Canadians: We’re Coming For You

Canada_US_pipeline_borderThe United States and Canada are usually friendly neighbors. We share the longest demilitarized border (without an army or military protection) in the world, and our citizens can travel back and forth without any special visas. But things haven’t always been peaceful (calm and without fighting) between us. In the middle of the 1800s, some Americans actually attacked Canada. The history behind (the story that explains) this attack is somewhat complicated, but basically it was brought on (came about; was caused by) by two, completely unrelated events.

The first event took place not in America, but in Ireland. From 1845 to 1852, the Irish (the people of Ireland) went through a terrible period called the Great Irish Famine (having very little food). The potato crop (plants grown for food), which was so important to the Irish diet (what people eat), was nearly wiped out (completely destroyed) by disease, leaving many people starving (dying because of not having enough food). At least one million people died.

Due to this famine, about two million people left Ireland, many coming to the United States. (Note: the McQuillans left Ireland just before the famine, in 1840. My father told me that was because we wanted to beat the rush (get somewhere before everyone else does).) Many of the Irish blamed British policies for making the suffering (pain) of the Irish even worse, leading to (causing) the high mortality (number of deaths) of the famine.

Irish immigrants brought their hatred of the British with them to America, leading to the formation (getting together) of groups that wanted to end British control over the country of Ireland. Those who joined these groups were called “Fenians,” a name supposedly taken from the “Fianna,” a group of the king’s guards (protectors) led by the famous Irish leader Finn MacCool.

The second event in our story happened a few years after the Irish famine: the American Civil War between the northern and southern states, fought between 1861 and 1865, that resulted in the deaths of more than 800,000 people. Thousands of these new Irish immigrants had joined the military and fought in the Civil War, and when the war ended, they were mustered out (resigned from the military; officially left the military) of the army.

And this is where these two otherwise separate events come together: (1) a lot of trained former Civil War soldiers with no jobs and nothing better to do with their time, many of whom (2) hated the British due in part to their actions during the previous Irish Famine.

Some of the Fenians came up with a plan to use these Irish American soldiers to help free Ireland from the British. They reasoned (thought) that since Canada was under British rule at this time, if the Fenians could get the British military to start fighting in Canada, it would make it easier for the Fenians in Ireland to take control and declare Ireland a separate, self-governed (ruled by its own people) nation. The British Army, or so the Fenians thought, would be so busy fighting a war thousands of miles away in Canada that they wouldn’t be able to defend Ireland.

The whole thing looked great on paper (seemed like a good plan), but, well, it didn’t exactly go as the Fenians had planned.

The first step in the plan was to start a war in Canada. So over 700 Fenians from Ireland and 800 of these ex-soldiers from the American Civil War decided to meet in northern Maine, a state next to Canada, in northeast corner of the U.S. Their goal was to seize (take control) a small island, Campobello Island, that was part of British Canada. From there, they would be able to expand (make bigger; increase) the war to other parts of Canada, causing the British to send thousands of its troops (soldiers) to stop them.

After fierce (intense) fighting and several deaths on both sides, the Fenians failed. They tried again later that year. They failed again. Finally, a few years later, in 1870, they made another attempt at attacking Canada. That failed, too.

These attacks were not supported by the American government, of course. They only involved former American soldiers who were acting on their own. Still, we can truthfully say that Americans attacked Canada – and the Canadians won.

Even today, in bars and pubs (what the British call “bars”) in Ireland and in the United States, you’ll hear songs about these “brave” Fenian men who took part in (were involved in) these (completely unsuccessful) raids. And who knows? Some of them may have even been my Irish American relatives!

~ Jeff

Photo Credit:  Canada US-Pipeline Border from Wikipedia

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10 Responses to Canadians: We’re Coming For You

  1. Hilario says:

    NO, THANKS.- One can imagine the hiena smile of the then British rulers at the great Irish famine. They did not move a finger to help the subjugated Irish people, even not being they affected by the potato disease and being they well stocked of lamb meat and plenty of other staples. No, It’s not certainly an easy thing to get rid of the British once they have got what do not belong to them for nothing. They have considered through history to self-entitle to themselves to take others belongings as if they were theirs. Its reputation as robbers only match its ferocity to fight. The only thing of what they are badly short stocked but that they could have never stolen neither from the Irish nor others is the necessary grace and taste for living. Europe is not missing them at all after their bad opinionated but well refrended Brexit, because as EU partners they have been so cynic and interested as they always have been. An old Spanish saying reminds that life takes many turns and nobody knows which one will be the last.

  2. Pete says:


    Maybe we need to return the favour :)))

    A learning guid premium member


  3. Tania says:

    An interesting history lesson. I studied History at school, but I can’t remember too many events exactly.
    So it’s good to us to learn again.
    By the way, I think that soon and we, the Romanians, will travel without visa to Canada.

    All the best for you,


  4. Tania says:


    “Now and now” I can understand why you said that “it will be the craziest presidential race”.
    I agree with you.

  5. Tania says:


    I am still reading the poems by Sylvia Plath.
    I think I have found a poem to you, to your golden voice. May I?

    Morning Song

    “Love set you going like a fat gold watch. (Love to teach us.)
    ……the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow
    Effacement at the wind’s hand.
    All night your moth(night butterfly)-breath
    Flickers among the flat pink roses. (thinking about us for new topics, ideas, posts)
    …And now you try
    Your handful of notes;
    The clear vowels rise like balloons.”

    I have chosen the most beautiful metaphors to you.

  6. Tania says:


    I am reading Sylvia Plath, a bilingual book. In this way I can understand the meaning of such many metaphors.
    I am not able to translate the poetical meaning of many phrases.
    I get, I catch the idea like a mathematical idea without the poetical beauty. So I need of a bilingual book.

    Many, many new metaphors to me. Unfortunately many of them are too morbid.
    I have to separate those morbid of those that are really wonderful.

    Thank you.

  7. Tania says:


    The Night Dances by Sylvia Plath

    A smile fell in the grass.

    And how will your night dances
    Lose themselves. In mathematics?

    ………………………… the gift
    Of your small breath, the drenched grass
    Smell of your sleeps, lilies, lilies.

    So your gestures flake off –
    Warm and human, then their prink light
    Falling like blessings, like flakes

    Six-sided, white
    On my eyes, my lips, my hair

    Touching and melting.
    Nowhere. ”

    Yes, it’s night. Good night!

  8. emiliano says:

    So interesting peace of history that really I am grateful to you Jeff of telling us. I know more or less what happened in Ireland
    when the potato were wiped out, so disaster for Irish people without anything to eat.
    It is possible that you don´t know that potato was in Ireland from the year 1588 when some Spanish Fleet destroyed was crashed
    over the North Ireland Coasts, the Spanish Ships carries plants of potato to feed the troops and these plats taken by the Irish
    people were plant in their land.
    Potato that came from America was a secret for the Spanish Kingdom, but when the ships of the Spanish Fleet crashed over Ireland
    coast Irish people saw heaven open.
    Potato grew perfect well in Ireland lands, and after that the potato goes through all Europe countries.

    Jeff, I like this story very very much, in fact Irish and Spanish people and Nations have a lot of things in common you know it
    perfectly well a we have talk a lot, reading to Hilario it is easy to imagine what I mean.

    My best dear Jeff. emiliano

  9. emiliano says:

    Sorry, I mean piece of history…………

  10. Tania says:


    I have started to read “Leaves of Grass”, poems by Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892).

    The first poem is “One’s-Self I Sing”. I think it is Walt Whitman’ Credo, “The Modern Man I sing.”

    “One’s self I sing, a simple separate person,
    Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.

    Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
    Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the
    Muse, I say the Form complete is worthier far,
    The Female equally with the Male I sing.

    Of life immense in passion , pulse, and power,
    Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine,
    The Modern Man I sing.”

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