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Canadians in the American Civil War

[Editor’s Note: GeneaBloggers member Elizabeth Lapointe provides a fascinating look at Canadians who fought in the Civil War here in the United States.  Please visit Elisabeth’s site GenealogyCanada as she covers Canada’s Veterans Week November 5-11, 2012. We’ll be carrying these periodic articles here at GeneaBloggers and in our GeneaBloggers E-News!]

Canadians in the American Civil War by Elizabeth Lapointe

Since 1921, Canadians have joined other countries prior to, and on November 11th, in the wearing of a red poppy called the Flower of Remembrance on lapels to remind us of the great sacrifice that Canadian men and women (and our allies) have made in wars and military operations around the world, from the World Wars to Afghanistan.

During Veterans’ Week 2012—starting on November 5th and culminating in a week of activities ending on November 11th with ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and at many other cenotaphs in Canada—we remember those Canadians who fought side-by-side with Americans and the other Allied Forces in various wars and peacekeeping missions over the years.

For instance, in the American Civil War, between 33,000 and 55,000 men from British North America (Canada) served in the Union Army, while a few hundred joined the Confederate Army.

Many of these men already lived in the United States (some were the sons of United Empire Loyalists who went back to the U.S. to regain the property their parents had once owned), and some of these men were joined by volunteers signed up in Canada by Union and Confederate recruiters.

As explained in the American Civil War article in The Canadian Encyclopedia, Canada generally favored the Confederate side because it was—at the time—known as British North America, and was still, in effect, a British colony and viewed as the British enemy left over from the American Revolution.

A lesson in cross-migration is noted when it is realized that Canada also refused to return 15,000 American deserters and draft dodgers who sought refuge from the Civil War.

The American Medal of Honor has been awarded to 29 Canadian-born men, whose names and (most) biographies are listed at, and a listing of Canadians (with biographies) who fought in the war, but did not receive the Medal of Honor, is found at

The Canadian Civil War Association gives the historical aspect of Canadians in the Civil War, while another partial list of Canadians in the American Civil War is available at

Brian Massey, the great-grandson of William Massey, maintains the Canadians in the Civil War website William Massey was a Canadian who enlisted in the war in Tennessee, although he was from the province of Ontario.

I would also like to remind you that this is the second year that will devote all posts to Veterans’ Week 2012, starting November 5th with an overview of military activities in the country, ending with Remembrance Day events on November 11th. For a complete listing of last year’s Veterans’ Week 2011 posts, please send me a note at

This year, I will be giving away a copy of my booklet—a research guide on both sides of the War of 1812 entitled The War of 1812: Canada and the United States—every day during Veterans’ Week to lucky readers who correctly answer questions about Canada’s military history. A new question will be available daily, and a winner will be picked randomly each day from all entries with the correct answer.

For a description of the booklet, please visit

Lest We Forget …

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About Elizabeth and GenealogyCanada

The blog,, has been covering Canadian genealogy, heritage, and history since the first of over 800 posts was published in January, 2008.

And over 30 monthly newsletters covering news on Canadian genealogy, heritage, and history—including the famous “Website of the Month”—are available on the website.

Elizabeth Lapointe is the editor of Families, the journal of the Ontario Genealogical Society.