The Fenian Invasion of Canada, 1866
This book places the Irish American Fenians in their proper context, demonstrating their central importance within American, Irish and Irish American history. Its publication coincides with the 150
Chapter 4 : Imagining Irish Liberty: Carried to Ontario’s Inland Sea
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Imagining Irish Liberty: Carried to Ontario’s Inland Sea
During the second Fenian Congress in Cincinnati, Ohio, January 1865, John O’Mahony had tried to reassure Fenian delegates that the ‘Brotherhood was virtually at war with the British Oligarchy, and that while as yet there was no Fenian army openly in the field—such an army, nevertheless, existed, preparing and disciplining itself for Freedom’s battles, ambushed in the midst of its enemies, watching steadily its opportunity, and biding its time.’1 O’Mahony was speaking specifically of his determination to plan for an uprising in Ireland, echoing James Stephens’ call from Dublin. However, for many in his audience a Fenian army ‘preparing and disciplining itself for Freedom’s battles’ represented something different. In Ohio at the opening of 1865, a growing faction within the American Fenian organization were not thinking about a fight in Ireland; they were, instead, enamored by an elaborately prepared idea of shifting the Fenian focus toward British North America. While not necessarily a novel idea in and of itself, Civil War General Thomas William Sweeny brought (as we will see) an impressive martial strategy to the prospect that underscored the potential of a successful campaign. One of the biggest supporters of Sweeny’s battle plans was William Randall Roberts. A future US Congressman, Roberts arrived in New York in 1830, a 19 year old Corkonian who, as a dry goods merchant, became a self-made millionaire by the 1860s. He, and like-minded Fenians, began...
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