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Fenian Raid Reeanctment at Old Fort Erie
June 13 & 14, 2020 • 10 a.m. • Free admission
Watch history come to life and discover how Canadian forces stood strong against insurgent Irish-American Fenians with a dramatic reenactment of the 1866 Fenian Raids. Explore the grounds of Old Fort Erie as hundreds of reenactors from across Ontario and the United States commemorate the 154th reenactment of the historic invasion of Canada West.
All camp and battle reenactments at Old Fort Erie are free to the public. Regular admission applies for entry into Old Fort Erie, except for Old Fort Erie Season Pass holders. Free parking is available in front of the Old Fort Erie Welcome Centre.
Old Fort Erie Admission: Adult $13.27 + HST · Child $8.41 + HST
The Fenian Brotherhood
Between 1866 and 1870, the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish Republican organization, launched a series of raids into Canadian territory to bring pressure on Britain to withdraw from Ireland. Most Fenian troops were experienced soldiers, having served in the Federal or Confederate armies in the recent American Civil War. Armed with surplus American Army weapons, the Fenian Brotherhood gave Canadian provinces a terrible shock during the Fenian Raids. Fear generated by the Fenian raids helped lead to the Confederation of Canada in 1867.
Battle of Ridgeway and Fort Erie
In the early hours of June 1, 1866, approximately 1,300 men of the Fenian Brotherhood crossed into Canadian territory at Ridgeway, a small village in Fort Erie. The men occupied and plundered the town before setting up headquarters in the ruins of Fort Erie. On June 2, Canadian military advanced into a Fenian ambush at the Battle of Ridgeway, forcing the Canadians to retreat in disorder. After the battle, Fenian forces returned to their headquarters at the Fort Erie docks to find a small group of Canadian troops had seized the docks. The outnumbered Canadian forces fought bravely before being completely overrun with many killed, wounded or captured, ending the brief Battle of Fort Erie. Though successful, the Fenians were disappointed as promised reinforcement and local support had failed to materialize. On June 3, Fenian forces withdrew to Buffalo during the night, ending the largest of the Fenian Raids.
History on display
Find authentic weapons used during the Fenian Raids inside the Old Fort Erie Museum.
The Bridesburg Model 1861 rifled musket was produced for American forces during the Civil War at a peak rate of 5,000 a month. Though widely produced, this weapon was replaced in federal arsenals with the Springfield Model 1861 and sold off as military surplus. It was found in the arsenals of both the Canadian militia and Fenian Brotherhood who purchased large quantities of the military surplus.
Pattern 1861 Enfield Musketoon
Modelled after the Pattern 1853 Enfield, this shorter weapon was designed for artillerists and cavalry. The shorter barrel gave it very good manoeuverability, but its greatest improvement was the tighter twists of the rifling grooves which allowed slightly better accuracy at close range. These weapons were the principal firearm of both sides during the Fenian Raids.
Major Buck’s Surrender
Aug 3, 11:00 A.M.
In 1812, two attempts were made by Americans to capture Fort Erie but failed due to poor weather and administration. On July 3rd, 1814, more than four thousand American forces under the direction of General Jacob Brown crossed the Niagara River. It wasn’t long before the Fort, under command of Major Buck, surrendered and at 6PM nearly 150 British soldiers became prisoners of war. General Brown’s success along the northern border during the war made him a hero.
Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane
Aug 3, 2:00 P.M.
Following the American capture of Fort Erie, on July 5, 1814, US soldiers marched north and defeated the British in the Battle of Chippawa. The armies met again during a vicious battle on the night of July 25 at Lundy’s Lane. This was one of the bloodiest and deadliest battles ever fought in Canada. In the end, each side lost almost 1000 men.
Drummond’s Night Assault
Aug 3, 8:00 P.M.
Battered American forces retreated from Lundy’s Lane to Fort Erie and by August 7, 1814, the main British forces began to prepare their siege line and plan the next attack. Early morning on August 15, Lt. General Gordon Drummond launched a 4-pronged night assault to retake the Fort. Four columns were set up on each side, but disaster struck when 600 pounds of black powder stored in a magazine directly under the gun platform, exploded. Surviving British troops were forced to retreat. Their losses were significant and outnumbered American casualties.
Aug 4, 1:00 P.M.
Hundreds of lives were lost between August 4 and September 21, 1814. On September 17, an attack was launched by General Jacob Brown on British forces. American troops stormed the British siege lines and succeeded in smashing two of the British batteries before a counter attack pushed them back into the Fort. On the night of September 21, prompted by the Sortie, constant rain, poor supply lines and disease, the British broke camp and retired to Chippawa. General Drummond’s Siege of Fort Erie was over, and the Fort remained in American hands.