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«Combat, Memory and Remembrance in Confederation Era Canada: The Hidden History of the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866 Peter Wronski (Peter Vronsky) ...»

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Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth); and J. P. Robertson, A political manual of the province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories (Winnipeg, 1887). McMicken‘s activities before 1864 are described in R. C. Bond, Peninsula village: the story of Chippawa ([Chippawa (Niagara Falls), Ont., 1967]); Cornell, Alignment of political groups; J. A. Haxby and R. J. Graham, ―The history and notes of the Zimmerman Bank,‖ Canadian Paper Money Journal (Toronto), 13 (1977): 81–97; The history of the county of Welland, Ontario... ([Welland], 1889; repr. with intro. by John Burtniak, Belleville, Ont., 1972); J. K. Johnson, ‗―One bold operator‘: Samuel Zimmerman, Niagara entrepreneur, 1843–1857,‖ OH, 74 (1982): 26–44; Niagara Falls, Canada: a history of the city and the world famous beauty spot; an anthology (Niagara Falls, 1967); A. J. Rennie, Township of Niagara ([Virgil (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Ont., 1968]); and B. G. Wilson, The enterprises of Robert Hamilton: a study of wealth and influence in early Upper Canada, 1776–1812 (Ottawa, 1983). The Niagara Chronicle (Niagara [Niagara-on-the-Lake]), 19 Sept. 1839, and issues of the Niagara Mail in the years 1850–51, 1853–58, also shed light on these subjects.

For the Fenian context and specific references to McMicken see: Creighton, Macdonald, young politician;

William D‘Arcy, The Fenian movement in the United States: 1858–1886 (New York, 1971); Brian Jenkins, Fenians and Anglo-American relations during reconstruction (Ithaca, N.Y., [1969]); Léon Ó.Broin, Fenian fever: an AngloAmerican dilemma (London, 1971); Hereward Senior, The Fenians and Canada (Toronto, 1978); C. P. Stacey, ―A Fenian interlude: the story of Michael Murphy,‖ CHR, 15 (1934): 133–54; P. M. Toner, ―The rise of Irish nationalism in Canada, 1858–1884‖ (phd thesis, National Univ. of Ireland, Dublin, 1974); and R. W. Winks, Canada and the United States: the Civil War years (Baltimore, Md., 1960).

In addition, information on McMicken‘s role in the secret service can be found in J. A. Cole, Prince of spies:

Henri Le Caron (London and Boston, 1984); W. A. Crockett, ―The uses and abuses of the secret service fund: the political dimension of police work in Canada, 1864–1877‖ (MA thesis, Queen‘s Univ., Kingston, Ont., 1982); and C. P. Stacey, ―Cloak and dagger in the sixties‖ (CBC Radio script, 1954), University of Toronto Archives; as well as in sources such as the records of the Dominion Police (NA, RG 18, B6, 3315); the report of the select standing committee on public accounts in Can., House of Commons, Journals, 1877, app.2; and Henri Le Caron [T. B. Beach], Twenty-five years in the secret service: the recollections of a spy (London, 1982). The Macdonald papers (NA, MG 26, A, 13, 60, 61A, 234–37, 241–42, 244–46, 248, 506–9, 516), contain a confusing gold-mine of material. A slightly different assessment of the role played by McMicken is given by Jeff Keshen in ―Cloak and dagger: Canada West‘s secret police, 1864–1867,‖ OH, 79 (1987): 353–81.

The events that led McMicken to Manitoba are described in J. P. Pritchett, ―The origin of the so-called Fenian raid on Manitoba in 1871,‖ CHR, 10 (1929): 23–42, and in McMicken‘s own paper, ―The abortive Fenian raid on Manitoba: account by one who knew its secret history,‖ Man., Hist. and Scientific Soc., Trans. (Winnipeg), no.32 (1887–88): 1–11. This highly controversial paper drew a vigorous riposte from Alexandre-Antonin Taché, Fenian raid: an open letter from Archbishop Taché to the Hon. Gilbert McMicken (n.p., 1888).

The following publications also deal with McMicken‘s career in Manitoba: Begg and Nursey, Ten years in Winnipeg; D. N. Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 1869–1885 (Waterloo, Ont., 1988); the Winnipeg Daily Free Press, 1877–78; the Manitoba Weekly Free Press, 1873, 1877–78; and the Winnipeg Daily Times, 1879. c.b.] valuable historical source on Fenian activities and Canadian perception of the nature of the threat.

As the Civil War raged on, there was nothing much the Fenians could do other than recruit Irish-Americans into the Brotherhood before directing them to enlist in the U.S. Army.

The Fenian Brotherhood encouraged their members to gain military experience for a future war of liberation in Ireland and Fenian agitation within the U.S. Army units was tolerated by Washington as long as they fought for the Union first.34 The war had a seminal role in the growth of the American Fenian Brotherhood. Combat of catastrophic proportions would radicalize, traumatize and harden American Fenian militants who often fought in exclusively Irish volunteer regiments. The rise in Fenian membership was spectacular—from 40 New Yorkers in 1858 to perhaps as many as 50,000 members nationwide by 1861 and perhaps four or five times the number of sympathizers.35 As tensions rose and fell and rose again between Britain and the United States 1861-1864, some Fenians began to appraise Canada‘s potential as a battlefield stepping-stone towards the expulsion of Britain from Ireland.

When the war ended in April 1865, thousands of Irish-American U.S. Army servicemen could not immediately adjust to a peacetime life. As the Fenian ditty went

–  –  –

“The Shortest Route”: The Fenians Target Canada Susannah Ural Bruce ― ‗Remember Your Country and Keep Up Its Credit‘: Irish Volunteers and the Union Army, 1861-1865‖‘ The Journal of Military History, 69.2 (2005) 331-359; Kevin W. Stanton, Green Tint on Gold Bars:





Irish Officers in the United States Army, 1865-1898, Doctoral dissertation, University of Colorado, 2001. pp. 78-94 Leon Ó Broin, Fenian Fever: An Anglo-American Dilemma, New York: New York University Press, 1971 p. 2Captain Macdonald, p. 16 Thesis length restrictions do not permit a description of the intricate details of the internal

rivalries and the break-up of the Fenians into two factions over the issue of where to strike first:

in Ireland or Canada next door. That history has been well documented by William D‘Arcy The Fenian Movement in the United States, W.S. Neidhardt Fenianism in North America, Hereward Senior, The Fenians in Canada and The Last Invasion of Canada: The Fenian Raids 1866 – 1870 and Brian Jenkins, Fenians and Anglo-American Relations during Reconstruction, among other histories.

The brief history of the nineteen months between Guy Fawkes‘ Night in November 1864 and the invasion in June 1866 goes something like this: in April 1865, the American Civil War ended and freed up thousands of Fenians serving in the U.S. and Confederate armies. But Stephens could not successfully organize his ―Year of Action‖ in Ireland in 1865—his plans came to nothing. In the meantime, a dissident faction of Fenians was calling for the deployment of a Fenian army ―by the shortest route to meet the common enemy of Ireland and the United States.‖; Canada.37 In September 1865 authorities in Ireland finally reacted to the Fenians by seizing the Irish People newspaper and arresting senior IRB leaders. Stephens now became a fugitive and eventually escaped to the United States. The arrests in Ireland triggered a new alarm in Canada and Macdonald now ordered McMicken to employ more agents and send them deep into Fenian centers throughout the United States to keep careful track of any Fenian plans to strike against Canada in lieu of their failure in Ireland. Macdonald told McMicken, ―The Fenian action in Ireland is serious, and the Imperial Government seems fully alive to it. We must not be caught napping. Keep me fully informed.‖38 Mabel Walker, The Fenian Movement, Colorado Springs, Colo.: R. Myles, 1969. p. 52 Keshen, citing Macdonald to McMicken, September 22, 1865, MG26A, Volume 511 As the IRB were being arrested in Ireland, the Fenian Brotherhood was meeting in Philadelphia for its Third Congress in October 1865. News of the arrests in Ireland triggered a revived call for an invasion of Canada instead. It split the Fenians into two factions—the traditionalist ―Ireland First‖ O‘Mahony-Stephens Wing and a rebellious ―Shortest Route‖ Senate Wing or Roberts Wing (sometime also called ―Canadian Wing‖) which under the leadership of William R. Roberts challenged the Stephens-O‘Mahony leadership and proposed Canada as the next field of action for the Fenians.39 A Canadian intelligence report from Cincinnati in September 1865, enclosed a clipping from the Cincinnati Daily Gazette which contained the following editorial commentary

–  –  –

While of little veracity, the above commentary highlights the sum total of fears rising in Canada of a massive Fenian invasion backed by an annexationist United States government. It also underscores the Fenians‘ own mistaken belief that the U.S. government was going to back their invasion. In fact over the months that the Fenians prepared for their invasion, the US government in a secret understanding with the British Foreign Office did its best to contain the D‘Arcy, pp. 102-107; Senior, Last Invasion of Canada, pp. 40-41; Neidhardt Fenianism In North America, p. 28Cincinnati Daily Gazette September 23, 1865, attachment to Grant to McElderry, September 23, 1865, Macdonald Papers, MG26A, Volume 232, p. 102831 [Reel C1662] Fenians away from the Canadian border. The U.S. Army and Department of Justice made numerous attempts from April to June to seize Fenian arms to be used in an invasion of British North American provinces. The British envoy to Washington, Sir Frederick Bruce met numerous times with William Seward and discreetly with President Andrew Johnson in the winter of 1865-66 to defuse the Fenian threat to the British provinces in North America. In February 1866 the British agreed to Seward‘s proposal not to make U.S. Fenian activity a subject of formal public diplomatic protest thus soothing the Republican administration‘s concern over adopting measures that could alienate Irish-American voters who traditionally supported the Democratic Party. The British in fact, wanting to exploit the growing divide between the O‘Mahony and Roberts factions explicitly requested that the U.S. not interfere with any Fenian meetings or activities inside the U.S. except for attempts to violate the border.41 On their part Seward and Johnson would make bona fide efforts to contain the Fenians away from the British North American provinces, while the British would share with U.S. authorities their and the Canadians‘ intelligence on Fenian movements and arms purchases. The Canadians were apparently not privy to this secret Anglo-American Fenian containment agreement and unaware that their intelligence was being shared with the U.S. State Department by the British Foreign Office. At one point the Canadians almost wrecked the agreement by their vigorous demand that Britain lodge formal protests of what appeared to the Canadians as U.S. inactivity on the Fenian threat. Within weeks this agreement was tested by Seward when in February-March 1866 Home Office officials in Ireland refused to recognize the naturalized U.S. citizenship of British-born Fenians recently arrested under the Suspension of Habeas Corpus Act. As a sign of its good will, the Foreign Office pressured authorities in Ireland to release most of the American citizens Clarendon to Bruce, January 6, 1866, Clarendon Papers c.143, cited in Ó Broin, p. 57, in Peter Vronsky, ―The Secret Anglo-American Fenian Containment Policy 1865 – 1866‖, www.petervronsky.org/thesis-references arrested under the act if they agreed to leave Ireland immediately. This sealed the agreement between the United States and Britain. In mid-March42 orders went out from the State Department through the War and Justice departments to military and judicial officials in the border states to proactively intervene in Fenian attempts to mobilize and arm at the borders of the British provinces.43 Despite O‘Mahony‘s opposition, the Roberts faction began slowly preparing and arming an invasion force in the autumn. On October 28, 1865 the Fenians appointed the one-armed forty-six year-old Thomas W. Sweeny, a distinguished U.S. Army General, as the Fenian Secretary of War to mount the invasion of Canada.44 Upon his appointment, one of the first things Sweeny did was to establish a Fenian intelligence network in Canada, seeded with $1,500.45 Major John C. Canty [Cautie or Cauntie or Kantie] a spy from the Buffalo Fenians46 crossed into Canada in December 1865, purchased a house in the village of Fort Erie and settled there as a Fenian ‗sleeper.‘47 Finding employment as a section foreman on the Grand Trunk line, Canty for the next six months meticulously collected maps and intelligence and surveyed the regional topography, ferries, bridges, railway junctions, roads and telegraph systems.48 The town Ulysses S. Grant to George G. Meade, March 12, 1866, Letters Received, War Department, Division of the Atlantic, Department of the East, RG 393: Records of the U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1817 – 1940, National Archives Building, Washington D.C. NARA. Grant to Meade, March 12, 1866, Letters Received, War Department, Division of the Atlantic, Department of the East, RG 393: Records of the U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1817 – 1940, National Archives Building, Washington D.C. NARA; William Seward to Joshua Speed US Attorney General, April 2, 1866, Letters Received by the Secretary of War from the President, Executive Departments, and War Department Bureaus 1862-1870, (National Archives Microfilm Publication M494, roll 88);

Records of the Office of the Secretary of War, 1791 -1947, Record Group 107; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

For full details, see: Peter Vronsky, ―The Secret Anglo-American Fenian Containment Policy 1865 – 1866‖, www.petervronsky.org/thesis-references Sweeny to Roberts, [circa November 1865], Thomas William Sweeny Papers, MssCol 2934: New York City Public Library. [Hereinafter ―Sweeny Papers‖].

Receipt, New York, ―For the purpose of organizing a secret service corps in Canada‖, Nov 16, 1865, Sweeny Papers Owen, p. 68; see also testimony of Dennis Sullivan; Edward Hodder; George McMurrich, in Queen v. John McMahon, DFUSCT roll 1; Globe, June 6 Somerville, p. 21; Tupper to McMicken, June 11, 1866, MG26 A, Volume 237, p. 104076 [Reel C1663] LAC Owen, p. 68 of Ridgeway and Limestone Ridge were likely part of the local terrain Canty surveyed during his mission.



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