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1 June 1866 - 150 years ago today - the Fenian Invasion of Canada

Catalpast

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1 June 1866: The start of the Fenian Invasion of Canada & the Battle of Ridgeway on this day.


The invading force of more than 1,300 Irishmen 'The Fenians' was determined to attack the British Empire on its own soil to divert British military resources from Ireland and cause the Empire International embarrassment. They met no resistance when they crossed the Niagara River on June 1 but by the time they reached Ridgeway a Canadian force was deployed in front of them with orders to engage and defeat them.


At Ridgeway the Canadians initially stood their ground by as the day wore on they broke ranks and became visibly disorganised. The Irish commander, Colonel O'Neill spotted their discomfort and quickly ordered a bayonet charge that completely routed the inexperienced Canadians. The Fenians took and briefly held the town of Ridgeway. Then, expecting to be overwhelmed by British reinforcements, they quickly turned back to Fort Erie where they fought a second battle - Battle of Fort Erie - against a small but determined detachment of Canadians holding the town.


The Canadian loss was 7 killed on the field, 2 died of wounds in the immediate days following the battle, and 4 died of wounds or disease later and 37 were wounded, some severely enough to require amputation of their limbs. O'Neill said he had four or five men killed, but Canadians claimed to have found six Fenian bodies on the field


A U.S. gunboat prevented reinforcements of 10,000 waiting to cross and join the invasion and the invading force of Fenians retreated back to Buffalo.


Thus ended a bizarre and unsuccessful attempt by the US based Fenians (many of them Irish veterans of the US Civil War) to attack Britain through Canada. While tactically well conducted there was no chance of success once the US authorities blocked supplies and reinforcements reaching Colonel O'Neill's men on the Canadian side of the border. This episode was a fiasco and a waste of badly needed money and resources where they could have had no lasting effect. O'Neill withdrew on 3 June to United States territory where he and his men were arrested.
 


Boy M5

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Surely the state should have commemorated this?
Had a nice ceremony
Invited the Canadian Ambassador....
 

Dimples 77

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1 June 1866: The start of the Fenian Invasion of Canada & the Battle of Ridgeway on this day.


The invading force of more than 1,300 Irishmen 'The Fenians' was determined to attack the British Empire on its own soil to divert British military resources from Ireland and cause the Empire International embarrassment. They met no resistance when they crossed the Niagara River on June 1 but by the time they reached Ridgeway a Canadian force was deployed in front of them with orders to engage and defeat them.


At Ridgeway the Canadians initially stood their ground by as the day wore on they broke ranks and became visibly disorganised. The Irish commander, Colonel O'Neill spotted their discomfort and quickly ordered a bayonet charge that completely routed the inexperienced Canadians. The Fenians took and briefly held the town of Ridgeway. Then, expecting to be overwhelmed by British reinforcements, they quickly turned back to Fort Erie where they fought a second battle - Battle of Fort Erie - against a small but determined detachment of Canadians holding the town.


The Canadian loss was 7 killed on the field, 2 died of wounds in the immediate days following the battle, and 4 died of wounds or disease later and 37 were wounded, some severely enough to require amputation of their limbs. O'Neill said he had four or five men killed, but Canadians claimed to have found six Fenian bodies on the field


A U.S. gunboat prevented reinforcements of 10,000 waiting to cross and join the invasion and the invading force of Fenians retreated back to Buffalo.


Thus ended a bizarre and unsuccessful attempt by the US based Fenians (many of them Irish veterans of the US Civil War) to attack Britain through Canada. While tactically well conducted there was no chance of success once the US authorities blocked supplies and reinforcements reaching Colonel O'Neill's men on the Canadian side of the border. This episode was a fiasco and a waste of badly needed money and resources where they could have had no lasting effect. O'Neill withdrew on 3 June to United States territory where he and his men were arrested.
A fiasco like all Irish Republican efforts.
 

Catalpast

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Surely the state should have commemorated this?
Had a nice ceremony
Invited the Canadian Ambassador....
Yes its certainly being celebrated in Canada

- it is a bit of a wonder that the State is not at least covering this some way or another

- maybe the current diplomatic representative does not think much of Fenians ...:confused:
 

wombat

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Curious reports on what Sherman's reaction to the raid was. Supposedly he was ordered to arrest the Fenians but supposedly he developed a level of incompetance that he hadn't shown since the early stages of Shiloh and never showed again. The fact that some of his subordinates in the civil war were involved had no influence on his inaction.
 

Dimples 77

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Yes its certainly being celebrated in Canada

- it is a bit of a wonder that the State is not at least covering this some way or another

- maybe the current diplomatic representative does not think much of Fenians ...:confused:

I don't know if "celebrated" is the word for what is happening in Canada regarding this anniversary.

If anyone was to actually celebrate this IR failure, one in a long line of IR failures, wouldn't it be Irish Americans?

An interesting fact about the whole affair was that the poor Canadian response to the Fenian raids motivated what was about to become Canada in 1867 to make sure that future raids on their territory would be unsuccessful. Lessons were learned from the raids and a spirit of Canadian nationalism took hold, together with a desire to improve Canada's military ability. As someone put it, "this was achieved without the huge cost of a real war".

If the Fenians intended to disrupt the British Empire in some way they actually achieved the exact opposite - they produced a local Canadian nationalism that resulted in massive improvements in Canadian military capacity, plus a commitment to Canadian confederation.
 

wombat

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. This episode was a fiasco and a waste of badly needed money and resources where they could have had no lasting effect. O'Neill withdrew on 3 June to United States territory where he and his men were arrested.
Most Fenian efforts were a failure although the Catalpa rescue Was a success and the initial funding of Holland was worthwhile. The song best summarises their efforts " and wise men have told us their cause was a failure, but they stood by old Ireland and never feared danger..."
 

Dimples 77

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Have you never heard of the Republic of Ireland?:roll:
Yes.

Irish Republicans wanted a 32 county independent socialist republic. That still doesn't exist.

You got the 26 counties that the British intended you to have all along.
 

owedtojoy

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An unusual VC, the only one ever awarded in North America:

Timothy O'Hea, a 23-year-old Irishman in the British army, fought a fire in a railway car containing 900 kilograms of ammunition stationed at Danville, Quebec during the Fenian raids. O'Hea is the only VC recipient awarded for actions on Canadian soil.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadian_Victoria_Cross_recipients
 

wombat

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Yes.

Irish Republicans wanted a 32 county independent socialist republic. That still doesn't exist.

You got the 26 counties that the British intended you to have all along.
Some did, the IRB wanted an independent democratic republic. The democratic part was ignored in later years.
 

owedtojoy

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1 June 1866: The start of the Fenian Invasion of Canada & the Battle of Ridgeway on this day.


The invading force of more than 1,300 Irishmen 'The Fenians' was determined to attack the British Empire on its own soil to divert British military resources from Ireland and cause the Empire International embarrassment. They met no resistance when they crossed the Niagara River on June 1 but by the time they reached Ridgeway a Canadian force was deployed in front of them with orders to engage and defeat them.


At Ridgeway the Canadians initially stood their ground by as the day wore on they broke ranks and became visibly disorganised. The Irish commander, Colonel O'Neill spotted their discomfort and quickly ordered a bayonet charge that completely routed the inexperienced Canadians. The Fenians took and briefly held the town of Ridgeway. Then, expecting to be overwhelmed by British reinforcements, they quickly turned back to Fort Erie where they fought a second battle - Battle of Fort Erie - against a small but determined detachment of Canadians holding the town.


The Canadian loss was 7 killed on the field, 2 died of wounds in the immediate days following the battle, and 4 died of wounds or disease later and 37 were wounded, some severely enough to require amputation of their limbs. O'Neill said he had four or five men killed, but Canadians claimed to have found six Fenian bodies on the field


A U.S. gunboat prevented reinforcements of 10,000 waiting to cross and join the invasion and the invading force of Fenians retreated back to Buffalo.


Thus ended a bizarre and unsuccessful attempt by the US based Fenians (many of them Irish veterans of the US Civil War) to attack Britain through Canada. While tactically well conducted there was no chance of success once the US authorities blocked supplies and reinforcements reaching Colonel O'Neill's men on the Canadian side of the border. This episode was a fiasco and a waste of badly needed money and resources where they could have had no lasting effect. O'Neill withdrew on 3 June to United States territory where he and his men were arrested.
This Fenian Raid was a by-product of a split in the Fenian movement.

One group led by John O'Mahony and James Stephens wanted a rebellion in Ireland, the opposing group, known as the "Senate" wing under John Roberts and Thomas Sweeny (both US Army veterans, indeed Sweeny was still in the army), were heavily influenced by American nationalism and resentment of Britain's perceived support for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

It was the Senate wing who organised the "invasion". After its defeat, the Fenian Rising of 1867 was organised by men such as Thomas Kelly, another Union army veteran.

The Americans did not want any messing with Canada, but Sweeny, who must have gone AWOL from the army to lead the expedition, was allowed to return to the army as if nothing had happened and served out his time until retirement.
 

Catalpast

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The Fenians kept the Brits on their toes for decades

- they would not let the matter rest

That was their biggest achievement

- and the British could not touch them in the USA....:cool:
 

owedtojoy

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Another snippet about Thomas Sweeny, who was a division commander in the Army of the Cumberland, and saw active service in the Civil War up to 1864.

Sweeny was "old army" i.e. he was an Army professional since the 1850s, and not a Civil War volunteer. However, he must have resented some of the new men passing him by because he got into a fist fight with General Grenville Dodge. Dodge went on to be Chief Engineer of the Transcontinental Railroad and Dodge City is named after him.

He was an unfortunate choice of person for Sweeny to engage in fisticuffs because Dodge was well thought of by Ulysses Grant, who used him in the role of what would later be called Military Intelligence. Sweeny never saw an active command again in the war, but the court martial respected his old army credentials and found him "not guilty".
 

Dimples 77

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Another snippet about Thomas Sweeny, who was a division commander in the Army of the Cumberland, and saw active service in the Civil War up to 1864.

Sweeny was "old army" i.e. he was an Army professional since the 1850s, and not a Civil War volunteer. However, he must have resented some of the new men passing him by because he got into a fist fight with General Grenville Dodge. Dodge went on to be Chief Engineer of the Transcontinental Railroad and Dodge City is named after him.

He was an unfortunate choice of person for Sweeny to engage in fisticuffs because Dodge was well thought of by Ulysses Grant, who used him in the role of what would later be called Military Intelligence. Sweeny never saw an active command again in the war, but the court martial respected his old army credentials and found him "not guilty".

You really do have to wonder about the sanity of people who continually complained about British imperialism, when they chose to live in the US, as if the US had been in place since the beginning of time and hadn't been formed by endless imperialist expansion.
 

Dimples 77

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The Fenians kept the Brits on their toes for decades

- they would not let the matter rest

That was their biggest achievement

- and the British could not touch them in the USA....:cool:


That's "kept them on their toes" in the sense of giving British forces (and local Canadian forces) practice in the military arts at no great cost in the big picture.

The Fenians never threatened any part of the British Empire, and they directly caused the Canadian nationalism that led to Canadian confederation.

If anything they helped improve the British Empire.
 

Dimples 77

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Are Irish Americans "celebrating" the fenian raids?

And if not, why not?
 

Catalpast

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That's "kept them on their toes" in the sense of giving British forces (and local Canadian forces) practice in the military arts at no great cost in the big picture.

The Fenians never threatened any part of the British Empire, and they directly caused the Canadian nationalism that led to Canadian confederation.

If anything they helped improve the British Empire.
The Fenians never threatened any part of the British Empire

They most certainly did!

Was Ireland not considered part of their Empire?
 

Dimples 77

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The Fenians never threatened any part of the British Empire

They most certainly did!

Was Ireland not considered part of their Empire?

In what way did they constitute a serious threat?

Plus Ireland was home turf (being part of the UK), not part of the empire.
 
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