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.
O’Mahony’s Fenians Strike First and How The Newspapers Reported it.
On April 17th, 1866, The O’Mahony Faction Fenian Raid occurred near Campobello Island, New Brunswick, British North America. A small force of Fenians landed on Indian Island near Maine, with the intent of invading the nearby island of Campobello. Their original plans were always to invade Ireland by force, however they wanted to quickly strike, take credit for the first blow at Britain beating the Roberts Wing into Canada and steal headlines.
There were no reported casualties and little was accomplished other than the Fenian sneaking onto the deserted island, seizing a British Customs House flag without resistance, which hung from a flag pole then returning under cover of darkness back to the US shores to claim a victory.
A few sketches of this Campobello Raid were covered by the Illustrated London New – May 5, 1866, Frank Leslie’s – April 28, 1866 and Harper’s Weekly – May 5th, 1866.
Frank Leslie’s April 28, 1866, This sketch show a very passion and tranquil scene where couple come to view the over look at the border where the Fenian Action took place. This sketch was published in a very short time of 10 days from after the action took place. Frank Leslie’s Newspaper beat all their newspaper rivals in reporting on what happened a week before, which made the Harper’s Weekly and the Illustrated London News publish their own sketch of that breaking news on the Fenian Brotherhood landing on British soil to twist the lions tail.
Frank Leslie’s April 28, 1866 Article for their Sketch.
Harper’s Weekly May 5th, 1866, The pastoral scene where the Fenian Raid took place
Harper’s Weekly May 5th, 1866 article which goes with the sketch
The Illustrated London News, May 5, 1866
Other than several scenic views, not much is going on within the sketches, which just demonstrates the lack of action or real eyewitness accounts of what was later termed a Fenian Fiasco. However, Frank Leslie beat their rival Illustrated newspaper, Harper’s Week by a full week reporting on the Fenian Raid by a full week which was a very big deal within the newspaper business. It is more than likely Frank Leslie sent a newspaper artist up there to report back but all he could find were ships on the water so in order to beat their NY Newspaper rival to the punch he sketch that and sent it to be printed. Despite being across the Atlantic Ocean, even the Illustrated London News published their sketch of a similar scene with little Fenian action for their readers on the same day Harper’s Weekly got their sketch published.