Posted by Timothy FitzGerald on Jul 31, 2017
1861 to 1865 - Canada was not a country yet but during the war 50,000- 60,000 citizens north of the border joined the ranks of either the Union or the Confederate armies.

Mike McDonnell, of Waterford, did a stellar job condensing his one hour presentation into 20 minutes for our Rotary Club of Simcoe. He made the point several times that we should not attempt to judge or understand historical events based upon our current day values.

Why did we join? - interestingly both men (along with underage boys) and some women as well. There was a strong abolitionist movement – some went south for the cause. Some went for adventure. Economics – the prospect of earning $13 a month in the Union army for you (your family) when you were otherwise cash poor was enticing.
Mike related recited with pictures his research into the the individual histories of “canadians". Twenty-nine (29) were awarded Congressional Medals of Honour. Five (5) became Generals.  His research and civil war passions include civil war reenactments and reading headstones in area graveyards for period clues.
Example - Lieutenant William Cooke was raised, near us, in Mount Pleasant. He survived the war and is buried in Hamilton, ON.
“Dundrearies” (long sideburns) was the Colonel Custards aide-de-camps during and after the War.  “Dundrearies” also headed the detail that tracked down Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth; and is present (and died) in a painting of the infamous Colonel Custard’s Last Stand. Mike says that “Dundrearies” can be seen on the right center of the painting (three beards – two very long sideburns plus a chin beard).
 Of women in the army, as there were many underage boys enlisted, a smaller frame size and lack of facial hair was somewhat common. Further, there were no central latrine facilities. So the few women that did enlist were not easily discovered. They served and died beside their male counterparts.

Thanking Mike is Rotarian Joan Shirlow, with a donation to our Gord Watts Fine Arts Scholarship.