This excerpt from “The London Free Press and Daily Western Advertiser” June 11, 1866, reads to a 21st century critic as if it was out of Monty Python. It’s one man’s tale of service in the London, Ontario, Home Guard during the Fenian Raids. In fact, just after as the Battle of Ridgeway is over, and at this point, most of the Fenians that fought at Ridgeway are in the custody of the U.S. Army.
“I’ve joined the Home Guard, Sir, Editor, I would have volunteered and gone to the front long ago - only if it hadn’t been - that is to say - I mean - confound it I’ve got a constitutional infirmity, and the doctor insisted upon me remaining at home. He thought that the climate of Ft. Erie wasn’t healthy for me - too much lead in the air, and all that ( ) you know I am determined to serve my country. However, in some way or other, and the citizens of London, knowing this, have done me the distinguished honour of electing me a full private in that distinguished corps known as the Home Guard. The compliment was grateful as it was graceful, and I trust that I shall never abuse the confidence thus reposed in me. I was ordered to report myself at the City Hall at ( ) o’clock p.m. sharp, which I accordingly did. The major asked me my name, how old I was, what occupation I followed, if I speculated in or did I dealt in politics, and if so, Tory or Clear Grit; if I ever committed highway robbery; if I was ever vaccinated; what my fighting weight was; if I ever went home sober; if I hated the devil and all his works the Fenian raid included. Having answered these questions satisfactorily , he gave me some advice and a musket, and told me to go fight for my country. Our captain told us to fall in. Fell in. Captain then proceeded to drill us. We were told off in numbers - Nos 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. I was No.3. Captain said “attention“. Everybody was immediately attention, except No.1, who was filing his pipe, and Nos 27 and 28who were pitching pennies for the drinks. Shoulder arms was very well executed, but somehow or other I got the muzzle of my gun in 1’s mouth, the butt end of 15’s who was behind in the small of my back, and several punches in the ribs from parties unknown. Ground arms brought 4’s musket down on my favoured corn , while No.2 made a diversion on the other foot. Captain order us to fix bayonets.. Fix bayonets. No! On second consideration didn’t fix bayonets; bayonets fixed me. No.6’s through my right ear; No.1’s in my waist coat pocket , and a ghastly rent in my unmentionables from N.23. Captain said we had had enough exercise. Thought so myself. We were then told off in squads and ordered on duty . Our squad appointed me their commanding officer, as I had unlimited credit at the saloons. Immediately stood crackers and beer for the squad. From the following report which I made to the Captain, you will see how nobly we did our duty:--
End of part one. More coming on the exploits of the London Home Guard as they prepare to do God’s work and protect the citizens of London against the Devil’s own army the Fenian Raiders.