Fenian Raids depicted in NY Illustrated Newspapers

June 23, 1866, NY Illustrated Newspapers competed with each other for stories and getting the artists to draw the latest woodcuts from the field to be printed later in their newspapers. Many of these drawings are quite similar as it was not uncommon for artists to copy each others work in order to get these sketches long distances to their newspapers in New York City.

Here you will see similarities and other coverage of their coverage of the Fenian Raid into Canada.

The first photo is of the USS Michigan, which captured the returning Fenians in the Niagara River. It was published in Harper’s Weekly, June 23, 1866 and shows the citizens in the Buffalo shoreline looking at the scows in tow and acting as a temporary holding pen for the Fenians. The second sketch is from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, June 23, 1866 and shows a very similar scene.

The next two photos are from Harper’s Weekly June 23, 1866 and shows the shore line from Buffalo and also a similar sketch from Frank Leslie’s in their June 23, 1866 edition of a similar shoreline showing the Tug Robb. Similarly,  Scene showing the crumbling Fort Erie depicted by both newspapers. Frank Leslie’s depicts a longer shoreline view while Harper’s Weekly a closer view of the fort.

The sketch with the Fenian with the Canadian/British flag, appearing in the same Harper’s Weekly Edition, is also an interesting as it shows a very glorified and triumphant Fenian holding the flag. There had been reports that an English flag had been captured by the Fenians, including follow up stories that the Queen Own Rifles dropped the flag and was picked up by the Fenians as they rushed them. Another published claim states a Canadian Officer went on board the USS Michigan to order the US Navy captain to give the flag back, which Fenian General John O’Neill flatly refused. Unfortunately, all these accounts were untrue and made up.

The artist could have drawn the sketch from alleged eyewitnesses, however no flag ever existed or was displayed as trophies after the battle. A flag would have been a highly sought after trophy of war and the Fenians would have capitalized on it to help raise funds and drum up more support.

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