By Chris Pickup

Ray Gardner of the Circle G Ranch in Canfield hosted his fourth annual two-day American Civil War re-enactment last month. 

The demonstrations were fascinating, from the exceedingly well trained horses who withstood the noise of blasting field artillery and the crack of muskets shot from atop their backs, to the uniforms of the men, their crazy genuine homegrown beards, their equipment and their Gettysburg battle re-enactment.

The Civil War itself spanned the four years from 1861 to 1865 when General Robert E Lee surrendered. The Union effort to free black people from Plantation slavery took the lives of more men in action than the first and second World Wars.

But why the Canadian interest in what was essentially an American war? you may ask. According to the re-enactment’s official program, there are a number of Canadian links.

64,000 Canadians enlisted in the Union army and several thousand served with the army of the Confederate States. 29 of them were awarded the newly minted Congressional Medal of Honour for Valour. 7,000 died. 

A Canadian woman, Sarah Emma Edmonds, served as an infantryman in the Second Michigan regiment. Four Union Generals were Canadian born. 

Canadian born Anderson Abbott was one of only eight Black doctors serving in the Union Army. Dr. Theorem Woolverton of Grimsby served in the US Navy during the Civil War and obtained the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

Why? There is apparently no simple reason. Thousands enlisted in the northern armies mainly to collect bounties

of $200 or more. Many more were dragooned or pressed into service. A small number supported the Confederacy. And some enlisted from boredom and a thirst for adventure.

Toronto, St. Catharines, Montreal and Halifax hosted a well-financed network of Confederate spies, escaped prisoners and adventurers looking to influence Canadian opinion and create havoc for President Lincoln and his government amid a background of tension between Britain and the U.S.

It is believed that Lincoln’s assassination was plotted in Montreal. John Wilkes Booth was in Montreal three times in 1864 and opened a bank account at the Montreal branch of the Ontario Bank. Coincidentally, the stolen funds from the October 19, 1964 St. Albans, Vermont raid were deposited in the same bank.