"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)
"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 700 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 US 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.
What the critics say
“Thoroughly researched and engagingly written...A well-presented, little-known sidebar to the struggle for Irish independence.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"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 best-selling author of Hero of the Empire)