When The Irish Invaded Canada

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Published by: Doubleday
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Pages: 384
ISBN13: 978-0385542609

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The outlandish, untold story of the Irish American revolutionaries who tried to free Ireland by invading Canada

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 between 1866 and 1871—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.



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“Thoroughly researched and engagingly written…A well-presented, little-known sidebar to the struggle for Irish independence.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Christopher Klein’s new book is a must-read for all with even a passing interest in Irish America, Ireland, and the Civil War. His 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 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 The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic

“From today’s perspective the invasions of Canada by Irish-Americans in 1866 and 1870 to strike a blow for Irish independence by attacking an outpost of the British Empire seems to have the qualities of a comic opera. But these ‘Fenians’ were deadly serious, and though they failed to achieve their goal in 1870 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

“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 Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America

“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

“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

"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

Additional Press Coverage for When the Irish Invaded Canada



Thirteen months after Robert E. Lee laid down his sword at Appomattox Court House, former Confederate rebels slipped on their gray wool jackets. Union veterans longing to emancipate an oppressed people donned their blue kepis. Battle-hardened warriors from both the North and the South returned to the front lines, but not to reignite the Civil War. Instead, the former foes became improbable brothers in arms united against a common enemy—Great Britain.

Entwined by Irish bloodlines, the private army that congregated on the south side of Buffalo, New York, on the night of May 31, 1866, shared not just a craving for gunpowder but a yearning to liberate their homeland from the shackles of the British Empire. For seven hundred years, British rulers attempted to extinguish Ireland’s religion, culture, and language, and when the potato crop failed in the 1840s and 1850s, causing one million people to die, some Irish believed that the British were trying to exterminate them as well.

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