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Museum acquires another Fenian medal, Corporal Christian Barnes

The Regimental Museum recently acquired another Fenian Raid medal, that had been awarded to Corporal Christian Barnes, of the Stewarttown Infantry Company.

Inscribed Cpl C Barnes 20th Bn

The Oakville Rifle Company, formed during the American Civil War, in 1861, was the oldest independent company in Halton County. Soon after it started, the United States Navy intercepted a British mail packet, the RMS Trent, and took two Confederate diplomats prisoner. In the furor that followed, it looked as if Britain – and Canada – might be drawn into the civil war. That threat passed, but it was the incentive for John Murray to organize the second independent company in Halton, the Stewarttown Infantry Company, in 1863 (five years after the Raid, Murray would become Commanding Officer of the 20th Halton Battalion of Infantry). By 1865 there were two more infantry companies on the Militia List, in Georgetown and Norval. In that year Stewarttown had two officers, three NCOs and 35 men, and the inspecting officer deemed it ‘a good company’.

Officers of the Stewarttown Infantry Company 1865 Militia List

When the Fenians crossed the Niagara River and invaded Canada West, Stewarttown was part of the general mobilization, as were the other three companies in Halton; Brampton, Albion, Derry West, Alton and Grahamsville in Peel, and Orangeville (Dufferin County would not be established till 1881, but Orangeville would be part of the 36th Peel Battalion when it was formed). One of the Georgetown volunteers wrote of going to the front:

The people of Georgetown showed us great respect, every shop closed, and Man, Woman and Child out to see us off, and few dry eyes were to be seen amongst the Women when our brave fellows went off with three hearty cheers. I had to remain behind with a Sergeant until the next train, to wait for 3 or 4 men who could not possibly be ready by the first train, and so had a second hearty greeting when going down on the 7:06 train with the Stewarttown boys. Old S–– played “The Girl I left behind me” to the Station, and the way the drum was rattled for them was a caution. We kept travelling all that night, and arrived here about 4 on Sunday morning within 20 miles of the Battle field, when we were immediately served out with 60 rounds of Ball Cartridge, with orders to be ready to start immediately after getting a feed, to go up on the train to fight the cursed rabble. However in the mean time there was a telegraph message received to remain with 10 other companies to guard the Bridge, for our Brave Volunteers and no others, spread desolation amongst them …

Christian Barnes, jr (1842-1912) went with his company. His family has a long history of military service in America. His great-grandfather, George Barnes, went as a lieutenant in the British army to Carolina in 1772; when the American revolution broke out, he was shot at his doorstep by the rebels (when his son applied for land in Upper Canada, his petition says his father was ‘murdered by the rebels’), and his wife died of shock shortly thereafter.

‘Your Petitioner’s Father was murdered by the Rebels in America in the Year 1778. Christian Barnes Sr’s land petition, 1819.

The orphaned children made their way to Niagara by 1797, and Christian’s grandfather, Christian Barnes sr, served in Captain McEwan’s flank company, 1st Lincoln Militia, during the war of 1812. It was his son, George Barnes (1809-1901), who moved to Esquesing. The property on which he cut timber, fished, grew hops, and had a cotton batting factory, is now the site of the North Halton Golf Club.

George, then Christian Barnes’ property.

Christian Barnes married Louisa Johnson (1856-1957) in 1875. He grew hops on Springbrook Farm until the turn of the century, when apple orchards took over. He died 25 January 1912, and is buried in Georgetown.

Posted 31st July 2016 by Lorne Scots museum blog

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