The Honest Grasp of Friendship

01 Jun
Canadian Home-Guard defending against Fenians ...

Canadian Home-Guard defending against Fenians in 1870. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On June 1, 1866, Canada was attacked by a military force which travelled in two rented tugs and some canal boats!  The invaders were Fenians (see March 17) who sailed across the Niagara River to Fort Erie, Ontario! As nobody was awake, they had to knock on doors to get people up.  They wanted Canadians to join them and be liberated from the “tyranny of Britain.”  The good folks of Fort Erie couldn’t see things that way, but they wanted to be nice to the strangely dressed men carrying green flags with harps and gold crowns on them.  They fed them cooked ham, tea and coffee.

The Fenians had intended to spread out through the Niagara Peninsula after landing at Fort Erie, but they had been up all night.  The weather was warm, and so they lay down under the trees and slept for a while.  The rest of the day was spent in handing out proclamations from “General” Sweezy and “General” O’Neill, saying that their only quarrel was with the oppressors of Ireland, and that they offered Canadians “the olive branch of peace and the honest grasp of friendship.”

Meanwhile, official opinion in Canada West (now Ontario) wasn’t friendly at all.  The Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto, the 13th Battalion from Hamilton, and a force of regulars from St. Catharines were rushed to the area.  The Caledonian and York Rifles Companies also arrived.  The Canadian troops had only thirty-five bullets each and no food or water.  Some of their commanding officers had no experience in warfare and little military training.

The Fenians suddenly realized that the invasion was no picnic; there were already casualties.  General O’Neill was hoping for reinforcements from Buffalo where 10,000 Fenians had assembled.  They were having a good time listening to speeches and drinking whisky, and did not want to leave.  The United States Government then decided that it had better do something, and sent an armed revenue cutter to patrol the Niagara River.

Some of the Fenians who had landed in Canada tried to swim back to the United States and were drowned.  General O’Neill then shaved off his whiskers and fled in disguise.  The tugs and canal boats came back and took off the rest of the force, towed by the American patrol boat.  The skirmishing lasted until Sunday, June 3.

To read more about this, there are a few sites I recommend. A good place to begin is at CBC Learning, and the History of Canada Book Series to read book excerpt, then there’s another excerpt to be found at Russian Another great site with great information, is Fenian Raid. Then there’s the Queen’s Own Rifles for another good site. You will also want to click your way to Ridgeway Battle.

Prefer to hold an actual book to read about this? No problem. There’s The History Of Canada Series: The Last Act: Pierre Trudeau, the Gang of Eight, and the Fight for Canada, and Troublous Times in Canada, a History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870.


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25 responses to “The Honest Grasp of Friendship

  1. Michelle Bennetts Heumann

    June 1, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    I love how the Canadians were polite to them. 🙂

    • tkmorin

      June 1, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      I wonder if that’s not how we got that reputation! 🙂

  2. centristcanuck

    June 1, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    General Sweezy sounds like a name of some rapper. What an interesting time period though and made me look up the Fenians on wiki.

    • tkmorin

      June 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      Umm, you are the second one to tell me this. Part of me thinks I only did part of my job, so that readers have to go looking for info; but then I think, that’s what I want everyone to do! Go look up more details! Go learn more about a specific event … Heehee (insert evil laugh here, ala Vincent Price).

  3. seeker

    June 1, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Irish, British, Canadian and Americans what a battle. If I read this correctly the Irish stole the American boat?

    • tkmorin

      June 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      I guess it was either that or drown with their fellow brothers … It does get confusing, I’ll admit. But then, every side thinking they are right have their own story to tell?

      I read once, and never forgot it: WAR=We Are Right.


      • seeker

        June 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm

        W-A-R it is and I am going to quote on that. Stay tuned for future post 😆

        I really need to peel myself out of the house and go to Farmers’ Market and buy some herbs. The weatherman is wrong again. Wet but not wetter. Oh well. Tata. 😛

        • tkmorin

          June 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm

          I will look out, and look forward to, the post about war!

          I’ve been wanting to ask you, how do you get your happy face to laugh like that? It’s cool!

          I and a friend did a few hour’s work in her gardens. It was lots of fun! Now it’s looking like rain, so the plants will be happy!


          • seeker

            June 1, 2013 at 6:54 pm

            use colon with two dots like this : then type lol in lower case the type colon again. make sure there is no spaces in between.

            Pretend that there are no space on this example
            : l o l : try it and reply to me, k? 😆

          • tkmorin

            June 1, 2013 at 7:12 pm

            I hope I did it right!

          • seeker

            June 1, 2013 at 7:14 pm

            Purff~fect! 😆

            Do you know that there is an instructions on this in the Support Section, I think.

          • tkmorin

            June 1, 2013 at 7:22 pm

            No, I didn’t know. I will definitely check it out … Even if it’s like reading a manual. I’m one of those people who think, “I don’t need a manual, I just follow logic.”

            But then, I do need the manual once in a while. 🙂

          • seeker

            June 1, 2013 at 7:25 pm

            I like manuals, just in case. That’s one thing I ask the fellow at Apple to install the App.

            For me trial and error. Opps… I deleted the darn thing. Thank goodness for auto save. 😛

          • tkmorin

            June 1, 2013 at 7:32 pm

            Haahaa … That’s one thing about iPads, if it’s not auto saved, you lost it. Caught a few times losing whole paragraphs while writing a post. All the good words I used first time I forget. But it’s nice for holding up high when Rufus wants my lap; I can still read or write while holding it up above us! He’s catching on, though. He’ll move himself so that I can’t do that, and he won’t relax until I cover it and put it down!

            Sorry, I’ve got the talkies today … Seven thirty, so I’m going to watch a mystery on TV while combing Rufus. Lots of fur (needs a cut soon) and the a/c is not working! He enjoys being combed! 😆 <– see? I love it!!

          • seeker

            June 1, 2013 at 7:58 pm

            Oh no…. 😆

          • tkmorin

            June 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm


          • tkmorin

            June 1, 2013 at 7:13 pm

            Fantastic! Thank you! 🙂

          • seeker

            June 1, 2013 at 7:16 pm

            Your welcome, mon amie. 😛

  4. weggieboy

    June 1, 2013 at 11:44 am's_Battalion#Historical_perspective

    Interesting! Twenty years earlier, there was a small number of Irish fighting in the Batallón de San Patricio for Mexico against the US. I doubt they were the same men as you describe, but they were Irish escaping the vicissitudes of their home country at that time. Irish immigrants fought in the US Civil War [1861-1865] as well. Perhaps this history contributed to the later involvement of the US in quelling the Fenian force that you describe above. There was a strong anti-Irish sentiment at the time, largely an anti-Catholic based prejudice.

    • weggieboy

      June 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Checking out the history of the Fenians, however, I discover that directly after the US Civil War, the Union side (i.e. the winners) had distrust of British interests because GB supported the Confederacy (more or less) during the war. The cotton from the US South, of course, was important for the mills of England, so economic interests over-ruled any moral considerations about how that cotton was produced with slave labor. Dear me! It appears the US may have given material support to the Fenians, making the raid in Canada possible if not successful. Kind of sounds like it was a 19th Century Bay of Pigs, with the US hastening, trying to rub out the footprints afterwards by rounding up the survivors.

      • tkmorin

        June 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm

        I love the way you bring more insight into my posts; do keep the coming! 🙂

    • tkmorin

      June 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      Wow, thanks for those two articles! Really interesting, I can also see how the two groups could easily be thought to be the same at first glance.


  5. L. Marie

    June 1, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I had to look up the Fenians! Wow. One of the strangest invasions ever!

    • tkmorin

      June 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      It certainly was! I laughed imagining being woken up by them … Funny image. I’m glad you liked it.

      Do you think I should write a post about Finians … Was it difficult to find info about them?

      Thanks again for your visit and comments! 🙂

  6. elegantparis

    June 1, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I really enjoy reading your posts….i love history and they are very informative! Thanks for all the research!


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