The April 1866 Fenian Fizzle

The First Fenian Raid into Canada, 1866

Illustarated London News, May 5, 1866

The Illustrated London News May 5 1866’s edition shows a calm and peaceful wood cut drawing of the waters around East Port, Maine, where the Fenians made their first Raid in April 1866. The action was far over by the time the newspapers men and artists arrived to report the action. There reports were well before the other June 1866 Raids into Lower Canada.

The Fenians sailed up to Eastport, Maine near Campobello Island, New Brunswick on April 15, 1866. These Fenians were led by the John O’Mahony’s faction, who wanted to be the first Fenians to strike at the British in North America and steal the thunder from the Robert’s Senate faction, who had planned raids at the NY & VT border crossing.

O’Mahony had also hoped the island’s unresolved ownership both claimed by New Brunswick and Maine, would bring about a clash between Britain and America. Gunboats appeared from both countries to successfully hamper the Fenians. Nine armed Fenians (some reports say five), under cover of darkness, lowered a boat and rowed with muffled oars managing to land on Indian Island capturing an English revenue flag. No shots were exchanged as It is believed there was no military force on the island at the time.

The Fenian commanders withdrew, but proudly proclaimed victory. This was later commonly called “The Campo Bello fizzle” and O’Mahony’s leadership was called into question by his own organization.

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper June 16, 1866 comments on the British reaction to Campobello Fenian incident reminding everyone of the St Alban’s Raids of Confederate agents into Vermont and the British’s lack of concern while those raiders escaped back into Canada.

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