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Campaign Medals, Capt. R Dillon, Canadian Militia - 1866-1885

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Campaign Medals, Capt. Dillon - 1866-1885
Orig. medals - Size - full and miniature
Found - Sutton, ON
Prov - Captain R Dillon, Oshawa, ON
The campaign medals of Captain Dillon include, from left to right, his North West Canada mess Medal (1885), then on a bar, the full size North West Canada Medal (1885), the General Service Medal for the Fenian Raid and bar for 1866 (1899), and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Medal (1901).

The 1885 North West Canada Medal was issued in the same year as the campaign was fought.

In fact the Boer War 1899-1902, awoke Canadians to the fact that they had been negligent, in the past, in honouring the contribution to the defence of Canadian hearths and homes by the militia.

So the General Service or Fenian Raid Medal was issued in 1899, 33 years after the event.

The Colonial Auxiliary Forces Medal, was first issued in 1901.

It is more common to find these medals turning up individually, from time to time; it is extremely rare to come across a bar of three of them signed to one veteran; and it is far rarer still that the mess medal, that belonged to the original owner, has remained intact as a part of the Captain Dillon group.

Mess, or miniature, medals, since they are too small to be inscribed with the name of the original owner, turn up, now and then, as less prized anonymous medals, and are not treated, by collectors, with the same respect as the named larger medals. So it is fabulous beyond belief that we finally have a mess medal with bullet-proof provenance to a Canadian Victorian militiaman.

The ruthless British suppression of Irish nationalism, during the 18th and 19th centuries, festered in the minds of Irish immigrants who moved to the United States, especially among those who lived close to the Canadian border.

It has long been a tradition, among Americans, that everyone wants to be just like them, and welcome membership in the Lower 48...

American activists long believed all they needed to do was cross over the border, to Canada, with a few patriots, and the oppressed Canadians would rise up against their British overlords and join them in an uprising which would result in a joyful annexation of the Canadian provinces to the United States.

Festering Irish-American anger towards Britain was demonstrated against Canada on many occasions:

- during the Rebellions of 1837-38 Americans offered safe harbour to Canadian patriots who were in armed revolt against their British overlords, and joined invading forces of Canadian rebels/patriots...

- at the Battle of the Windmill, near Prescott, Ontario, an armed force landed on Canadian soil resulting in Canadian casualties

- the first statue to British General Isaac Brock - a Canadian war hero - was blown up at Queenston in 1840 by Irish Americans who crossed over to do the dirty deed

- in 1868 a Canadian Father of Confederation, Thomas D'Arcy McGee was assassinated in Ottawa, Ontario, by a man widely regarded as a Fenian supporter

- the Fenians invaded Canada again in 1866 and 1870

In these cases the local militia was assembled to mount a defence against an enemy attack and captured numbers of belligerents. Some were imprisoned, some were released, and some were hanged.

In 1866 Private Dillon shouldered arms to help in repelling an attack by Americans against Canada West, which was only months away from becoming the Dominion of Canada. 33 years later his contribution would be recognized with the creation of a Fenian Raid medal.

How regrettably ironic that the descendants of Canadian soldiers who once defended their own soil from enemies threatening Canadian hearths and homes, have today become foreign invaders themselves, and are shooting up the women, children, and men, of a nation half way around the world merely to advance the corporate agenda of the top political operatives and their cronies in Ottawa, and in direct opposition to the vast majority of Canadian citizens of all ages..

Victorian/Edwardian Medals & Trophies - 5

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The Canadian Militia - Two bars were issued for the Fenian Raid medal (officially called the General Service Medal with bars.)

Captain Dillon had the bar only for 1866; the other bar for 1870 is shown left. It was issued to John Woodward of the Canadian Militia.

Medals were, of course, souvenirs of military service that were given to all who took part.

But wealthier people wanted something more, like perhaps a painting...

Left, is the portrait of Lt. E Laidlaw, from a prominent family in Lindsay, Ontario, who was a friend of Captain Dillon, who lived in nearby Oshawa.

They signed up with different battalions; Laidlaw was lucky; he got to the scene of the action first.

The oil on canvas portrait was commissioned to commemorate a family member's high point of public service.

Laidlaw was also a graduate of the Royal Military College, in Kingston, Ontario, which had been founded by Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie, to provide a staff college for training Canadian officers since the British military was gradually retiring from Canadian soil.

The intent was that officers like Laidlaw and Dillon would provide the backbone of an emerging Canadian professional army, sometime down the road.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Fenian Raid Medal - 1870
Orig. medal - Size - 37 cm
Found - Campbellville, ON
Inscribed - J Woodward, 27th Battalion
Go to the Sad Story of how we got the Medal
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lt. George E Laidlaw 1885
Orig. oil on canvas - Size - 41 x 61 cm
Found - Bowmanville, ON
Unsigned, pencil dated c 1890
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
North West Canada Medal - 1860
Orig. silver - Size - 37 mm
Inscribed - Capt R Dillon, 7th Fusiliers
Issued, unsigned, in 1885, to those who served in the various North West Field Forces. Captain Dillon, like many others, had his name inscribed on the edge of the medal.
North West Canada Mess Medal - 1885
Orig. silver - Size - 18 mm
Not inscribed
An extremely precious medal. Miniature replicas of the full sized medals were issued for dinner jackets so you didn't have the forward clanking of huge medals, knocking over wine glasses, every time you reached across your partner to grab the gravy boat. But miniatures were too small to have the rim signed so none are attributable to anyone. This one, because it came with a huge lot that once belonged to Captain Dillon has iron clad and valuable provenance that it once graced his breast at regimental dinners.
General Service Medal, Fenian Raid - 1866 (1899)
Orig. silver - Size - 37 mm -
Inscribed - Pte R Dillon, Oshawa R Co
This medal, though bearing the earliest date, is actually the newer medal, only issued in 1899, by which time many veterans who deserved it had already died...
Colonial Auxiliary Forces Medal - 1901
Orig. silver - Size - 36 mm
Inscribed - Quartermaster & Hon Captain R Dillon, 34th Regiment
This medal was issued between 1901-1931, for officers in the non-permanent militia who had given 20 years of meritorious service. It bears the royal cypher for Queen Victoria, VRI. Recipients, could, if they wished, add VD after their name for having it... The medal...
Unlike the medals one comes across, even from WWI veterans, Captain Dillon's bar of medals is in well used condition. There was a difference between fighting men of the Victorian militia and veterans after World War I. In Victorian times soldiers wore their medals often, and well, many, many times a year, at shooting competitions, and public gatherings of all sorts; hence the tatty ribbons of Capt. Dillon's medals, especially his 1878 Wimbledon and 1885 North West Medals. These were very well worn and lovingly cared for. Brasso residue still clings to the CAF Medal and the North West mess medal from the last time Captain Dillon prepared them for display at a big event.

After the horrors of World War I, the attitude to war and medals changed. Veterans no longer considered, or talked about, war in the same way as Victorian and Edwardian soldiers. Captain Dillon and his contemporaries regaled each other, and the public, in their written accounts with "Thrilling Stories of the War." For World War I veterans all, the thrill was gone. When someone brought up the war, they mostly stared back in silence; and they would for decades to come. And only once a year, on Remembrance Day, they would put on their medals in memory of the unbearably high cost that came with medals in the Georgian era in Canada.

Diary of Sgt. Alexander Campbell, 7th Fusiliers, NW Field Force - 1885

The Riel Rebellion - 1885

The Canadian Government had let things get out of hand in the wild Canadian west, by first, not treating Indian and Métis concerns with the speed and decisiveness that were called for. The Government had signed treaties with these peoples and then, once they had the paper in hand, slacked off irresponsibly in fulfilling their part of the bargain, which forced Indian and Métis peoples to abandon their traditional lifestyle, and settle down as farmers in woefully circumscribed and minimal territories. These people had signed themselves into dependency, to be made up for by government help, supplies, and food.

When these were extremely late, misappropriated by civil servants, or did not come at all, people literally starved to death. Children and the old were the first to die; the anger among the young, especially, knew no bounds. Because the Ottawa bureaucrats were too far away to reach, local white men became easy targets for the rage that vented from a destitute people.

At Frog Lake 9 white people were killed one explosive afternoon.

Now that white people were dying, the Government decided to act.

The Canadian Militia battalions were sent from eastern Canada.

Two men who signed up were Captain R. Dillon, and Alexander Campbell right, wearing his Fenian Raid 1866 Medal, who kept a diary of their adventures with the 7th Fusiliers to the site of the unrest.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

The cross where the first murder took place that set the west afire and launched the North West Field Force in 1885.

Below, Wandering Spirit who killed Thomas Quinn where the cross is above, started the killing, for which he was hanged, painted by Alexander Campbell who along with Captain Dillon met him.

Massacre Site, Frog Lake, AB
Found - Frog Lake, SK
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Buried just across the road from where the church stood (background right) where they had gathered for safety, are some of the victims of the Frog Lake Massacre.

Below, Miserable Man, who was found guilty of participating and hanged, as painted by Alexander Campbell.

Graves, Frog Lake, Alberta
Found - Frog Lake, AB
Then & Now - Below, Miserable Man left, and Chief Poundmaker centre, prisoners at Fort Battleford, and a Cree warrior, right painted by Campbell.

Above, the spot where the photograph below was taken in 1885, when the two men had come into the fort to discuss terms of surrender.

The Cree leaders discovered that there were no terms...

Instead, they were seized and put on trial. The jury found many Cree guilty of treason and murder which resulted in the largest mass hanging - outside Quebec - in Canadian history.

Left below, the leisurely drift of Captain Dillon and the 7th Fusiliers by scow down the South Saskatchewan River, as painted by Alexander Campbell. Too leisurely, as it turned out for when they reached their command they found the battles had been fought and lost or won...

SEARCH - Battleford, Poundmaker, Frog Lake, Batoche, Cut Knife, Fish Creek, Riel Rebellion, Graves

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Petocahhanawawin - Poundmaker
Edmund Morris 1910
Orig. pastel - Size - 38 x 54 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Pastel on paper, and signed by Edmund Morris
An original painting from the finest series of portraits ever painted by a leading artist of Canadian Indian chiefs. (A commission for the Legislature of Saskatchewan 1910)

The North West Field Force

The picture left, of the 7th Fusiliers Ambulance Corps, was painted by Alexander Campbell, with himself up front, in camp at Swift Current prior to leaving for the battle sites. They are carrying stretchers to bring back the dead and wounded.

But the 7th Fusiliers would have neither; because of transportation mishaps they arrived too late at the site of the shooting war.

The men are shown in the clothes they wore on campaign; they really wore red uniforms while marching and fighting.

Among Canada's very earliest patriotic battle prints were those that came out of the Riel Rebellions. The men are all in red, making them wonderful targets for Indian and Métis sharpshooters.

A dozen years later, during the Boer War, the famous Bacon battle prints still had the men wearing and fighting in red uniforms even though they were wearing khaki for camouflage.

Dillon Aground!

The 7th Fusiliers marched from Swift Current to the South Saskatchewan River, where they boarded scows to float 320 miles down to Clarke's Crossing, which General Middleton was using as a staging point to advance against the Métis to the north, at Batoche.

The officers decided to lash the scows together in twos for safety and gave them names.

Left, the "Lt. Nelles" shows Major Smith on the foredeck and Capt. Dillon with back to us, at the moment disaster struck the barge.

"Major Smith's boat - lashed to Dillon's - grounded. We first tried to relieve her with pikes but we were too heavily loaded, so Dillon's boat was cut loose with a slack line which we failed too make fast to the stranded boats, so Dillon floated off. We at last got free by shifting the cargo and the men getting into the water and working her off with pikes.

About a mile down stream we passed Dillon fast on a bar, we were unable to give any assistance , so floated on till about 3 o' clock or about 30 miles from the Landing and snubbed up for the night, not caring to go on till we had a report from Dillon.

In the mean time Capt. Dillon got free and came along all right until a short distance from where Major Smith was snubbed up when he ran into a pocket and was unable to budge after working several hours in the water.

Next morning word was sent down (by Dillon) to Major Smith that unless they jettisoned the cargo they would be unable to proceed. Word was received back to bring the goods if possible, if not to lighten the ship and report as soon as possible. It did not take Capt. Dillon long to interprit the order to his liking, so made an abutment of trusses of hay and on it piled bags of oats, representing about half of his cargo. He was then able to float the ship push her up stream for 50 yards and get into the main channel."

Above, after untying Captain Dillon's boat, the men of Major Smith's barge - some naked - work hard to pry their boat off the sandbar, as Captain Dillon floats of in the background. The inset shows the pile of hay and goods that Dillon's boat crew unloaded into the middle of the Saskatchewan River to lighten their load.

The trip down the Saskatchewan had taken so long that when they got to Clarke's Crossing General Middleton had gone north without them and fought the Battles of Fish Creek and Batoche and was busy rounding up of the usual suspects.

As Indians were fleeing hither and yon across the prairies some came by the Fusilier's camp, where Dillon and Campbell who painted them saw them, including Cree belonging to Chief Poundmaker left, and some of those fleeing justice over the Frog Lake Massacre top.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
This fabulous, and extremely rare, print captures the wild enthusiasm that met the Volunteers on their return from bringing order to the wilds of the North West Territories.

This is the scene Captain Dillon experienced when he returned to London, Ontario. He kept the ribbon below to remind him of the glorious reception that would be a highlight of his life.

Return of the Volunteers -1885
Orig. print - Size - 33 x 46 cm
Found - Napanee, ON

Toronto Lithographing Co., Pub. by Grip, Toronto, 1885

Rare! This fabulous print is one of the rarest Canadian chromolithographs. It was published by the Toronto Lithographing Co. and Grip Ltd. in 1885.

Grip is, of course, where the first members of the famed Canadian painting club the "Group of Seven" earned their bread and butter to pay for their self-indulgent hobby of painting Canadian outdoor scenes - which nobody wanted then, nor for almost a hundred years after...

And this print is a good example of why not.

Who wants rough-looking pictures of water, clouds, and trees, when you can have a wonderfully detailed and stirring picture of real Canadian heroes, returning triumphantly from putting Riel and those pesky "red skins" in their place?

(The Grip Group, which included MacDonald, Varley, Johnston, Carmichael, Lismer, and Thomson, were urban escapists, who sought refuge, for their creative spirits, in the untouched remote landscapes of Canada, away from the industrial screech and smell of downtown Toronto.)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Welcome Ribbon, 1885 - Captain Dillon
Orig. souvenir ribbon - Size - 26 cm
Found - Sutton, ON
Prov - Captain R Dillon, 7th Fusiliers, North West Field Force
A fabulous souvenir collected by Capt. Dillon on that heady day in London, Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 7th Fusiliers left Port Arthur (Thunder Bay) aboard the CPR steamer SS Alberta, which Alexander Campbell painted leaving the Lakehead. They easily crossed the Great Lakes by ship, which they had circumferenced, with much hardship, the previous winter by train, and much on foot, wagon, and sleighs.

"On our arrival in Sarnia we were given a wonderful reception, the whole town seemed to be on the docks to welcome us back. The Battalion was paraded and marched to the City Hall where we were addressed by the Mayor, and afterwards filed in to partake of a sumptuous Banquet which the ladies of Sarnia had prepared for us. But while listening to the speakers on the square the writer was blowed over by the sun and heat and was unable to be present at the banquet, but I understand it was a very brilliant afair and a very complimentary act on the part of the people of Sarnia.

"... we drew into the GTR station at London.

"The station platform was densely crowded with a joyful cheering multitude, which extended up Richmond St. as far as one could see. A Guard of Honour composed of the 7th and the Artillery with Busbies, bright scarlet and blue Tunics, pipeclayed belts, etc. were at the station to meet us, a great contrast to those of the 7th, who had just returned with their soiled and faded Tunics, tea stained belts, and Helmits with many of their trousers patched with flour sacks, and skin as brown as an indian.

"The Ladies of the reception committee were busy pinning badges on the boys, and decorating the muzzle of each rifle with a small bouquet of flowers, a demonstration far exceeding all we had been picturing in our minds for weeks, and you can imagine the feelings of the men at this spontaneous welcome home.

"In all this the writer could not take part, I was still under the effect of the sunstroke I received in Sarnia, and could not trust myself in the sun and excitement, so remained in the car until the parade started up Richmond St. Though, after anticipating for weeks the glory of that march to be compelled to miss it, and with it the official Parade, the Banquet, and other entertainment, and the companionship of my friends as well as those with whom I had been associated with for so lang."

 

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005