This war programme was drafted in March 1866 by the Fenian Brotherhood’s War Council, at the eve of the first of what would be several Fenian raids into Canada. The strategy, largely modelled off the programme of Thomas William Sweeney who would act as the commander of the Fenian forces in Canada, was hoped that it would exert pressure on the British Government to withdraw from Ireland. This text has been taken from the book Troublous Times in Canada: A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870 by John A. MacDonald.
Expeditions for the invasion of Canada will rendezvous at Detroit and Rochester, and at Ogdensburg and Plattsburg, and at Portland. The forces assembled at the two first-named points are to operate conjointly against Toronto, Hamilton, and the west of Upper Canada. From Ogdensburg and Plattsburg demonstrations will be made against Montreal, and ultimately Quebec; Kingston will be approached by Cape Vincent, while Portland will be the general place of embarkation for expeditions against the capitals of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
THE BASES OF OPERATION.
The Canadian and provincial borders once crossed, bases of operations will be established in the enemy’s country, so that international quarrels with the Washington Government may be evaded. There are to be lands chosen at the head of Passamaquoddy Bay, Saint John’s, on the Chambly, close to the foot of Lake Champlain; Prescott, on the Saint Lawrence; Wolfe Island, at the foot of Lake Ontario; Hamilton, Cobourg Goderich, and Windsor, in Upper Canada. These places are all within convenient distances of the United States, and afford by water an easy retreat, as well as cunning receptacles for fresh American levies.
THE FORCES AT THE DISPOSAL OF THE FENIANS.
The Irish Republic calculates to have, by the first of April, fifteen millions of dollars at its disposal in ready cash. This will give transportation and maintenance for one month to thirty thousand men, a greater number than were ever before mustered to the conquest of the Canadian possessions. Of this force, eight thousand will carry the line of the Grand Trunk road west of Hamilton; five thousand, crossing from Rochester to Cobourg, will be prepared to move either east, in time to act jointly with three thousand men from Wolfe Island, upon Kingston, or to take part with the western detachment in the capture of Toronto. All this, it is believed, will be the work of two weeks. Thus entrenched securely in Upper Canada, holding all the routes of the Grand Trunk, sufficient rolling stock secured to control the main line, the Fenians hope to attract to their colours fifty thousand American Irishmen, and equip a navy on Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario. The avenues to return so being secured, thirty thousand men, under General Sweeny, will move down the Saint Lawrence, upon Kingston, simultaneously with ten thousand men by the lines of the Chambly, and these will converge upon Montreal; in the meantime isolated expeditions from the rendezvous at Saint Andrews will reduce Saint John and Halifax, these furnishing depots for privateers and ocean men-of-war to intercept British transports and effectually close the Saint Lawrence. Quebec will thus fall by the slow conquest of time; or, if the resources of the garrison should be greater than the patience of the invaders, the same heights which two Irishmen have scaled before, will again give foothold to the columns of the brotherhood.
THE PLAN OF INVASION IN DETAIL.
At Chicago the Fenians already possess five sailing vessels, a tug, and two steam transports; at Buffalo they are negotiating for vessels; at Bay City, Michigan, and at Cleveland they have other craft in process of refitting; these will simultaneously raise the green flag and stand ready to succour the land forces. Goderich, Sarnia and Windsor will be simultaneously occupied; all the available rolling stock seized, and the main line of the Grand Trunk cut at Grand River, to prevent the passage of cars and locomotives to Hamilton. The geographical configuration of the western half of Upper Canada will permit of a few thousand men holding the entire section of the country between Cobourg and the Georgian Bay. These are connected by a chain of lakes and water courses, and the country affords subsistence for a vast army. Horses sufficient to mount as many cavalry as the Brotherhood can muster, quartermasters’ teams in quantity, and a vast amount of lake shipping, will at once be reduced to a grand military department, with Hamilton for the capital, and a loan advertised for. While this is being negotiated, Gen. Sweeny will push rapidly forward on the line of the Grand Trunk, in time to superintend the fall of Montreal, where ocean shipping will be found in great quantity. With the reduction of Montreal a demand will be made upon the United States for a formal recognition of Canada, whose name is to be changed at once to New Ireland. While this is being urged, the green flag will scour all the bays and gulfs in Canada; a Fenian fleet from San Francisco will carry Vancouver and the Fraser River country, to give security to the Pacific squadron, rendezvousing at San Juan, and the rights of belligerents will be enforced from the British Government by prompt retaliation for the cruelties of British courtmartials.
ABILITY OF THE FENIANS TO HOLD CANADA.
The population of the British provinces is little above two and a half millions, and the military resources of the united provinces fall short of sixty thousand men. Of these nearly ten thousand are of Irish birth or descent. The States will furnish for the subjugation of these, eighty thousand veteran troops. With the single exception of Quebec, it is believed the whole of the British provinces will fall in a single campaign. During the ensuing winter diversions will be put in motion in Ireland, and while it is believed the Brotherhood can defy the Queen’s war transports to land an army in the west, arrangements will be developed to equip a powerful navy for aggressive operations on the sea. Before the 1st of June, it is thought, fifty commissioned vessels of war and privateers, carrying three hundred guns, will be afloat, and to maintain these a tremendous moral influence will be exerted upon every Irish-American citizen to contribute the utmost to the general fund for the support of the war.
By the tempting offer of a surrender of Canada to the United States, Mr. Seward, it is hoped, will wink at connivance between American citizens and the Fenian conquerors, and by another summer it is thought the dominion of the Brotherhood north of the St. Lawrence will be formally acknowledged by the United States, Russia, and each of the American republics. The third year of Irish tenure in Canada will, it is believed, array two of the great powers against Great Britain. John Mitchell, at Paris, will organize the bureau of foreign agents; and Ireland, maintaining a position of perpetual revolt, will engage for her own suppression a considerable part of the regular British levies.
At the present time a bureau of operations is being quietly organized in Paris, where the opposition press has already proclaimed for Irish nationality. It is Mr. Mitchell who sees that the funds of the Brotherhood are distributed in Ireland; he also is in correspondence with liberal statesmen in Great Britain, and conducts the disintegration of the British army by touching the loyalty of the Irish troops, who constitute one-third of the Queen’s service.
THE CUNARD STREAMERS TO BE SEIZED.
Among the earliest aggressive operations will be the overhauling of a Cunard steamer between New York and Cape Race, with her usual allotment of specie. In like manner the British lines of steamers proceeding from England to Quebec, Portland, Boston and Halifax, will be arrested and their funds secured.
THE WAR IN IRELAND.
Military operations in Ireland must, of necessity, be confined to the interior. Three military departments will be organized–the Shannon, the Liffey, and the Foyle–and the campaign will be entirely predatory or guerrilla in its conduct. The British Coast Guard stations will fall easy conquests, their number and isolation contributing to their ruin; while from the Wicklow Mountains, through all the rocky fastnesses of Ireland, the cottagers will descend upon the British garrisons, maintaining perpetual and bloody rebellion till the better news comes across the sea or the patience of England is quite worn out.