Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Fenian Raids



The Fenian Brotherhood is said to have been formed about 1858 in Ireland and the United States, the object being to liberate Ireland from its connection with England, and establish a republic. A history of the movement in Ireland will be found in McCarthy's His tory of our Own Times, and in O'Leary's Recollections of Fenianism. Early in 1866 the American branch of the Brotherhood planned an invasion of Canada. The Canadian militia was called out, but the invasion was postponed. In April, the New Brunswick border was threatened, and troops marched to the defence of St. Andrew's and St. Stephen. The Fenians thought better of it. Late in May another party, under one O'Neil, crossed from Buffalo to Fort Erie and advanced to Ridgeway, where they were driven back. In 1870 the same O'Neil led his followers into Quebec, but was again repulsed. In 1871 he made a similar attempt in the West, but a detachment of United States troops from Fort Pembina followed, arrested him, and dispersed his followers. In the negotiations leading up to the Treaty of Washington, 1871, Canada claimed compensation from the United States for the Fenian Raids. Through some oversight the claims were not included in the terms of reference and were withdrawn, the British government assuming responsibility for losses sustained in Canada . The United States government, although pressing for settlement of the Alabama Claims, undertook no responsibility for the Fenian Raids. In New Brunswick the Raids had the effect of influencing the electorate towards Confederation. They were used also as an argument for retaining British troops in Canada . An aftermath of the earlier Fenian Raids was the murder of Thomas D'Arcy McGee in Ottawa, 1868. Bib.: Somerville, Narrative of the Fenian Invasion of Canada; Campbell, The Fenian Invasions of Canada of 1866 and 1870; Dent, Last Forty Years; Correspondence Relating to the Fenian Invasion, Ottawa, 1869; Trials of the Fenian Prisoners at Toronto Who Were Captured at Fort Erie, C. W., in June, 1866, ed. by George R. Gregg and E. P. Roden; McMicken, Fenian Raid on Manitoba (Manitoba Hist. and Sc. Society, 1888); Hannay, History of New Brunswick; Macdonald, Troublous Times in Canada; Denison, Soldiering in Canada and The Fenian Raid on Fort Erie; Cumberland, Fenian Raid of 1866 (R.S.C. 1910); Pierce, The Fenian Raid.


Source : Lawrence J. BURPEE, "Fenian Raids" in The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Canadian History, Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1926, 699p., pp. 193-194.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College