed. During hie career he hat! captured sixty-live
vessels, and destroyed property valued at over four millions of
-dollars; yet hi> lvpute was that of a buccaneer that preyed
upon defenceless vessels, but who fled on bei ng confronted
with a strength equal to his own. The Hatteras, which he
had met and sunk with a half-dozen broadsides, was repre-
sented as a crazy old hulk not fit to be at sea, and that must
have foundered from the concussion of her own guns. But

ines was a daring and brilliant sailor, who knew not fear,
as he was soon but to prove too plainly. He writhed under
the abuse heaped upon him, and was stung by the palpable
truth, that, whether he were coward or courageous, his warfare
had been upon defenceless commerce, and that however much
he may have harassed his foes, no glory waited on his career.
While the Alabama lay in Cherbourg, the American war -vessel
Kearsage arrived off the coast of France, and, learning where
the privateer lay, made several demonstrations in the offing,
which the Alabama regarded as a challenge to battle. Half
reckless and half hopeful, Semmes made up his mind to accept
the challenge of the haughty man-of-war, and notified the
United States consul of his intention. He made ready his ship,
and, on a fine Sunday morning, 10th of June, 1864, steamed out
of the harbour, to engage in the murderous conflict. The in-
habitants of the city crowded upon every height to witness the
battle. To the inexperienced eye the two ships, now quietly


Hearing each other, were of about equal strength, and even
captain Semmes, though at one time one of the most experi-
1 officers of the Northern naval .service, was deceived. He
did not know that the ship advancing tor the fray was in all
respects superior to the Alabama. It was only when it was
all ended he learnt that her armament was superior to his own,

her crew larger, and that she was iron-clad amidships. The bat-
tle was begun without delay, and soon was over. The Keareage
esing greater speed than her adversary, was able to keep
up a distance of about 500 yards, at which range she was little
:ted by the Alabama's shot; while the latter was suffering
terribly. The issue was decided in less than an hour. Captain
Semmes, finding his vessel sinking, struck his flag; hut before
v could come to the rescue, tin- noted privateer went
<lown. Some of the crew were picked up by the Kearsagde
ud captain Semmes and others were rescued by an

<",/'/. Then- wa- a deep filling of

ii the merchant marine of the North when the end
of the Alabama was known; and captain Wifialow, with supe-
guns and armoured sides, was the hen of the hour.

Befdre the destruction of the privateer, there was much

diplomatic turmoil between the British and United States gov-
ernments, the latter holding the former responsible for the
damages done by the Alabama. Once again Lord John Russell
fancied h<- bad terminated a difficulty by becoming peremptory 5
but bis successor to the colonial office, Lord Stanley — now Lord
Derby — frankly conceded the grounds taken by Mr. Adams in
the discussion with Lord John, to which we have already re-
verted. The outcome was renewed negotiations, a good deal
of diplomatic Are, which, as is usual in such controversy, was
Confined to the glow of anthracite coal. The United States
declared) that, while the British government had not ordered
sanctioned England's making war on Aim rican commerce)
1 permitted the outrage, and was, now, in honour, and by
all the rules of national etiquette, bound to make reparation.


At length, when correspondence failed bo procure satisfaction;

an arbitration was proposed, which consisted of representatives

.-inland, the I'nited States, the president of the Swiss Con-

ration, and the emperor of Brazil. This tribunal met in

Geneva, and on the 1 ">th of September, 187$, delivered its linal

award. For the ITrooy-hea dodD CBi of Lord Russell and the

ministry it was deer 1 that England should pay a sum of

Id. The only regret that one can feel on
reading this record of retributive justice, is, that the statesmen*
who, by their obstinate prejudice, instead of the public who
were the victims, were not obliged to pay the fine. Some
Englishmen, among whom were many of those who clapped
their hands and threw slippers laden with rice after the Ala-
bama, as she slipped down the Mersey, on her career of pillage,
mutfvered "curses not loud but deep" when they were obliged
to pay 815,000,000 for their Southern sympathy. Several
leading Englishmen, and Sir Alexander Cockburn, an eminent
judge — if eminence can afford to ignore such codes as national
obligation and national honour — affirmed that the Geneva'deci-
sion was unjust, and advised its repudiation. But the amount
wafl paid, and the British taxpayer has had an opportunity to
realize how dangerous a possession national sympathy may
sometimes be, and to lay to heart this costly lesson which Mr.
Kingsley ought to have had an opportunity of stating by the
mouth of Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid.

It has been already seen that Canada dutifully reflected the
Southern sympathy of her mother, and aggravated the feeling
of hostility against the British empire in the republic. Sou-
thern refugees were received here with open arms, were some-
times publicly feted, and all the while given to understand that
they were regarded as the noble sufferers in a gloricus cause*
During the summer of 1864 a body of the refugees decided to
turn Canadian sympathy to account, and, in September, sallied
forth from their colonial as) r lum and captured and plundered
two American vessels plying on Lakes Erie and Ontario. Ela-


ted by their success, the filibusters, a few W6ekfl later, headed

by an ex-Confederate soldier named Young, hurst into St.
Alhan's, a little town in Vermont, and situated near the fron-

where they plundered three of the local hanks, shot one
of the cashiers, bearing away to Canada $233,000 worth of

v. The Canadian government now aroused itself and dis-
tributed volunteers along our frontier, to present any further
breach of the neutrality law. The filibusters were arrested at
the instance "f the United States government, who demanded
their extradition. They were tried in Montreal, but discharged
by Judge Con rso 1, before whom they were examined, on a tech-
nical ground. A sum of $90,000 was found on the raiders

when arrested, hut on their discharge the money Was refunded

The act fed <»ur prejudice for the time, hut, in due sea-
son, we had to repay the amount to tie- American government.
There is no one who will say that this did not serve as right.
On the 15th of April, 1866, in the evening, president Abraham

Lincoln, who had two year- befbfC proclaimed the freedom of

slaves in the rebel States, while sitting in his box at the theatre,
was shot dead by the hand of an assassin. The civilized world
stood aghast at the intelligence of the deed, and Canada showed
a heartfelt sympathy for the untimely and of this great friend
of liberty. Meetings were held in the cities, at which resolu-
tions were passed expressing the sorrow of our people; flags
floated at half-mast, and bells tolled from a hundred steeples.

The minds of the timorous were disturbed in Canada, during
the same year, by the rumours, ever on the wing, of a contem-
plated invasion by some of the turbulent spirits who had been
taught the trade of war during the American rebellion. Some-
where near Union Square, in New York, a band of men known
as the "Fenian Brotherhood* 1 met to discuss measures for the
liberation of Ireland. The name Fenian had an historic ring;
and fired the hearts of those who longed to see the green Sag
float again on the hill of Tara. The Fenians, it came to be re-
membered, were an old-time Irish militia, burly kerns who

_:«» life of sin .mux a. m \ci onald.

wriit iii haiv anus. an<l "would <laiv (Lath and the devil/'

Mdiu'v and reeruitfl poured in to the " head-centre *' at New
k : a thorough organisation was effected, and the brother-
hood held (neetiaga at which, in L^'iiu earnest, they discussed
tlio plan of "liberating Ireland." Amongst this deluded band
uiauv Dobfo and pairiosk spirits,* whatever unjust and
intemperate writers may affirm, and some Again of tin- most
worthless and misehievoui Adventurers that ever disgraced -<>-
ci'-ty. Demagogues who had never figured in any more heroic
movement khan ■ drunken row in some bar-room in the Sixth

Ward, vapoured against "the bloody Saxon," and thrilled the

deluded crowds of their fellow Irishmen by recounting the

means they would pursue to overthrow British rule, and wei
" darlin ould Ireland free agin." Some of the most useless and
vicious loafers found in the agitation a golden trade, and pushed
themselves to the front as leaders. " The contributions given
by some Irish hack-drivers and servant girls, in the sincere
belief that they were helping to man the ranks of an Irish army
of independence, enabled some of the self-appointed leaders to
wear fine clothes and order expensive dinners." The organi-
zation grew, and gigantic projects were developed. One of these
was a conquest of Canada as a first step " before takin' Ireland.''
Early in the year 1866, it was resolved, at a meeting of the
brotherhood, to celebrate St. Patricks Day by seizing New-
Brunswick ; and sure enough when that festival came, with it
appeared, on the boundary of the coveted province, a band of
Hibernians, armed in grotesque fashion, and bedecked with
shamrocks, looking more like a detachment bound for Doney-
brook fair than invaders thirsty for conquest. The visitors
were met by Colonel Cole and a body of volunteers, and speed-
ily took to flight, winding up the day after they had got be-

* Any virtue that may have existed in this organization in the beginning has long
since departed. The only achievements of the association now are cold-blooded
murders; the instruments by which it works terror, the dagger and dynamite.


yond the reach of Canadian bullets, with a whisky feast.* On
the night of May 31st, following, a bolder attempt was made.
An advance guard consisting of about 900 of the brotherhood,
under the command of one O'Neil, in the night, oroeBed Nia-
gara river, and landed about a mile below the village of Fort
Erie, Tiny advanced with much spirit into the village, where
they demanded rations, and vainly sought the co-operation
ef the inhabitants. Then they tore op a piece of the Grand
Trunk railway-track, cut the telegraph wires, set tire to some

bridges, and, in all other ways of destruction, endeavoured to
deport themselves in the manner of invading warriors. During

the forenoon of the following day, the American gun-boat

* In connection with tli - Fenian attempt on Now Brnnawtok, Mr. BdwardJaok,
tarnishei the witter with the following fa

\. .'. Smith, prior to the Fenian [nvaataa, interview i d Andrew Johnaon. pro*
■ of the Unil who promieed him, that so soon as the Fenians oosnmit*

ted an overt act he would attend t<> them. When the maurauders made their
ranee at Ka*t{>ort, in the State of Main.-, the I'nited States government des-
patched several vessels of win to prevent their making a domanstratioa on
Brunswick. Not f:ir horn Kaetport might be seen one of the fleetest> in
Mm I farted States ser\ it anohoc with steam up. while not Ear <U-'

h frigate in provincial water- wae ready for the fray. The Fenians sjient their
money freely at I 1 cigars, and did no harm beyond burning a

bnfldmgoa Endian Mand, opposite Bnetjporta A party of the Fenians atoendod the
Ste. Croix to Calais, where some of the number, who put up at the Frontioc hotel,
ill the soap, and other things they could lay their hands mi in the rooms, on
th«ir depart nrt. The arrival of the adventurers at Calais was followed promptly
by that of a body of German artillerymen, in the pay of the United States. These
were intended to be a oheck on the Fenian operations on the American side. The, -
artillery-men use ( l to visit the British Bide, and indulge so freely in beer, that the
pi .vitiei.ilists, who feared an attack from the Irish myrmidons, place. 1 them in
drays and had them carted across the river to the American side. Some of the hest
phen, were so alarmed at the appearance of the Fenians, that they
s. nt their plate to the Calais bank for safe keeping. From the quiet little town of
Saint Andrews, situated at the mouth of the Ste. Croix, not far from the island
where De Monts and Champlain spent their first winter in America, the Fenians
could be seen drilling to the numl)er of a dozen or two. Fort Tipperary, which over-
looks the town, was promptly garrisoned, and the old honeycombed guns which the
rotten carriages could hardly support, were placed in position He would have
been a bold man who fired them ! In the midst of the trepidation a British frigate
steamed up to Joe's Point, at the northern end of the town, where she quietly cast
anchor. The commanding officer came ashore, and consoled the inhabitants by
telling them not to fear. ' If the Fenians get in here,' he said, ' clear away I
as you can, for we shall shell the city and burn it over the rascals' heads.' "

uri: of sir j oiis a. macdonald.

Michigan heganto patrol the tvret t<> prevent any breaches of
the neutrality laws : ami shut her eves whenever a boat with
reinforcement or stores for ( >'NYil happened to be crossing from
the Ajnerioin shore. When news of the invasion, by this rab-
ble, reached the public, than was a general feeling of indigna-
tion. There was some chagrin felt that the military defences

be country were in a disordered condition, but nol a moment
wai loai in taking all poaaible meaaorei t«> hurl back the in-
truders. The regulars in the Hamilton and Toronto districts
wen at once ordered by Major-General Napier to the Niagara

insula* Orders were given to call out the volunteers, who
seemed enthusiastic to enter the fray. Lieutenant-Colonel

tins mustered six hundred of the Toronto force, which
number was, in a large measure, supplied by Major Gillmor, of
the Queen's Own. These, with the 13th Battalion, of Hamil-
ton, and other volunteer companies, under the command of
Lieutenant-Colonel Booker, were despatched to Port Colborne
to protect the Welland Canal. Colonel George Peacocke, of the
16th regiment, commanded the entire expedition, and accom-
panied the regulars to Chippewa, where he. was joined by the
•Governor-General's body guard and other forces. Arrived at
•Chippewa Colonel Peacocke dispatched Captain Akers with in-
structions to the officer commanding at Port Colborne to effect
a junction of his troops with those of Peacocke's, the following
forenoon, about ten or eleven o'clock, at Stevensville, a village
a short distance to the north-west of Fort Erie. Peacocke was
a brave and capable officer, but he was criminally ignorant of
the frontier topography, and, under such circumstances, should
not have been given (or rather taken) command. Had he
put himself entirely in the hands of such of his subordinates
as were acquainted with the campaign ground, he might have
earned excuse ; but his conduct seems to have been a mixture
of self-reliance and dependence, of confessed ignorance, and
■unbending arrogance. He was not able to instruct Akers, who
was " as much in the woods " as himself, as to what route of


march the volunteers ought to take, and left Booker to decide
that fur himself. Akers reached Port Colborne, at 2 o'clock in
the morning, and delivered his orders. Meanwhile information
had been received at Port Colborne, which, the volunteer officers,
there, believed, altered the complexion of the whole case, and
justified a departure from Peacocke's plan. It was learnt that
the Fenian force at Fort Brie was much smaller than was at
first supposed, that the marauders were in a state of wretched
discipline, had done nought bat carouse since landing, and
could be expelled by the prompt movements of a moderate
It was there! eed that Booker with his troops

should start by rail in time to reach Fort Erie by eight o'clock
in the morning, and that Li. ut.nant-Colonel Dennis and Akrrs

should embark with I company of artillery, at Port Colborne,
and proceed to reconnoitre along Niagara river, returning to
co-operate with Book Jit o'clock. If Peacocke should

agree to this plan, he was informed that he might march by
the river road from Chippewa, making a combined attack with
Colonel Booker at some point "between Fort Krie and Black
Creek, cutting off the enemy's retreat by the river — the tug to
be employed in cruising up and down the river, cutting off any
boats that might attempt to escape, and communicating between
the forces advancing from Chippewa and from Fort Erie."
Dennis and Akers did not wait for Peacocke's reply, but started
-at four o'clock in the morning on the tug liobb, taking with
them the Welland Garrison Battery, and a portion of the
1 hinnville Naval Brigade. Shortly after the departure of the
tug, came a telegram, as might have been expected, from
( lolonel Peacocke, saying he disapproved of the modifications
proposed and would adhere to his original plan. The question
was no longer one of expediency but of etiquette, and Booker
resolved to fulfil, as far as possible, the instructions cf the
benighted commander. So about an hour after the departure
of the Rohb he put his men on board the train and proceeded as
far as Ridgeway, whence the troops left the cars and marched


toWAldfl Steveiisville. That same morning O'Xeil had begun
a movement westward, with the intention of destroying the
looks of thr Welland Canal, and Colonel Booker, about two
miles from Ridgeway, came up with the marauders' out-posts.
Net expecting such a meeting lie held a hurried consulta-
tion with Major (iillmor, of the Queen's Own, when an attack
was resolved on, both officers believing Colonel Peacocke and
ilars could not he tar away. When the word Ava-
il, the volunteers advanced with much spirit, and fairly
tamed back, for some distance, the enemy's lines; and on-
lookers must have believed, for a time, that the day was to be
with these raw levies, composed mostly of clerks and col-
legiates. While the brave young volunteers were grappling
with O'Xeil's Fenians, an orderly came up and put in Booker's
hand a message from Colonel Peacocke. A shade passed over
the face of the officer as he read the note. It was directed to
him at Port Colborne, instructing him to delay his departure
from that point two hours beyond the hour previously specified,
as Colonel Peacocke could not be ready to start with his regu-
lars from Chippewa as early as had been expected. Booker, it
has been seen, had really departed an hour before the prescrib-
ed time, which would change Peacocke's calculations by three
hours; so that he now saw there was no assistance for
the young fellows so far outnumbered by the brawny-armed
followers of O'Xeil. While the volunteers struggled with
the outnumbering enemy, a report reached Booker that a
body of Fenian cavalry was advancing, and was close at hand.
At once, and by Booker's orders, Gillmor formed his men in.
square to receive the onset ; but the report proved to be a ruse.
The manoeuvre was a fatal one for the devoted volunteers, who,
in consequence, became a conspicuous mark for the Fenians'
bullets. When Gillmor saw the error, he at once endeavoured
to extend his men, but the fire was so severe that the rear com-
panies fell back and could not be reformed ; and the order was
given to retire. In a few minutes the volunteers, who, against


overwhelming odds, had "fought so well," were in full retreat,
I fNeil'a wild myrmidons in mad pursuit. The loss of the
( 'anadians was one officer and eight men killed, and six officers
and twenty-six men wounded. AY hat was the loss of the
Fenians has not since been known, though it is believed not to
have been lest than ours. The campaign so far had been a
Beries of blunders. Aker and Dennis should not have gone
upon the reeoonoitering tour without having heard the reply of
the commanding officer \ Peacocke, should, in the first instance,
have Been his way clear to be able to start at the hour he fixed

lor departure before eoinnmnieat ing the time to his brother of-

: and BOO »ndly. should not have truste<l the fate of the

expedition to the chance of an orderly overtaking Blpker be**

leaving Port Oolborne ; while it may be that he was the

• eulpable of all in taking a command for which he was not

competent, through ignorance of the ground upon which his

forces were to operate, or, feeling this deficiency , in refusing to

take counsel of those, who, [f they knew less than himself of
tactics, knew more of geography. We hope, should it ever be
our lot again to see hostile steel in our Dominion, that we shall
not be found putting oar trust in officers who know nothing
about our frontier, and who will learn nothing till the lives of
a number of our sons shall have been sacrificed to their ignor-
ance. These eight brave } r oung fellows and their officer who
fell, and the tarni>h of defeat on their surviving comrades, were
a tribute to official etiquette — the price we paid to military

The remainder may as well be told. Dennis and Aken
landed at the appointed time at Fort Erie, and picked up about
sixty stragglers, comprising" Liberators" and camp followers.
( I Neil hearing that the regulars were on the march from Chip-
pewa, retreated on Fort Erie, reconquering the village ; and
when night fell, silently made his way across the river for the
sheltering American shore. Before he could disembark he was
a i rested, with his followers, by United States authorities. On


Sunday motuing >r war, Peacocke and his troops arrived

at Fort Brie, but nought of the enemy remained save the em-
ben of their eamp tires, and a number of broken whiskey boi"

ilea A few stragglers who had been carousing around (he
neighbourhood while their comrades were embarking, were
afterwards captured by the regulars with much alacrity, put on
I | tug; taken to Toronto, and lodged in jail. They were
BUbeequentij bied under a statute passed during the Cana-
dian rebellion. Some were discharged for want of evidence,
others were found guilty ami sentenced to death, but the pun-
ishment was commuted to imprisonment in the penitentiary.
Several other demonstrations of invasion were made, some
k - later, by the brotherhood. A large body gathered at
< >_ iensburg, their eyes turned to the Dominion capital, but the
massing of troops on the Canadian side, and the patrolling of
viie St. Lawrence by a British gun-boat, damped their ambition.
Another horde gathered opposite Cornwall, but dispersed before
the display of a volunteer force. Still another body of the
liberators, 1,800 strong, made a dash across the border from St.
Albans, Vermont, but were driven back in hot haste by our
troops. On reaching Vermont again the ringleaders of the
filibusters were arrested for a breach of the neutrality laws,
and thrown into prison ; and the president issued a proclama-
tion ordering government officials to use every means to re-
press further attacks on Canada from American territory.
When the excitement was ended, the people of Canada did not

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 22 of 57)