Harper’s Weekly misses the mark on O’Mahony’s Fenian Eastport Raid in April 1866, scooped by their competitor

Feeding their newspapers readers desire to read more about the Fenians and their actions along the border, Harper’s Weekly was caught off guard by O’Mahony’s Eastport Raid near Campobello Island on April 17, 1866. No reporters were sent to cover it, the distance was remote and the newspaper grew tired of too many false reports of a Fenian attack into Canada for months. However, Frank Leslie scooped their NY Illustrated newspaper rival and reported on the this Fenian Raid first.

O’Mahony’s Eastport Raid was a surprise to most as the Fenian Brotherhood broke into two factions partly on where they were going to attack, Canada or Ireland. Robert’s Wing called themselves the “Men of Action” as they wanted to attack Canada and were ready to go, while O’Mahony wanted to stick to the plan and send men to Ireland and have Civil War officer train the Irish for an uprising in Ireland.  O’Mahony’s ill fated raid was to grab newspaper headlines from their Fenian rivals, be the first Fenian group on British soil and hoped to draw the U.S. into a long awaited conflict over this dispute area.

It took Harper’s Weekly more than two weeks after this Raid to wet their own readers appetite about Fenian news, and there wasn’t much more than a short biography on James Stephens and a drawing of the area where the Fenian action took place.  Frank Leslie’s Illustrated newspaper had previously publish a short article about the action. It is likely Harper’s Weekly editors were struggling to come up with some news on the Fenians for their readers that following week, so these two sketches were used to satisfy that weekly edition.

James Stephens, Head Centre of the Fenian Brotherhood was featured in Harper’s Weekly May 5th, 1866 edition. The sketch and accompanying story gave a brief bio on the Fenian Leader. In the same edition, a very non descript sketch of a pastoral scene on St John River showing the area where O’Mahony’s Campobello Raid occurred or later termed The Fenian Fiasco.

In a short couple of weeks the Robert’s Wing of the Fenian Brotherhood would launch their own raids into Canada in June of 1866 and the newspapers, especially the illustrated ones, made sure they were sending reporters and artists to the Canadian front to report back to anxious readers at home on the Fenian Raids to sell newspapers.

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