McAllister’s Mill

On this day in 1836, a group of local abolitionists gathered at the home of James McAllister in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. McAllister and his family operated a mill on this property, and in the decades to come, the mill itself would serve the anti-slavery cause. 

The abolitionists who gathered at McAllister’s home went on to form the Adams County Anti-Slavery Society, one of the earliest such societies. The society did more than attend meetings, though. Society members established a network of safe houses around Gettysburg where slaves escaping from the south could find rest, food, and a place to hide between the legs of their journey. Between 1850 and 1858, hundreds of escaping slaves were hidden in McAllister’s mill, which became one of the first Underground Railroad stops north of the Mason-Dixon line.[1] This was risky not just for the slaves but also for the McAllisters. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it a crime to harbour an escaped slave, even in ‘free’ states like Pennsylvania, and with bounty hunters using hound dogs particularly active in Adams County, the risk of being caught was fairly high.

Helping their father shelter the fugitives made a deep impression on McAllister’s children, who grew up hearing the harrowing stories of the people who hid in their mill. “Is it any wonder I grew up to young manhood hating slavery with a mortal hatred?” James’s son Theodore wrote years later.[2] When the American Civil War broke out, five of McAllister’s sons went to fight for the Union, and one of them died in battle. Theodore himself was a prisoner of war at the notorious Andersonville camp in Georgia.

But history was not finished with McAllister’s property – or his family. On the first of June 1863, twenty-seven years after the meeting at James McAllister’s house, Union soldiers faced off against Confederate soldiers right on McAllister’s doorstep. Macalisters (of various spellings) fought on both sides. The Battle of Gettysburg – one of the best-known battles in US history (partly because of President Lincoln’s famous speech there) – continued for three days, causing the deaths of many soldiers and considerable damage to the property.[3] As the battle went on, James McAllister’s house became a de facto hospital for wounded Union soldiers; a confederate hospital was set up near the mill. McAllister’s daughters Mary and Martha were at home during the battle and did whatever they could to help the wounded. Many of the dead were buried near their home. 

James McAllister died in 1872. The mill had not been used in years, and after the family left, it sank into disrepair. Today, almost nothing remains of the buildings that saw so much action in the fight against slavery. Although the actual battlefield has been preserved as a historical monument, McAllister’s property, which is privately owned, was forgotten; for much of the 20th century, it was used as a municipal dump. In 2002, a local preservation group began pushing for the dump to be moved and the property to be marked as a historic site. Though the borough initially dragged its feet, McAllister’s Mill was finally recognised in 2011 by the federal government as one of several hundred US properties that have a verifiable connection to the Underground Railroad. A marker was erected, and with the cooperation of the current owner, tours began the following year. Gettysburg National Military Park hopes to purchase the property eventually.[4]

More information about McAllister’s Mill can be found at the McAllister’s Mill Underground Railroad site and the web site of the Historical Gettysburgh-Adams County preservation society

Sources:

copyright © Lynn McAlister, 2015

[1] The Mason-Dixon line, established in the early 1700s to resolve a border dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland, took on new meaning in the 19th century, when it became a symbolic division between states where slavery was allowed and Pennsylvania, where it was not. Technically, once a slave crossed the Mason-Dixon line, he or she was no longer a slave. However, after 1850 people fleeing slavery could still be hunted down north of the line.

[2] McAllister’s Mill finally gets historical recognition” 

[3] After it was all over, McAllister put in a claim for $1,200 in damages, according to the Battle of Gettysburg website (accessed 29 June 2015).

[4] Scot Andrew Pitzer, “Underground Railroad site recognizedGettysburgh Times on-line (4 May 2011). 

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Battle of Worcester

On this day in 1651, the Battle of Worcester was fought between the Royalist forces of Charles II, most of them Scots, and the Parliamentarian forces of Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army. Cromwell’s forces outnumbered the Royalists by at least two to one. It was the final battle in Charles’s attempt to retake his father’s kingdom, and Charles’s defeat marked the end of the civil wars that had been going on in England, Scotland, and Ireland for nearly a decade.

Until 1649, Scotland’s political establishment had considered the English Parliamentarians to be their allies. Both parties sought to limit royal control: the Parliamentarians believed that the king should be subject to Parliament (or at least willing to work with it), and the Scottish Covenanters believed that he should be subject to God (by which they meant the Assembly of the Presbyterian kirk). However, when the Parliamentarians tried and executed Charles I, Scots of all political stripes were outraged. Charles was, after all, not only King of England – he was King of Scotland, too, and his Scottish subjects felt that England had no right to execute Scotland’s king without a Scottish trial.

In response, the Scots proclaimed Charles’s son, currently in exile on the Continent, King Charles II.  Cromwell then gathered an army and marched into Scotland, where on 3 September 1650 – a year to the day before the Battle of Worcester – he defeated the Scots at Dunbar and took control of Edinburgh. The younger Charles was brought back to Scotland and crowned at Scone on New Year’s Day, 1651. Like the later Stuart exiles, however, the new king intended to rule all of Britain, not just Scotland. Although his general, David Leslie, urged him to remain in Scotland, where he had the greatest support, Charles decided to take his army into England. Cromwell left part of his forces in Scotland and turned south in pursuit. The Royalists’ march toward London was halted at Worcester.

Initially, the Royalists appeared to be getting the better of their enemies at the Battle of Worcester, but in the end Charles’s army was utterly defeated. Malcolm Atkin, in his study of this battle, says that “2,000-4,000 Scots [were] killed in the battle. Many more were wounded and a considerable number of these must have died in the following days or weeks. Most of the survivors were captured.”[1] With the help of English sympathisers, Charles himself escaped[2], but few of the Scots who had fought for him ever made it home. Thousands of them were shipped to the colonies – Barbados, New England, and Virginia – and sold as indentured servants, among them at least three Macalisters who landed in Boston early in 1652. (Another three of this name were sent to Virginia a few months earlier, but it’s possible they had been captured at Dunbar, which also produced many transportees, the previous year. These are the earliest Macalisters on record in the New World.)

Macalisters at home, too, were affected by this defeat. After Worcester, Cromwell quickly conquered all of Scotland outside the Western Highlands. Scotland was declared a protectorate of England, and the government in London hoped to unite the two countries formally. Discontent among the Western clans (who as Episcopalians and Catholics were excluded from the newly decreed religious toleration) and resistance to military occupation led to Glencairn’s Rising (1654), but after that had been put down, Cromwell’s General Monck “established a measure of law and order in the Highlands which had not been seen for centuries, enforcing it with the active co-operation of the clan chiefs. By offering them treaties of surrender to sign, Monck . . . implicitly recognised their own authority over their clansmen, so bolstering their positions of power.[3] In fact, in some ways the Highlanders were better off under Cromwell than they ever had been. Certainly the restoration in 1660 of Charles II “saw a return to widespread disorder”.[4]

Still, for nine years after the defeat at the Battle of Worcester, Scotland was a conquered nation, subdued by a military presence and ruled directly from London. 

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2014

[1] Cromwell’s Crowning Mercy: The Battle of Worcester, 1651 (Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1998), p. 113. 

[2] An entertaining and informative account of Charles’s escape back to France can be found in Richard Ollard’s book, The Escape of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester (London: Robinson, 1966, 1986). It is well worth reading if this era is of interest.

[3] John Roberts, p. 127

[4] Ibid., p. 134

In the Line of Duty

On this day in 1895, Sgt. Henry H. McAllister, a three year veteran of the Manchester, New Hampshire, police department, was shot by former officer Fred Stockwell, to whom McAllister had been supervisor. Bullets struck the sergeant’s aorta, spleen, and kidney[1], killing him instantly. McAllister was 49.

The shooting took place in the police station, and Stockwell, who had resigned a week earlier, was immediately arrested. According to a news report at the time, he had made threats against not only McAllister but also “other members of the department”.[2] However, he had a particular grudge against Sgt. McAllister, who had recently reprimanded him for “intemperance and untruthfulness”, and at the time of the shooting, he said that this was the reason for his crime.[3] Stockwell was sentenced to 30 years in prison for second-degree murder, but in 1914 he was pardoned without explanation and promptly disappeared. Henry McAllister, an Irish immigrant survived only by his sister[4], was gradually forgotten.

Thanks to a current member of the Manchester police force, however, the story does not end there. More than a hundred years after McAllister’s death, Capt. Nick Willard began to wonder why the long-dead sergeant’s name did not appear on New Hampshire’s memorial for policemen killed in the line of duty. He decided to investigate, and he discovered that there was a bit more to the story.

Stockwell’s statement that he had killed McAllister because of the charges brought against him seems to have been accepted by everyone at the time, but Capt. Willard learned that Stockwell later changed his story. Several years into his sentence, Stockwell began to claim that McAllister had had an affair with his wife and that was the reason for the shooting. Willard found no evidence to support Stockwell’s claim, and he believes the killer was simply trying to smear his victim’s name. McAllister had no one around to defend him, however, and “over the course of time, the rumor morphed into fact”.[5] Willard concluded that this slur is the main reason McAllister was not included on the memorial, and he put in a request to have McAllister’s name added. In a television interview last June, Willard said he wanted the fallen officer to know that his reputation has been restored and his service with the Manchester Police Department is remembered.[6]

On Monday 19 May 2014, 119 years after he died, McAllister was among the 286 officers killed in the line of duty whose sacrifice was recognised in the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial ceremony.[7]

 Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2014

[1] New Hampshire Death and Disinterment Records, 1754-1947, online database, Ancestry.com (accessed 19 May 2014); record for Henry McAllister.

[2] “A Police Sergeant is Shot Down by an Ex-Policeman”, Sandusky (Ohio) Register, 23 May 1895, p. 2; digital image, Ancestry.com (accessed 20 May 2014); Historical Newspapers Collection. 

[3] “Fallen Officer to Be Added to NH Law Enforcement Memorial: Sgt. Henry McAllister shot in line of duty in 1895“, news report dated June 13, 2013, WMUR New Hampshire web site (www.wmur.com/news).

[4] ODMP Remembers . . . Sergeant Henry McAllister“, Officer Down Memorial Page web site (www.odmp.org), accessed 20 May 2014. A brief search of online records turned up a family of McAllisters who arrived in the US as famine immigrants in 1850 and settled in Manchester. The family had a son named Henry about the right age; according to McAllister’s death records, the father’s name, and the mother’s maiden name, are also right. If this is indeed Sgt. McAllister’s family, then his mother also survived him—although not by long: That woman died in 1898 “from Melancholia” [New Hampshire Death and Disinterment Records, 1754-1947, online database, Ancestry.com (accessed 19 May 2014); record for Jane McClelland McAllister]. However, none of the names involved are particularly unusual and it is very possible that these records pertain to an entirely different family. If McAllister left his homeland as an adult, it is also possible that he had family in Ireland.

[5] “Fallen Officer”, WMUR New Hampshire.

[6] Ibid.

[7] New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial“, press release dated May 1, 2014, state of New Hampshire government web site (https://www.nh.gov). 

A McAlister Governor (or, the Right Man for the Job)

On this day in 1959, Harry Hill McAlister died at the age of 84. McAlister, who was born in Nashville in 1875, served as Tennessee’s governor from 1933 to 1937. He began his political career as the city attorney for Nashville, and in the 1920s he served as state treasurer before being elected for two terms in the state senate. During this decade, he warned repeatedly that the state was facing a financial crisis – and this was before the stock market crashed in 1929. 

When Governor McAlister took office, the country was in the grips of the Great Depression and Tennessee had an operating deficit of $6 million. Many banks and businesses had failed. McAlister sharply cut back expenditures, reducing state spending by $7 million, and worked to restore trust in the banks. In his first term, he managed to balance the state budget.[1] He also worked closely with the federal government to implement many of Roosevelt’s New Deal programmes in Tennessee,  putting people back to work and developing the state’s infrastructure. In 1934, he was reelected by a significant majority.

During his second term, Governor McAlister fell out with Ed H. Crump, a Memphis political ‘boss’ who had been his primary supporter to that point. The former allies disagreed on the repeal of prohibition (McAlister was reluctant to follow the federal government’s example and overturn the law) and on a sales tax that the governor hoped to introduce as a means of reducing debt and helping underfunded public schools. Crump’s associates in the state legislature defeated the sales tax, and with Crump now in opposition, McAlister decided not to run for a third term.[2] He retired from political life after only four years as governor. But he had accomplished a lot in those four years. McAlister had managed to turn Tennessee’s disastrous finances around, and he left the state in better shape economically than it had been in when he took office – no small feat in the midst of the century’s worst economic crisis.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013


[1] Pierce, Dan, “Hill McAlister”, in Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, accessed 29 October 2013.
[2] National Governors Association, Tennessee Governor Harry Hill McAlister, accessed 29 October 2013.

A Star Is Born

On this day in 1909, ‘Little’ Mary McAllister, whom Hans J. Wollstein calls “the First Baby Star of the Films”[1], was born in Los Angeles, the grand-daughter of two Scotsmen. Mary appeared in her first silent film short, Despair (1915), at the age of six and went on to make a total of forty-four films in her fifteen-year career. Newspaper mentions make it clear that she was quite the media darling, loved by children particularly[2] but also doing her part for society as a whole. During the First World War, for example, she was made a (presumably honorary) sergeant in the US Army by President Woodrow Wilson in recognition of her work encouraging recruitment in Chicago.[3] In addition to appearing on the silver screen, Mary starred on stage, most notably as the lead in a travelling production of ‘the Little Princess’, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s story.

When Essanay Studios folded in 1918, Mary went back to school, disappearing from the public eye just long enough for questions to begin about what had happened to her. But after graduating from Hollywood High she was back,[4] no longer ‘Little’ Mary McAllister, destined to appear as an adult in 15 further films. Once again she was in the spotlight, appearing at various public events and now the focus of speculation about romances with costars. She was named one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars for 1927, and her future in cinema seemed preordained. Yet it was not to be. After a minor role in the 1930 film On the Level when she was only 21, Mary never appeared on screen again.

At this time, of course, silent films were being replaced by ‘talkies’, and several online biographies conclude that she was unable to make the transition to the new medium. In fact, it seems that Mary simply retired to lead a private life. She married businessman Robert Brigham in 1930, the year of her final film; she and Robert had two children, and the family evidently travelled extensively. Mary’s occasional appearances on stage after this were, according to author George Katchmer, “just for fun”.[5] Her marriage appears to have ended in the early 1950s, just as her son’s was beginning, but she lived on for another four decades, dying of cancer in 1991.

Mary McAllister died in Del Mar, California, and was cremated.[6]

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2013


[1] Hans J. Wollstein, Mary McAllister, Actor, New York Times website.  

[2]‘Tiny Film Favorite Vies with Vaudeville Artists for Favor’, Nevada State Journal, 17 September 1917.

[3]‘Little Film Star to Be Recruit Speaker’, Oakland Tribune, 14 October 1919; Nevada State Journal, 17 September 1917.

[4]Wollstein, ibid.

[5]G. Katchmer, A Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses (McFarland, 2009), p. 241.

[6]Mary McAllister, Find a Grave Memorial, #9102667

Death of Samuel McAllister

On this day in 1903, Samuel McAllister, Irish-born recipient of the American Medal of Honor, died at sea. Samuel was born in Belfast on the 23rd of January 1869, though both of his parents were born in Scotland.[1] He moved to the United States in 1886, and by the time of the 1900 federal census, he was already serving in the US Navy. In June of that year, when the Boxer Rebellion in China finally broke out into open war, Samuel was serving on the USS Newark

The Boxer Rebellion was a war against foreigners. The spread of foreign influence through trade, religion, and (in one case) actual invasion was resented by many Chinese, and this resentment led to the rise of a nationalist movement called the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists – soon dubbed ‘Boxers’ by the Europeans. The Boxers comprised mainly peasants and artisans whose jobs or land had been lost as a result of foreign involvement in China, but they had friends in high places: In early June 1900, as violence increased, the Dowager Empress authorised war on foreign powers. By the end of that month, hundreds of foreigners from various places, and literally thousands of Chinese Christians, were trapped in two locations in Beijing, where they remained under siege for 55 days.[2]

The governments of eight nations, including the US and Great Britain, sent military forces to try to free their besieged citizens. Among the ships carrying American troops was the Newark. According to his citation, on “20 June 1900, while . . . [c]rossing the river in a small boat while under heavy enemy fire, Ordinary Seaman McAllister assisted in destroying buildings occupied by the enemy.” This “extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy at Tientsin, China” earned him the Medal of Honor, which he received from President Theodore Roosevelt on the 22nd of March 1902.[3]

Just over a year later, while serving aboard the USS Wisconsin, Samuel McAllister was lost at sea.[4]
Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012.


[1] “1900 United States Federal Census,” database, Ancestry.com (accessed 12 December 2012), entry for Samuel McAllister, [b.] 1869, in Ireland. 
[2] For more information on the Boxer Rebellion, see Cultural China, “Origins of the Boxers, and Department of the Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command, “The Boxer Rebellion and the U.S. Navy, 1900-1901“. (This site also links to an extensive bibliography.)
[3] Military Times Hall of Valor:  Samuel McAllister (accessed 10 December 2012).
[4] Find-a-Grave: Samuel McAllister

This Week in Macalister History . . .

Major events in the history of the Macalisters take a bit of a break in October, so I thought it might be fun to take a look at what’s happening in the Macalister world at the start of October of this year. Macalisters in the arts and entertainment have certainly been busy. David McAllister, artistic director of the Australian Ballet, is hard at work preparing for the 10 October opening of Romeo and Juliet. The company celebrates its 50th anniversary on 2 November of this year, which has led to quite a bit of media attention. Back in the UK, Irish actress Amy McAllister (whose television work includes roles in Call the Midwife and Emmerdale) is currently appearing as Nellie, the female lead in The Man on Her Mind at Charing Cross Theatre in London’s West End. Performances are given six nights a week, with an additional matinee performance Saturdays. The play runs through 27 October. To the north, award-winning Scottish comedian Keir McAllister (whom the Edinburgh Evening News called “…a gifted comedian destined for much bigger things”) has been touring the west coast with his Walking in My Shoes tour. This week he appeared in Tyree, Fort William and the Isle of Mull.

Macalisters were also busy studying insects, of all things. Dr Erica McAlister, curator of entomology at the Natural History Museum in London, undertook the last Specimen Collecting Field Trip of the season. This is part of a research project she and others in her department have been doing for the Ministry of Defence at a ‘top secret military testing station called Porton Down’. Details of the excursion can be found in her blog. Meanwhile, in the US, mosquito control expert Janet McAllister of the Center for Disease Control has been kept quite busy working to contain this year’s deadly outbreak of the West Nile Virus.

Charitable undertakings by members of this clan were also celebrated this week. On Sunday, the Wellesley (Mass.) Mothers Forum celebrated its 21st birthday; this non-profit community organisation, now 600-members strong, was established in 1991 by Lisa Macalaster and Maureen Bousa. Also on Sunday, but across the ocean, Leona McAlister, her daughter Maria McAlister, and her sister Pauline Murty, all of the Isle of Bute, were featured in the Buteman for their participation in September’s Great Scottish Run (a half-marathon), by which they raised £2,676 for the Beatson Oncology Centre.[1] Taking a slightly different approach to helping others was Don McAlister in Cape Town (S. Africa), whose latest editorial beseeched his readers to pay building contractors fairly.

Other Macalisters have been occupied with violence prevention this week. On Monday Detective Sergeant Randy McAlister of the Cottage Grove (Minn.) Police Department was interviewed by the local television news after a recent workplace shooting in that state. McAlister is a pioneer in the emerging field of threat assessment, which attempts to predict and prevent such events. He and his colleague spoke about the ‘red flags’ that often precede these tragedies and how to recognise them in time. The next day, Fort Morgan (Colo.) mayor Terry McAlister signed a proclamation making October National Domestic Violence Awareness month in his town. Various activities and programmes have been planned “to work toward improving victim safety and holding perpetrators of domestic abuse accountable”. The town council will be working in conjunction with S.H.A.R.E., Inc., a nonprofit group that serves battered women and their children in northeast Colorado.

And finally, Macalisters were also busy in politics this week. Wayne McAllister, Controller of Naugatuck Borough in Connecticut, reported on Wednesday that the borough had finished its fiscal year with a surplus of about US$1 million. Perhaps he should be running the country. The following day the Scotsman named Colin McAllister as one of those chosen by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond to serve as political advisers to the Scottish government. This follows the loss of two senior advisers who left to serve in the Scottish National Party and the Yes Scotland independence campaign. And on Friday, Sinn Féin councillor Noreen McAllister was also in the news, doing what she was elected to do: speaking for the people. Councillor McAllister is trying to get the Moyle District Council (N. Ireland) to make structural changes that will eliminate the flooding problem experienced by some of her constituents.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012


[1] This is probably cheating, as neither his accomplishment nor his media recognition took place in the past week, but 10-year-old James McAllister of Darlington (England) also ran for charity in September. He completed the 4km Junior Great North Run in 22 minutes, running to raise money for leukaemia and lymphoma research. Well done, James!

Macalisters in the First US Federal Census

On this day in 1790, the first federal census of the newly independent United States was taken. The states at that time were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia (which included Alabama and Mississippi). Also enumerated were the districts of Kentucky, Maine and Vermont, and the Southwest Territory, now called Tennessee.

The results of this first census are extremely useful for establishing the approximate number, and the whereabouts, of Macalisters in the U.S. at that time. We can see, for instance, that although Pennsylvania had 31 Macalister households, there were none at all in Rhode Island or Connecticut. North Carolina had 21 Macalister households; Maryland had 16; New Hampshire, 14; South Carolina, 13; and New York, 5. Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts had 4, 3, and 2, respectively.[1] 

Unfortunately the picture is less clear for other areas. The returns for Virginia, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Tennessee were destroyed in the early 1800s – most of them when Washington DC was burned during the War of 1812. State censuses, tax lists, and other contemporary documents have allowed the Census Bureau to re-compile much of the information that was lost with these returns, but the dates vary slightly and the totals are less clear. In Virginia, for example, although numerous Macalister men are named in tax, military and other records between the years 1764 and 1801, the Records of the State Enumerations, 1782-1785 don’t list a single Macalister household. On the other hand, Bob McAllister of the Clan McAlister of America found at least 21 using the actual Virginia state census records of only a few counties. I found 14 in New Jersey and 22 in Georgia (including areas that now make up Mississippi and Alabama).  

Despite these limitations, the U.S. federal census of 1790 offers a valuable glimpse of the Clan Alister in that country’s early history. Fortunately, other countries also held censuses early in their history; future posts will look at what they have to say about their own Macalisters.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012


[1] One of the things I found particularly interesting was how consistently the name tends to be spelled within any given area. This is likely to be a reflection of the enumerator’s preference rather than a true indication of how individual families actually spelt their names.

Macalisters in Viet Nam

On this day in 1973 the Peace Paris Accords were signed, officially ending the United States’ part of the Vietnam War, although the last troops did not leave for months. There were certainly Macalisters among the Americans lost in the conflict (the name appears in various forms twelve times on the Vietnam Wall memorial in Washington, DC), and many others served but survived. 

But Americans were not the only Macalisters to serve in Viet Nam. Among the nearly 60,000 Australians who fought there were at least eighteen members of this clan.[1] New Zealand sent about 4,000 combatants altogether, including Squadron Leader D G McAllister and Sgt. R L McAllister.[2] Canada was officially a neutral country, but “while Canada as a nation was not involved, Canadians themselves formed the largest foreign contingent in the U.S. military during the Vietnam era”. Perhaps 12,000 Canadians saw combat in Viet Nam[3]; it is not unlikely that some of these were Macalisters. (For several reasons, details about individual Canadians who fought in Viet Nam can be difficult to find.)

All of the Australian and New Zealand Macalisters appear to have survived the war, but Vietnam veterans of these countries faced the same difficulties back at home as their American comrades. They returned to fellow citizens who were at best indifferent and at worst actively hostile to them. Veterans of their nations’ previous wars often refused to acknowledge their service and suffering. For years their governments denied that exposure to chemical agents like Agent Orange might have caused the lingering physical problems some of them faced, and so the medical help they needed was often not forthcoming. In Australia and New Zealand, as in the US, it was not until the late 1980s that the sacrifices of these veterans were recognised and they were formally welcomed home.

The experience of Vietnam vets who returned to Canada has been a bit different. The war in which they fought was not a Canadian war, and so they are not recognised as veterans in their own country. This means that many of the support structures available to other Canadian veterans are not open to them. They are not usually included in Remembrance Day events or admitted to official veterans organisations.[4] Many Canadians (and most Americans) are unaware that they even exist. It can certainly be argued that since their government didn’t send them to Viet Nam, it has no responsibility to acknowledge or reward their service there. However, the isolation of these vets and the lack of any official support have made the lot of Canada’s Vietnam veterans (and any Macalisters among them) perhaps the most difficult of all.

Copyright (c) Lynn McAlister, 2012


[1]Australian Government Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs, Nominal Roll of Vietnam Veterans
[3]Fred Graffen of the Canadian War Museum, in an article that first appeared in Vietnam Magazine. It is now available on-line.
[4]Ibid. That said, there are several informative web sites operated by individual veterans of Canada’s own military which have attempted to make people aware of these veterans, and they are honoured along with veterans of other conflicts in the Canadian War Museum.