Gentlemen: While researching the Governor Geaneral's Body Guard in connection with the saddle post in the UP form, I came on this excerpt in the Canadian Genealogy site. It recounts a cavalry action during the Fenian Raids into Canada 1866-1870. The action took place in the southeast corner of Ontario:
It was not until late in the afternoon of June 1st that the Militia Department considered the necessity of calling on the services of cavalry troops for duty on the frontier. Had this been done twenty-four hours earlier the calamity which occurred at Ridgeway and the disaster at Fort Erie might have been averted, and the whole campaign had a different termination. The omission was a serious mistake, which was subsequently realized. It is perilous and suicidal to move columns of infantry in war times without having the advance and flanks well protected by mounted troops, and scouts employed to glean information of the location and strength of the enemy. Therefore this branch is indispensable, as they are rightly termed "the eyes and ears of an army," ever watchful and on the alert for impending danger, or for an opportunity to strike a crushing blow.
In the Niagara District campaign this omission was painfully in evidence. At Chippawa, Col. Peacocke had to rely on meagre and conflicting reports of the whereabouts of the enemy which were brought in to him from various sources, more or less unreliable, while Col. Booker was in a similar position before advancing on the Fenian force at Ridgeway. Had an efficient troop of cavalry scouts been employed to thoroughly scour the country in advance of these two columns, a different tale might be related of their operations.
It was after 3 o'clock on June 1st when Major Geo. T. Denison received orders to assemble the Governor-General's Body Guard, and proceed to the front next morning. The Major moved quickly, and during the evening and night had his non-commissioned officers riding hard through the country warning out his troopers. The place of rendezvous was the Toronto Exhibition Grounds, and by day-break the troop was all mustered in saddle, and ready for service. At 8 o'clock a.m. on June 2nd they left by the steamer "City of Toronto" for Port Dalhousie, where they arrived about 11.30. Major Denison immediately entrained his men and horses on the Welland Railway and proceeded to Port Robinson, being under orders to report to Col. Peacocke. At Port Robinson the troop detrained, and after hastily feeding the horses and men, started for Chippawa on a gallop. On arrival there the troop halted for an hour or two, to have the horses' shoes reset; which being attended to, the command again took the road for New Germany, where he reported to Col. Peacocke about 5.30. This gallant corps had moved with such celerity that within ten hours after leaving Toronto they were at the extreme front, a good deal of the distance having been covered by hard and rapid riding.
Col. Peacocke was just on the point of moving off to resume his march from New Germany when the Body Guard arrived, and that officer ordered Major Denison to lead the advance of the column. Without dismounting, although the men and horses were both jaded and tired, they promptly spurred on to the front, and threw out scouts to the right and left. Major Denison was restrained from pushing ahead too rapidly, as he was obliged to regulate his march by the pace of the infantry, and his men chafed with the tardiness, as they were all eager to get into a brush with the enemy.
After a march of about nine miles they arrived at Bowen's Farm, about three miles northwest of Fort Erie. It was just getting dusk, and the troopers were approaching a piece of dense bush which flanked both sides of the road. When within about 200 yards of the bush the advance files of the cavalry discovered some men in the road, and signalled back the information. A halt was then ordered and Major Denison personally galloped forward, and on inquiry learned from his videttes that a force of the enemy were in front, and that several men had been observed going into the woods on the right. A search was made of the bush, but as the shades of night had fallen fast it was impossible to grope through the woods, and fearing an ambuscade Col. Peacocke resolved to halt his column for the night. In the meantime he had sent two companies of the 16th Regiment to scour the woods, but owing to the darkness they were unable to do so. Having been told by some person that a bridge on the road had been broken down, which rendered it impassable for his troops, Col. Peacocke decided to bivouac where he was, so recalled the two companies of the 16th, and made dispositions of his force to guard against a night attack. The 47th Regiment was formed in line to the right of the road, with one company of the same corps about 200 yards in advance, extended as skirmishers. The 10th Royals, of Toronto, were formed up as a support for the 47th, with two companies of that battalion wheeling to the right and extending as skirmishers, so as to fully cover the right flank of the column. The 16th Regiment was placed in a similar position on the left of the road, supported by the Nineteenth Lincoln Battalion, in the same formation. These troops laid in a ploughed field all night, sleeping on their arms, while the guards and sentinels were exceedingly watchful and vigilant. The cavalry and artillery remained in column on the road, with the baggage waggons in their rear.
About dark the St. Catharines Battery of Garrison Artillery, under command of Lieut. James Wilson, arrived at the bivouac, and was placed as the rear guard. This command, which had been left at Chippawa when Col. Peacocke's column had marched out in the morning, had been relieved at 4 p.m., and ordered to proceed at once to the front. They made a wonderfully quick march, covering the entire distance of about 17 miles in less than five hours, without a halt, and arrived at their destination with every member of the Battery in line--a feat which earned for them the title of "Stoker's Foot Cavalry." This battery had left their field guns at St. Catharines and were armed with short Enfield rifles, acting as infantry. So they were formed up across the road, facing to the rear, and after posting the usual guards and sentinels, the remainder were glad to lie down in the dusty road and go to sleep supperless.
As it was generally supposed that the enemy were in force in the near vicinity, no fires were allowed to be lighted, and as the night was pretty cool and no blankets were available, the situation was not altogether comfortable. Yet the boys made the most of it, with the hope that by daylight they would have an opportunity of meeting the Fenians and proving the quality of their mettle.
As the night wore on Col. Peacocke received information that 2,000 or 3,000 reinforcements had crossed over from the American side and joined the Fenians. Lieut.-Col. Dennis had also come in to the Canadian lines and told of his defeat at Fort Erie the day before, while the reports received of the Ridgeway fight, with numerous other rumors of impending dangers, all combined to lead Col. Peacocke to believe that he would soon be up against a serious proposition.
About 4.30 o'clock in the morning (June 3rd) the soldiers arose from their rude couches on mother earth and began the task of getting the stiffness out of their joints as they moved about in quest of rations. Fortunately during the night some waggons loaded with bread, beef and groceries had arrived, but the necessities of hunger were so keen that the men could hardly wait for a proper distribution of the supplies. There was no means of cooking meat except by toasting it on the end of a ramrod poked over a fire of fence rails, but that was only a trifling matter to a hungry soldier. Loaves of bread were torn asunder in chunks, as bread-knives were not in evidence, while butter was spread by means of a chip. But the absence of table etiquette was not considered, so long as the purpose was served. There were no utensils for making tea or coffee, so the men had to dispense with these comforts and content themselves with a drink out of a roadside ditch.
Shortly after 5 o'clock Lieut.-Col. the Hon. John Hillyard Cameron (an old-time politician of prominence) arrived at Col. Peacocke's headquarters on horseback, and reported that the main body of the Fenian army had evacuated Canada, but that there were yet some of their forces straggling in the neighborhood.
Immediately the "assembly" was sounded, and Col. Peacocke formed up his column for an advance toward Fort Erie. Major Geo. T. Denison was ordered to scour the country with the Governor-General's Body Guard, and to enter the village and send back reports. Shortly afterward Major Denison reported that he was informed there was still a body of Fenians about the Old Fort, while farmers residing in the neighborhood said there were a number of stragglers lingering in the woods.
Accordingly Col. Peacocke made his arrangements to sweep the whole southeast angle of the Peninsula clear up to the Old Fort. On leaving the bivouac the column moved out by the Gilmore road, leading towards the Niagara River. The Grey Battery of Royal Artillery was ordered to the head of the column, in anticipation of having some shelling to perform. As the infantry halted by the roadside to allow this gallant battery to pass to the front on a gallop, the sight was inspiriting and elicited hearty cheers. The magnificent horses, throwing into play their splendid muscles, whisked the heavy guns along like so many feathers, while the drivers and gunners maintained their seats like centaurs, notwithstanding the bumps and jolts they encountered while bounding over the ruts and roadside ditches of a rough country highway.
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