At the time the disastrous retreat of our troops commenced I was requested by his comrade to assist a wounded soldier of the Queen's Own to Hoffman's tavern, then about half a mile distant. The whole force rushed past us. We found on reaching the tavern that, with the exception of some more wounded whom we found there, we were the only parties left. We had barely time to deposit our burden when the advance guard of the Fenians rushed up and surrounded the tavern, flushed with apparent victory, and wild with excitement. They presented such an appearance as I certainly shall not soon forget. They were the most cut-throat-looking set of ruffians that could well be imagined. Supposing me to be the landlord, they immediately demanded liquor. In vain I urged that I was as much a stranger as themselves. Their leader presented a revolver at me, and ordered me behind the bar; every decanter was empty. They insisted that I had hid everything away. I examined every jar, without success. Fortunately I discovered a small keg, which on examination I found to contain about a gallon of old rye whiskey. This I distributed among them and think I must have treated about fifty. This mollified them in some degree, and after slaking their thirst at the well that party proceeded on its way without molesting me further. I then, assisted by the young volunteer whose comrade we had brought in, proceeded to render what assistance we could to the wounded men, one of whom was Private Lugsden of the Queen's Own, badly wounded in the chest, when we were interrupted by the arrival of another detachment under the command of a Capt. Lacken, who marched my assistant off a prisoner. I remonstrated with him upon the cruelty of leaving me alone with all the wounded, when he detailed one of his own men to assist me and went his way. About one hundred yards from the tavern, on the west side of the road, I found a poor fellow of the Queen's Own lying on his face near the fence. I knelt down beside him and found that he was sensible. He told me his name was Mark Defries, and that he was shot through the back. He knew that he was dying. He requested me to take a ring from his finger and send it with a message to a young lady in Toronto. He also requested me to take his watch and send it to his father, whose address he gave me. This I attempted to do, but he could not endure to be touched. He told me it would do to take it after he was dead. I conversed with him for some time, when I left him to try to obtain some assistance to have him removed into the house. I was then placed under arrest by a Fenian, by order of his commanding officers, and conveyed to a farm house, where I found two of our wounded men, young VanderSmissen, of the University Rifles, badly wounded in the thigh, and Corporal Lakey, shot through the mouth. With the assistance of the Fenian sentry I had them both put to bed and rendered them all the assistance in my power; for, be it noticed, that we could not find man, woman nor child in a circuit of miles, all fled in terror. When I could not do any more in that house, I requested the sentry to march me to the commanding officer, who was then at the tavern. He rode a sorrel horse, which was then at the door, and about half a mile from where we then were. I found him to be a very mild-looking young man, civil and courteous, evidently well educated. I stated my business at once, which was that I might obtain from him a written authority to go through their lines and visit the wounded on both sides without molestation. This he readily consented to, and gave me a document to that effect, signed Major McDonnell, commanding Division F. B. I had now perfect freedom to go wherever I wanted to. I immediately went in search of young Defries, but found that he had been removed. I returned to the tavern and found him lying in a back room dead. I then asked the landlord, who had by this time returned, to witness me taking the watch at his request, but after feeling him all over, the watch was gone. It had been taken from him, no doubt, by some Fenian marauder. I sent the ring, enclosed in a letter, to the young lady; I also wrote to his father's address, stating all the circumstances.
I found there were more of our wounded men in another frame house about a mile further, on the Fort Erie road. I proceeded there and found the place guarded with Fenian sentries, but my protection was all potent. They, supposing me to be a surgeon, gave me every facility. I found, among others whose names I failed to ascertain, young Kingsford, of the University Rifles, lying on a lounge, badly wounded in the leg, but remarkably cheerful. I also found a young man named Hamilton, of the 13th Battalion, with a very bad wound in the right side. He had been attended to by a Fenian surgeon; he was lying on his face and suffering much. At his request I examined his wound and placed a bandage around it to stop the bleeding. There was also another young man of the Queen's Own lying on the floor in strong convulsions, evidently in a dying state, singular to say, without a wound upon his body. In another room in the same house I found another young man badly wounded. At this time a Fenian was brought in on a stretcher in a dying state. I ordered his comrades to cut his shirt open, when I found an ugly wound just under his left arm, which I have no doubt penetrated a vital part. I got water and washed the wound; he was sensible and able to tell me that his name was James Gerrahty, from Cincinnati, and that one of his own comrades had shot him by mistake, and that he freely forgave him. He died in about thirteen minutes, one of his comrades holding a crucifix before him as long as he could see it. We buried him in an orchard adjoining, the same evening.
Another Fenian was now brought in with a very bad wound in the neck. He was a very rough-looking fellow. I washed his wound also. He was afterwards removed to the hospital at St. Catharines. On leaving the house my attention was called to the dead body of one of the Queen's Own lying across the road, a very powerful man. He was shot through the head and presented a horrid spectacle. A little further on I found a group of three armed Fenians, who were watching over a wounded comrade. I was called upon to assist him. His comrades stripped him, and I found a gunshot wound in the hip, having passed right through, leaving two very ugly wounds. I washed him also and left him.
I now returned to the tavern. By this time the main body had returned, after having pillaged the village of Ridgeway, ransacking the principal stores, taverns, etc., and were now resting on a rising ground almost immediately opposite the tavern. The green flag, on which was emblazoned a large golden harp, was floating to the breeze in their centre. An officer, whom I soon found was their Adjutant, rode across to me and told me that two of our wounded men were lying on the road about fifty rods from us, nearer Ridgeway, a circumstance I was not before aware of. Desiring that I should procure some assistance to have them removed from the sun's scorching influence, which at that time was very powerful, I told him I had not a man left but the wounded. I suggested to him to detail four of his stoutest fellows and place them under my authority for a few minutes, which he readily agreed to. I marched them off, but before reaching the poor fellows their bugle sounded the assembly, when they all started off and left me without assistance. I may mention here that this officer gave me an authority in writing to remove the wounded to where they might obtain proper medical assistance. Accompanied by a young man of the Queen's Own, who was slightly wounded in the wrist, I proceeded to the poor fellows who were lying on the road. We were unable to remove them, but gave them water to drink and put the overcoats that we picked up on the road in such a way as to shelter them from the sun. We then proceeded to Ridgeway to try to obtain assistance to remove those that were able, or nurses to attend upon the poor fellows, or men to move the dead and wounded that were still exposed on the road, as well as to try to procure teams to take them to Port Colborne, but with the exception of three men who agreed to go and move the men off the road, and one colored woman, whom I pressed into service, I could get no further assistance.
The horses had been all driven away for fear of them being taken. In going into a farmer's house in the immediate neighborhood of Ridgeway I knocked and could not obtain admission. I then went to the kitchen door, and opening another door, I found lying on the bed a poor young volunteer of the Queen's Own. I learned from himself that he was a son of the Rev. Mr. McKenzie, and was badly wounded, I think, in the arm. He was lying there alone, the house being deserted by all its inhabitants. I promised to send him assistance, which I did.
Returning from my fruitless errand, I met Dr. Elliot, of Port Colborne, who in the interim had been visiting the wounded men. He agreed to find ways and means to convey me to Port Colborne to report to the medical staff, with a view to sending immediate relief. On returning to Ridgeway I fortunately found a farmer's horse and buggy, and immediately drove to Port Colborne, when I reported to Dr. Thorburn, of the Queen's Own, who authorized me to press into the service all the teams necessary to bring up the dead and wounded, which was accomplished with little delay. A medical staff, consisting of Dr. Clark, of St. Catharines; Dr. Fraser, of Font-hill; Dr. Downie, Dr. Allen, of Brantford, and others, proceeded at once to the battle-ground, attending carefully to the wounded, but it was deemed advisable for the medical men to remain with them and accompany them by railway next day to Port Colborne. We, however, brought with us two wounded Fenian prisoners, who were taken to the hospital at St. Catharines. We also brought the bodies of the honored dead. We arrived at Port Colborne with our melancholy burden, about six o'clock a.m. on the 3rd. I may mention that two of the wounded men, whom I left alive in the afternoon, were dead when we returned in evening. Thus terminated the day of horrors. God grant that it may never be my lot to relate similar experiences.
As an evidence of the coolness and courage which was exemplified by many of our citizen soldiers, it is related by one of his men that Ensign Wm. Fahey, of No. 1 Company of the Queen's Own, when that company was advancing in skirmishing order in the face of a hot fire, kept continually encouraging his comrades in both words and action. When the bullets were flying around them he shouted, "Boys, keep a stiff upper lip!" and when a little later he was shot through the left knee and was being carried off the field, he again encouraged them by shouting, "No. 1, do your duty!" Such bravery under such circumstances will tend to show the sort of material of which our volunteers was composed.
An officer who fell on the firing line during the final stage of the battle was taken prisoner by the Fenians. When asked by the officer in command of the enemy what troops confronted them, and being told they were Canadian volunteers, he would hardly believe it. Their Adjutant said that during his experience in the Civil War he had never seen troops extending in such order and steadiness as our men did that morning. He was under the impression that they were British regulars.