Fenian raids into British North America and Canada
1/13/2022 8:23:00 AM
I wasn't sure where to put this so I chose this section.
The Irish problems in Britain and the anger toward Britain was transplanted into North America by Irish immigrants to the US and to BNA. Thousands of Irish immigrants fought for the Union during the US civil war.
With the war ended, many joined the Fenian brotherhood with the hope that they could do something to pressure the British to grant independence to Ireland. And they chose to raid BNA and after 1867, Canada, with the hope that they would seize a city or two and demand Irish independence in exchange for the return of these prizes.
It all sounds pretty comical and some of the planning and execution of some of the raids was comical especially since a British spy had infiltrated the Fenian ranks and was feeding the British all sorts of information on the Fenian organization and their battle plans.
It seems that US President Andrew Johnson gave tacit approval to the Fenians to carry out a large incursion from Buffalo, NY to Fort Erie, Canada West. Johnson had apparently told the Fenian leadership that if they succeeded then he would discuss next steps. He approved of their cause but could not be seen to be giving direct aid. Any affirmation of support of these raids would be a violation of the US Neutrality Act of 1818 and could harden the British position with respect to the Alabama Claims.
Oddly, the US military would intercede and intercept the Fenians if it knew where they were going to raid. And so some early raids like one on April 14, 1866 were abandoned when both the British and US militaries converged on an invasion site in New Brunswick where the Fenians hoped to seize Campobello Island.
These raids cause considerable concern for Britain and later Canada and resulted in death and wounding. But with the British intent on withdrawing from Canada, the Canadian militia was forced to deal with the problem.
Esprit de Corps, The Canadian Military Magazine, published a three part series on the Fenian Raids. This was an interesting part of our shared history that created problems for the US, Canada and Britain. All three had good reasons to eliminate the threat posed by the Fenian Brotherhood. So I present the 3 part series that deals with a little known part of North American history.