Confederates in Canada

I caught a passing mention, years ago, that Jubal Early’s memoirs had been written in Toronto, but wasn’t able to follow any trails to more local information. This website was interesting, though, in providing quite a long list of famous Confederates who lived here or in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which seems to have become a kind of Richmond North, post-war.

The war’s end brought General John C. Breckenridge and his family to Toronto first, and then Niagara on the Lake in May 1866. Breckenridge served as vice president of the United States under James Buchanan 1856-1860, was a candidate for president in 1860 on the Southern Democratic ticket, (received nearly 850,000 votes) and a Major General in the Confederate service. He and his family rented a small home on Front Street overlooking Lake Ontario for twelve dollars a month. Immediately opposite the home on the New York bank of the river was Fort Niagara. Breckenridge gazed at the fort often, “with its flag flying to refresh our patriotism.” To him it seemed both a symbol of the Founder’s republic he tried to save, as well as a taunt that threatened arrest should he cross the river.

One who frequently visited the exiled Southerners was Lt. Colonel George T. Denison, commander of the Canadian Governor-General’s Body Guard, another was General Breckenridge’s “beloved old adjutant,” J. Stoddard Johnston of New Orleans. Johnston was the nephew of General Albert Sidney Johnston, and also served as an aid to Generals Bragg and Buckner. General George Pickett was also in Canada, though perhaps living in Toronto. Soon to join the ex-vice president at Niagara on the Lake were Confederate commissioner to England James M. Mason, General’s Jubal Early, John McCausland, Richard Taylor (son of General Zachary Taylor), John Bell Hood, Henry Heth, William Preston; and a host of lesser officers and their families. They often commiserated in the shade at Mason’s home, “discussing military matters and the practice of the soldiers art under the modern conditions inaugurated” by the War Between the States.

There’s even an account of Jefferson Davis coming for an extended visit, and being greeted by a cheering throng on Yonge Street.

Davis’ departure invoked this tribute from The Niagara Mail:

It is a subject of pride to Canadians that they can offer the hospitality of the soil and the shelter of the British flag to so many worthy men who are proscribed and banished from their homes for no crime at all, viz. to assert the right of every people to choose their own form of government.

One assumes the pro-Southern rhetoric can be attributed to the fear of many Canadians (D’Arcy McGee is quoted on this earlier) that the US would use its standing army to get that whole Manifest Destiny thing out of the way, at last.

2 thoughts on “Confederates in Canada

  1. Did Jefferson or Varina Davis ever visit Port Colborne in the Niagara region? We own a historical home built in 1865. I think Varina visited in the area. Our home is near Lake Erie. Several wealthy industrialists from the south USA vacationed here after the civil war. They called there vacation area here “Southern Comfort”.

  2. I don’t know about Port Colborne specifically, but I know there was a famous visit to Niagara. You can read a little bit about it here.

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