Where did the Fenians Regiments at the Battle of Ridgeway come from?

Which states participated in the Fenian Raid that left Buffalo, NY?

The easiest answer is from the Mid West, with parts of western Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Kentucky in that mix of Fenians. There are some accounts of a New Orleans company, being referred to as Louisiana Tigers, as well as the surrounding Buffalo area. All belonged to the Robert’s faction of the Fenian Brotherhood.

Having successfully thwarted a crisis with Canada over the neutrality laws broken by the Fenians in early June 1866, the US Government had other pressing issues to deal with; what to do with all these Irish belligerents captured or left stranded in Buffalo? The main object was to disarm them, move them away from the border, and then disperses them without causing too much insult while trying to appease the British Government at the same time.

In order to achieve this, the US Government got the Fenians to capitulate, sign oaths not to take up arms again and then agreed to pay their passage home as now many of the Fenians were broke and had no place to stay in Buffalo other than in public areas. The faster you got the Fenians out of town, the sooner problems would dissipate.

General William F Barry, commanding the US Troops on the Northern Frontier drew up an oath for the Fenians to sign in order to receive free passage home by railroad, paid for by the Federal Government.

It stated:
“We, the undersigned, belonging to the Fenian Brotherhood, being now assembled in Buffalo, with intentions which have been decided by the United States authorities as in violation of the neutrality laws of the United States; but being now desirous to return to our homes, do severally agree and promise to abandon our expedition against Canada, desist from any violation of neutrality laws of the United States, and return immediately to our respective homes.”

Each man had to signed this oath to get free passage home. Their destinations were summarized by the US Military and below is a pretty good list of the makeup from areas and states the Ridgeway Fenians came from who did eventually receive free passage home:

Cleveland, OH – 23
Detroit, MI – 1
Jackson, MI – 1
Chicago, IL – 623
Milwaukee, WI – 29
Oil City, PA – 37
Nashville, TN – 5
Danville, IL – 32
ST Louis. MO – 63
Cincinnati, OH – 259
Louisville, KY – 122
Indianapolis, IN – 23
Peoria, Ill – 62
Terre Haute, IN – 12
Fort Wayne, IN- 31
La Porte, IN – 15
Pittsburgh, PA – 146
Meadville, PA – 22
Other Points – 60
Total = 1,566

This is not an inclusive list of all Fenians as some were still under arrest or found their own way home and this summary most likely contains some men who never got onto Canadian soil but were in Buffalo prevented to reinforce those Fenians who had already cross the Niagara River.

From this list, Chicago has roughly 40% of the total number of Fenians, followed by Cincinnati (16.5%) and then Pittsburgh (9.3%). These cities had large populations of Irish and were hot beds for Fenianism. The local period newspapers of that time provided a lot of coverage, before, during and after the raids and reported most of the local Fenian Circle activities. These areas also were large railheads where several railroads met, so these cities may not have been their final destinations.

US General William F. Barry, who thwarted the Fenian Raids in Buffalo also gave passage to the Fenians to return home by rail. 

There is little or no states represented here from the Northeast and Mid Atlantic States for the Raid which left from Buffalo. The reason is simple, these regiments were ordered to rendezvous along the Canada East border through Malone NY and St Alban’s, VT and attack Pigeon Hill, Frelighsburg, St. Armand and Stanbridge.

This was supposed to be the main thrust for the campaign as Buffalo was a diversion feint to draw Canadian troops to the western part of Canada.

The Canada East Raids took place several days after the Battle of Ridgeway and by then US Forces were rounding up Fenians and the entire Fenian Raids were doomed to failure because of the US Authorities stepped in and any successes at Buffalo had fizzled.


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