It’s April 1866 and John Mahony, a former colonel in the New York State Militia’s 69th Regiment, is at the head of an invading force as it marches towards Campobello Island, New Brunswick. Back then this was part of British North America – what we today know as Canada. Mahony, an Irish-American is leading a band of Fenians, supporters of independence for Britain’s colonial possession, Ireland.
And although this was the first raid into British territory by Irish-American Fenians, it was by no means the last. The next incursion into Canadian territory came on June 1, 1866, in fact. This time, the Irish Republicans invaded the province of Canada West, which today is Southern Ontario. Up to 1,300 men traversed the River Niagara, led by Colonel John O’Neill, another former Union officer.