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Fenian Medal

Curated Submission
1860 - 1870
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
9 x 3.5
Materials & techniques
Silver, silk
Niagara Historical Society and Museum 993.542.147
Following the American Civil War, a body of Irish-American veterans sought to obtain Irish independence from Great Britain. They believed that by capturing Canada they could achieve this. Known as the Fenian Brotherhood, these radicals conducted raids into Canadian territory from 1866 to 1871. Although they had initial success, the movement ended in failure by 1871.
The only Fenian victory was the initial assault at Ridgeway in 1866. Large numbers of British troops and Canadian militia defended the Canadian border and stopped the Fenians before they could gain a foothold in Canada. John Raynor of Niagara-on-the-Lake was one of the many Canadian veterans who were awarded this medal for service in 1870. Raynor had initially volunteered under the 1854 Canadian Militia Act and served in the army after the Trent Affair, when an American vessel captured Confederate diplomats from a British mail packet, creating severe tension between Britain and America during the Civil War. The Trent Affair encouraged Britain to increase its military presence in Canadian territory.
Raynor’s service throughout these events reflects a great deal of Canada’s experience in the mid-19th century. It also illuminates the Canadian involvement in the American Civil War. The medal is a testament to Raynor’s long service in the defence of Canadian territory.
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