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The Attack on Canada from a Vermont Farm

Ever hear that story of Wilmer McLean? It was said the Civil War started in his front yard and ended in his front parlor. He abandoned his house after it was damaged in the Battle of Bull Run and moved to quieter pastures–in Appomattox–only to find his front parlor taken over in April 1865 so that Lee could surrender to Grant.

Well, Alvah Richard is the Wilmer McLean of the Fenian Raids, and he may be my favorite character in WHEN THE IRISH INVADED CANADA. In 1866 the Fenians invaded Canada from his farm in Franklin, Vermont. Incredibly, in 1870, with 4,000 miles of border to choose from, John O’Neill chose Richard’s farm once again as the launch point for an attack on Canada.

It wasn’t a good choice. And, as I write about in this piece for the New England Historical Society, Alvah Richard was none too happy about the Irish-American army shooting up his farm, not to mention tracking dirt into his clean house and “puttin’ their dirty boots on Grandma’s handmade quilts.”

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