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Irish Invasion of Canada 1866.

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  • Irish Invasion of Canada 1866.

    Would any of the IMO members have any specialist knowledge of this.

    The plan was to be set in motion on May 31st, 1866 when the main Irish Republican Army of 16,800 men was to cross the border at Buffalo and spearhead a three-pronged attack on Lower Canada moving through Toronto to Montreal and on to Quebec City. Simultaneously, two other Fenian armies were supposed to move against western Canada from staging areas in Chicago and Cleveland. A force of 3,000 had been assembled in Chicago and they were to advance to Detroit where they would cross into Canada at Windsor and threaten Toronto. Another army of 5,000 men in Cleveland was to cross Lake Erie to London and also threaten Toronto. It was the job of these two to draw the British troops away from the capital city of British North America leaving it and the city of Montreal open to the main Fenian army which was to cross the border at Buffalo and attack Fort Erie near Niagara Falls. After taking Toronto, they were to move on to Montreal which would fall with the help of a force moving up from St. Albans, Vermont and with the help of the Montreal Irish and the French radicals who hated the British. After capturing Montreal, they would move on to Quebec City while Fenian warships sealed off the mouth of the St. Lawrence River to prevent aid from coming to Quebec.

    If the Army could not take Quebec, it would take Sherbrooke and leave Quebec City in isolation. The force that finally attacked Canada on June 1st numbered 1,300 rather than the 16,800 planned. Under General O’Neill this small Fenian army crossed the Niagara River near Buffalo and captured Niagara Village and Fort Erie where the tricolor flag of the present-day Irish Republic was raised for the first time. In turn, the Irishmen were attacked at Ridgeway by a Canadian volunteer militia force from Toronto and Hamilton which they defeated killing and wounding more than 50 of the Canadians.

    The two western armies which were supposed to draw off the British forces from Toronto, failed to move. But, the following day, June 3rd, a force of 10,000 Canadian militia and 5,000 British regulars attacked the 1,300 Fenians. Opposed by overwhelming numbers, the Irish withdrew across the Niagara River by barge to Buffalo but were intercepted and arrested by the Captain of the warship the USS Harrison. O’Neill had hoped to regroup and strengthen his army by connecting up with the several thousand Irish volunteers who had gathered in villages and towns all along the New York-Canadian border to join the Fenian armies.

    In the meantime, the indefatigable General Meade and 35 United States soldiers arrived in Ogdensburg, New York to again “persuade” the Fenians to cease their attacks on Canada. His commander, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, had journeyed to Buffalo to observe the Fenian activities and had ordered the border closed preventing 4,000 other Fenian troops from crossing at Fort Erie. Incidently, joining with the Irish troops were 500 Mohawk Indians from the Cattaraugus Reservation in New York and one company of 100 African-American veterans of the Union Army.

    Meade then informed General Grant that carloads of Fenian arms and ammunition were due to arrive in the area by railroad and that he intended to capture them just as he had done in Maine. With Grant’s approval, Meade issued orders to all United States authorities and local law enforcement officers throughout the New York-New England region that these arms were to be seized as they entered the railroad yards. In this way, Meade captured all the Fenian war supplies as they arrived at New York City, St. Albans, Vermont, and Rouses Point, Potsdam Junction, and Watertown, New York.

    Despite the Fenian Army’s numerical superiority, once Meade had deprived them of the means to carry out and sustain a fight and Grant had sealed off the Niagara River crossings, the unarmed troops massed along the border were unable to continue the invasion.

    On June 6, a small force of 2,000 lightly armed Fenians did manage to cross at St. Albans, Vermont and captured the vilages of Frelighsburgh, St. Armand, Slab City, and East Stanbridge before being driven back. On that same day President Johnson issued a Proclamation forbidding any further Fenian attempts to break the neutrality laws of the United States. The British government had finally agreed to make a payment of $15,000,000 in reparations. While the Irish resented the President’s involvement in their plans, they did not act solely because of Johnson’s decree. Rather, it was the disarmament by General Meade that forced the Fenian leaders to put their schemes into abeyance awaiting a more propitious time to renew their attacks on Canada.

    More inf. here:

    Interesting times -but at least we control Newfoundland.
    Tim Horgan.
    Last edited by timhorgan; 8 April 2010, 12:25.

  • #2
    The Fenian Raid(s) of Upper and Lower Canada

    The Fenians had been used as a pawn by the American government and had terribly underestimated the strength of the British (Canadian) forces. Present history refers to the attempt as "foolish" and to their leader, O'Neill, as "a fool".
    The locals in the Frelighsburg area have maintained a monument on Eccles Hill in memory of the Men who fought there:

    The gun displayed is a Fenian gun, captured during the battle on the hill.

    MOD: Deleted, do not insult other board members
    Last edited by Bravo20; 8 April 2010, 16:32.
    "On the plains of hesitation, bleach the bones of countless millions, who on the very dawn of victory, laid down to rest, and in resting died.

    Never give up!!"


    • #3
      Bit of information here from Military History magazine
      'He died who loved to live,' they'll say,
      'Unselfishly so we might have today!'
      Like hell! He fought because he had to fight;
      He died that's all. It was his unlucky night.