The Battle of Ridgeway was fought in the vicinity of the town of Fort Erie across the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York, near the village of Ridgeway, Canada West, currently Ontario, Canada, on June 2, 1866, between Canadian troops and an irregular army of Irish-American invaders, the Fenians. It was the largest engagement of the Fenian Raids, the first modern industrial-era battle to be fought by Canadians and the first to be fought only by Canadian troops and led exclusively by Canadian officers. The battlefield was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1921 and is the last battle fought in the Province of Ontario against a foreign invasion. The action at Ridgeway has the distinction of being the only armed victory for the cause of Irish independence between 1798 and 1919.
The New York City-based Fenian Brotherhood was attempting to support related groups in Ireland to force the United Kingdom into negotiating toward the formation of an independent Irish Republic. They took advantage of the ready supply of arms in the United States after the recently concluded Civil War, and of the ample number of unemployed young men who had emerged from that conflict with some degree of military training. The plan was to take Canada temporarily hostage in the hope of demoralizing British rule in Ireland by precipitating a political crisis in Britain. The Fenians were also mistakenly counting on receiving U.S. recognition for the seizure of Canadian territory. It was still a ragtag army, however, that assembled on the American shore of the Niagara River during the last weeks of May 1866. The Fenians had made little attempt at secrecy, and both American and British authorities were aware of the imminent military operation but could not pin-point the exact crossing points in advance.
Copyright: CC 3.0