There is a part of the history of Canada that most Canadians know virtually nothing about. It is rarely, if ever, mentioned in any history books.
“Over 40,000 Canadians served in the American Civil War,” said Jim Brownell, former MPP, historian and president of the Lost Villages Historical Society. “Canadians even won the American Congressional Medal of Honour for their courage in the conflict. Yet there is no memorial anywhere in Canada to these 40,000 countrymen.”
According to Brownell and the other members of a group dedicated to raising a memorial to the Canadian veterans of the Civil War, the actions of those soldiers also led directly, in 1867, to the creation of the nation of Canada.
The Grays and Blues of Montreal, president Rob McLachlan, and the Lost Villages Historical Society, president Jim Brownell, are spearheading an effort to formally recognize Canadians who served 1860-65.
The group gathered at the Lost Villages Museum to officially launch “a major campaign, June 11, 2016, on GoFundMe, to raise money to erect a National Canadian War Monument here in South Stormont’s oldest park, to honour those 40,000 Canadians,” Brownell said.
The American Civil War, 1860-65, which split the nation between the Confederate States of America (South) and the United States of America (North), had a deeply profound effect on the future of Canada, according to author and historian John Boyko, in his book, Blood and Daring.
Boyko contends that the events of the Civil War, and the fact that 40,000 Canadians served in that conflict, are a direct cause of Sir John A Macdonald’s efforts to bring the nation of Canada into existence.
It was neither an accident nor a coincidence that four separate provinces bound themselves to found this nation in 1867.
Interestingly, at the start of the Civil War, Canada had followed Britain’s lead, despite Canadians’ loathing for slavery, in supporting the South. This was partially because the huge British manufacturing industry feared the loss of Southern cotton, and partially because England, no particular friend of the States after 1812, saw political opportunities in a US broken up and weak.
However, most Canadians who served, ultimately did so on the side of the North.
As the war neared its end, it became very clear that the North was going to win.
There were many politicians in the American government who bluntly stated that with a million men in uniform in 1865, the US should now follow through on its “manifest destiny,” invade and take Canada.
Macdonald and the Fathers of Confederation did not miss the message. The drive to unite Canada as one nation began immediately.
Brendan Bronzan, digital curator and designer of the GoFundMe website, up and running as of June 11 at 1 p.m., emphasized the importance of the memorial.
“At the War’s end, Canadians were mustered out of the Armies,” he said. “Basically, the attitude was ‘collect your pay and on your way.’ (Those Canadians lost in battle generally were never found: most were anonymously buried.) The survivors returned home to Canada: many of them actually came to the United Counties, and there are records of those who settled in several of the Lost Villages. Their descendants have spread across this area, across Canada and world wide.
We really hope that these descendants will support this memorial on behalf of their soldier ancestors.”
The proposed memorial would contain a 12 foot obelisk on a two foot base. The designs on it are still in the planning stage.
On either side of the obelisk would be two walls, each six to eight feet long. On one wall would be featured the names of the Canadian born Medal of Honour winners and other prominent individuals who fought for either side.
The other wall would list the names of donors of $400 or more. Engraved bricks, with the name of a Civil War ancestor can also be purchased for placement in a pathway surrounding the memorial.
It is estimated that the National Canadian War Monument will cost at least $40,000 with a dedication date in 2017 anticipated.
“It works out to one dollar for every veteran who served in the American Civil War,” Bronzan said.
By clicking on the newly launched website gofundme.com/honour-canadians it is possible to learn about the Canadians who served in the Civil War, to find out how to locate ancestors who may have served, and to make donations to a National Canadian War Monument erected to honour them.