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"Christopher Klein's fresh telling of this story is an important landmark in both Irish and American history." —James M. McPherson
Just over a year after Robert E. Lee relinquished his sword, a band of Union and Confederate veterans dusted off their guns. But these former foes had no intention of reigniting the Civil War. Instead, they fought side by side to undertake one of the most fantastical missions in military history: to seize the British province of Canada and to hold it hostage until the independence of Ireland was secured.
By the time that these invasions--known collectively as the Fenian raids--began in 1866, Ireland had been Britain's unwilling colony for seven hundred years. Thousands of Civil War veterans who had fled to the United States rather than perish in the wake of the Great Hunger still considered themselves Irishmen first, Americans second. With the tacit support of the U.S. government and inspired by a previous generation of successful American revolutionaries, the group that carried out a series of five attacks on Canada--the Fenian Brotherhood--established a state in exile, planned prison breaks, weathered infighting, stockpiled weapons, and assassinated enemies. Defiantly, this motley group, including a one-armed war hero, an English spy infiltrating rebel forces, and a radical who staged his own funeral, managed to seize a piece of Canada--if only for three days.
When the Irish Invaded Canada is the untold tale of a band of fiercely patriotic Irish Americans and their chapter in Ireland's centuries-long fight for independence. Inspiring, lively, and often undeniably comic, this is a story of fighting for what's right in the face of impossible odds.
About the Author
CHRISTOPHER KLEIN is the author of four books, including Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America's First Sports Hero. A frequent contributor to History.com, Christopher has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Harvard Magazine, Smithsonian.com, and AmericanHeritage.com. He lives in Andover, Massachusetts.
“Klein is keen to celebrate the idealistic Fenians with their audacious dreams of national liberation, but he doesn’t fail to catalog the foolhardiness of their endeavors. His book should be pressed into the hands of any would-be insurrectionist looking for tips on how not to overthrow a tyrant.”
—Wall Street Journal
"Klein has burrowed deep into the historical record and his vivid, engrossing storytelling brings to life the raids as well as the eccentric characters behind them."
—The Irish Times
“Thoroughly researched and engagingly written…A well-presented, little-known sidebar to the struggle for Irish independence.”
"From today's perspective the invasions of Canada by Irish-Americans…seem to have the qualities of a comic opera. But these ‘Fenians’ were deadly serious…Their example helped inspire the movement that led to eventual success a half century later. Christopher Klein's fresh telling of this story is an important landmark in both Irish and American history.”
—James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom and The War That Forged a Nation
"Klein tells the stirring story of a poor but passionate group of American immigrants who fought not only for their new country—on both sides of the Civil War—but for the one they had left behind. It’s astonishing that these men have been forgotten, but Klein brings them back to vibrant life."
—Candice Millard, New York Times bestselling author of Hero of the Empire
“This is a surprising and fascinating book. With a great eye for detail and illustrative flourish, Klein tells the riveting story of brave men who believed deeply in the cause of Irish independence, and were willing to lay down their lives to achieve it. At turns heroic, bumbling, comic, idealistic, prideful, pigheaded, and star crossed, these men and their dramatic actions are an important, though all but forgotten, part of the American and Irish experience.”
—Eric Jay Dolin, author of Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates
“When the Irish Invaded Canada is a sincere and eloquent book, as Christopher Klein tells an heroic and tragic story from a more innocent, less cynical era—when Irish Americans fought and died, not for profits and plunder, but for Irish democracy and freedom from the world’s most powerful empire.”
—Kerby Miller, author of the Pulitzer finalist Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America
“A riveting narrative of the ill-fated Fenian invasions of Canada… A must-read for all with even a passing interest in Irish America, Ireland, and the Civil War. [Klein’s] fast-flowing, often lyrical, often gritty narrative commands the reader’s attention from the opening paragraphs. His portrait of this turbulent and crucial era in America’s and Ireland’s annals is captivating.”
—Boston Irish Reporter
“Christopher Klein has written one of the great untold stories of Irish, Canadian, and American history. He tells how a ragged band of Irish Fenians, inspired by a one-armed general and a Famine immigrant, set their sights on Canada and ignited a massive crisis in Canada and the US. This forgotten revolution shaped both countries to the present day. Vivid, dramatic, and insightful, Klein delivers a book stranger than fiction but more gripping and exciting.”
—Niall O'Dowd, author of Lincoln and the Irish and founder of IrishCentral
"Christopher Klein brings to life an almost unbelievable--and yet completely forgotten--episode from post-Civil War America. If you're wondering why the Irish would invade Canada, the answers are here in this exciting, well-told narrative filled with colorful characters."
— Terry Golway, author of Frank and Al and Machine Made
“Hapless, often exasperating but somehow inspiring, these Irish freedom fighters set off on their quixotic quest to leverage the conquest of Canada into independence for their beloved homeland. Christopher Klein finds the genuine honor in this foolhardy exploit and also the humor. Any book that contains the following authentic historical quotation deserves to be read: ‘I regret to inform you that you are not going to be hanged.’ A fine forgotten slice of Irish rebellion that should appeal to oppressed people everywhere, and to those oppressors finally ready to seek salvation.”
—Richard Zacks, New York Times bestselling author of Island of Vice and Chasing the Last Laugh