A new memorial has been erected on the shores of the Niagara River commemorating the Fenian invasion of 1866, when approximately 1,000 Irish-American Fenian insurgents invaded the Fort Erie area intending to take Canada hostage in a campaign to force the British out of Ireland.
It was one of the last invasions of Canada to be launched from US territory, writes historian Peter Vronsky for The Star.
On June2, 1866, the Fenian invasion culminated with the Battle of Ridgeway, the first battle fought exclusively by Canadian soldiers and led entirely by Canadian officers. No British troops participated in the combat.
Vronsky calls the battle an "unmitigated disaster" when the "untested Canadian troops ... came up against battle-hardened Irish American Civil War veterans of the Fenian “Irish Republican Army” (IRA) — the first known use of that term."
"After U.S. navy gunboats cut off Fenian supply lines across the Niagara River and as Canadian and British forces began to close in, the invaders withdrew to their base in Buffalo on June 3. Many on both sides of the border credit the Fenians with cementing Canadian nationhood."
New York State Senator Timothy Kennedy, who led the campaign to raise the monument in Buffalo’s Tow Path Park, the Niagara riverside launching point for the incursion, said: “The Fenian invasion has a unique place in Buffalo’s history.
"The Fenian Brotherhood, battle-hardened American veterans, first fought to keep our nation united and strong in the Civil War. Then, by launching this invasion, they significantly contributed to the national independence of Canada and eventually Ireland. The Fenian invasion demonstrated that freedom and democracy are forces that no amount of oppression can stop.
"Even outnumbered and outgunned, the Fenians valiantly battled the British Crown forces. They played a pivotal role in Canada’s independence, and they helped inspire Irish freedom.”