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Gen. O'Neil Prepares for Another Raid on Canada
Gen. O'Neil Prepares for Another Raid on
Canada--Secret Shipment of Arms to the Frontier.
In the early spring of 1870, the irrepressible
General O'Neil (who was then President of the Fenian Brotherhood)
decided that another diversion should be made on the Canadian
frontier, and actively began making preparations to mass his forces
for the invasion.
During the fall and winter of 1869 and 1870 all of the "circles" and
existing military organizations were busy raising the necessary
funds and gathering together the war equipment. The utmost secrecy
was observed on this occasion, as the Fenian leaders were very
careful to avoid a repetition of the intervention of the United
States authorities in thwarting their plans, to cross the border, as
was the case in 1866. So they worked unceasingly and
enthusiastically in maturing their plans, while they maintained
absolute silence as to their intentions. The boasting bombast which
had been so largely indulged in previous to the Raid of 1866 was not
manifested on this occasion, consequently little interest was taken
by the general public in Fenian affairs.
During the month of December, 1869, the Ninth Annual Convention of
the Fenian Brotherhood was held in New York City. At this
convocation there was a large gathering of delegates, every State in
the Union being represented. All wore an air of confidence and
suppressed emotion. While enthusiastic and determined at heart, they
were careful to conceal their feelings, so as to avoid betrayal, by
the least sign or word, of the result of their deliberations or the
designs of their leaders.
At this meeting the Fenian Senate announced that complete
arrangements had been secretly made for the second invasion of
Canada, and asked that the delegates should ratify the programme.
The announcement was hailed with great satisfaction by all present,
and for some moments a regular pandemonium of cheers and yells of
After order had been restored, Gen. O'Neil and others vehemently
addressed the delegates, and worked up their patriotic feelings to
such a hot pitch that each and every man present pledged himself to
assist in the enterprise to the fullest extent of his power, even
A Council of War was then held, when it was resolved to begin active
operations as early in the spring of 1870 as the roads would permit
of the movement of troops. Brigadier-General M. Kerwin was then the
Fenian Secretary of War, and during the next few months was very
busy with his staff, getting everything in readiness. His orders and
addresses to the Irish Republican Army were of such a patriotic and
inspiring character that the officers and men of the various
commands were constantly kept in a state of warlike excitement,
which they controlled with marvellous secrecy. The months of January
and February were spent in quiet preparation, and in March Gen.
Kerwin issued a mandate that all military organizations of the
Fenian Brotherhood should hold themselves in readiness to move
forward to the Canadian frontier as soon as the final orders were
issued. Meanwhile cases of arms, ammunition and other war material
were being secretly shipped to different points along the border
under various guises, and trusted officers were at the designated
points to receive them and store them away in secluded hiding places
until they were required. Everything was going along very
satisfactory to the Fenian leaders, and it seemed to them as if
Uncle Sam and the Canadian Government would both be caught napping.
During the first week in April Gen. O'Neil and some of his staff
arrived at a point on the Vermont border to inspect the munitions of
war and see that his directions were being properly carried out.
Fifteen thousand stands of arms, and almost three million rounds of
ammunition, had been actually received and carefully stored at
various places along the frontier between Ogdensburg and St. Albans.
Several thousands of these arms were breech-loading rifles of heavy
calibre, for which there was an unlimited amount of cartridges.
Malone, N.Y., and St. Albans, Vermont, were again selected as bases
of operations by Gen. O'Neil, and these towns were to be his
principal places of muster. When he had concluded his examination of
"affairs at the front," the valiant General was in high spirits,
occasioned by the belief that he would steal a march on the Canadian
Government and again be over the border before his intention was
observed. He had taken great pains to have every preliminary
preparation minutely made, and the fact that he had already smuggled
an armament for fully 15,000 men to the frontier without exciting
the suspicion of the usually vigilant officials of the United
States, gave him considerable satisfaction and confidence. His plan
of campaign was to rush the Fenian troops across the border without
delay, and to entrench themselves at points where reinforcements
could rally around them as supports when they had obtained a
foot-hold. Malone and Franklin were chosen as the points from which
the raiders were to make their forays, his chief object being, as
before, to destroy the canal systems, and by cutting the railroad
communication between Montreal and the West, hamper the movement of
Canadian troops and cause consternation among the people.
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Troublous Times in Canada, A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870
Fenian Raids of 1866 - 1870