Saturday, March 05, 2005

March 5th 1867 - The Fenian Uprising Begins

Today marks the 138th anniversary of the start of the 1967 Rebellion, also known as the Fenian Uprising. The following is a bit of basic background information on this Rising.
The Fenian Movement, named after the legendary band of warriors, the Fianna, led by the Gaelic hero Fionn mac Cumhail (or Finn MacCool), got its start on the 17th of March, 1858. In Dublin, James Stephens, a vetern of the 1848 Young Ireland Uprising, formed a secret society which would become known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Shortly thereafter in New York, another vetern of the 1848 Rising, John O'Mahony, became the leader of a secret society known as the Fenian Brotherhood. The two organisations came to be considered part of the same revolutionary movement, and the Fenian label was applied to that movement as a whole.
The nascent Fenian Movement attracted many eager new recruits both in Ireland, where considerable passion for the ideals of the Young Irelanders still burned in the hearts of many people, and in the Irish emigrant population in America, many of whom had been driven out of Ireland by the Great Hunger. In Ireland, Stephens started a newspaper, the Irish People, much to the chagrin of O'Mahony who believed secrecy was of utmost importance. Meanwhile, in America, many Fenians gained military experience in the American Civil War and anticipated an uprising in which they could put their newly-acquired skills to the test.
When the war in America ended, Stephens promised such an uprising and began making plans. Unfortunately, those plans were betrayed by spies. Stephens and several of his fellow revolutionaries were arrested and arms were confiscated. Stephens managed to break out of prison and escape to France, later sailing on to America. However, as a result of the planning fiasco, he had lost all real influence, and responsibility for re-organisation now had to be assumed by others. However, the Fenian Movement in America was in disarray. It had split into two factions - one led by O'Mahony and the other by W.R. Roberts. O'Mahony wished to wait for new plans for an uprising in Ireland to come together. Roberts, on the other hand, had come up with an overly-ambitious plan to raid Canada (a British territory) and seize Campobello Island in New Brunswick. The plan was, basically, to hold the island hostage in exchange for Ireland's freedom. The invasion failed, with many resources lost in the process.
Despite the Canadian fiasco, the plans for an uprising in Ireland went ahead. Sadly, the 1867 Rising was to be no more effective. Informers were rampant. Weapons were scarce, in some cases amounting to pikes and daggers. Coordination was poor and strategy was wholly inadequate. A number of minor "battles" took place, mainly in the south and west of Ireland, but were easily put down. Most of the leaders were arrested. Despite some receiving death sentences, none were executed. Though it failed to achieve it's goals, the Fenian Rising once again made evident Ireland's insatiable hunger for freedom.


Post a Comment

<< Home