Author Topic: The Mystery of the Fenian Gun  (Read 807 times)

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Offline Old Sweat

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The Mystery of the Fenian Gun
« on: August 27, 2018, 11:34:52 »
On Sunday, August 12th, my wife and I enjoyed a most entertaining presentation on the Fenian Raids by Mister Ross Jones, an enterprising and energetic researcher from the Eastern Township of Quebec. As one might expect, most of the presentation was focused on the forays into the Missisquoi region, and especially the 1870 engagement between Canadian forces and the self-styled Irish Republican Army near Eccles Hill.
   While I have amassed a fair amount of knowledge about the series of Fenian Raids that plagued Canada between 1866 and 1871, I was utterly gob-smacked to learn that the Fenians employed artillery during the Eccles Hill engagement. Not only that, but civilian members of the local Missisquoi Home Guard (MHG) had captured one of the two guns sited just south of the border, and brought it back into Canada. The MHG later turned down a request by the commanding officer of The Victoria Volunteer Rifles of Montreal to transport it to Montreal as a trophy. In later years the ordnance was put on display on the Canadian National Historical Site on the battlefield. And, as Mister Jones put it, that is about all we know of the gun. Perhaps it was a captured Confederate piece that the Fenians acquired by unknown means. Perhaps it was sold as scrap, but someone had other ideas. We just plain have no idea.
   It has no markings to indicate its manufacturer or nationality, although it resembles a British Armstrong Rifled Breech Loader of just under two inches or 50 millimetres in calibre. It lacks trunnions, although these may have been attached by a band around the tube, as suggested by photos of other Armstrong guns. Perhaps someone removed them before the gun accompanied the Fenians on their quest, which would have been counter-productive at best. We do know it fired fixed ammunition in the form of solid shot, but its effectiveness is an open question.
         Can anyone answer any of my questions?


Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: The Mystery of the Fenian Gun
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2018, 12:00:27 »
On Sunday, August 12th, my wife and I enjoyed a most entertaining presentation on the Fenian Raids by Mister Ross Jones, an enterprising and energetic researcher from the Eastern Township of Quebec. As one might expect, most of the presentation was focused on the forays into the Missisquoi region, and especially the 1870 engagement between Canadian forces and the self-styled Irish Republican Army near Eccles Hill.
   While I have amassed a fair amount of knowledge about the series of Fenian Raids that plagued Canada between 1866 and 1871, I was utterly gob-smacked to learn that the Fenians employed artillery during the Eccles Hill engagement. Not only that, but civilian members of the local Missisquoi Home Guard (MHG) had captured one of the two guns sited just south of the border, and brought it back into Canada. The MHG later turned down a request by the commanding officer of The Victoria Volunteer Rifles of Montreal to transport it to Montreal as a trophy. In later years the ordnance was put on display on the Canadian National Historical Site on the battlefield. And, as Mister Jones put it, that is about all we know of the gun. Perhaps it was a captured Confederate piece that the Fenians acquired by unknown means. Perhaps it was sold as scrap, but someone had other ideas. We just plain have no idea.
   It has no markings to indicate its manufacturer or nationality, although it resembles a British Armstrong Rifled Breech Loader of just under two inches or 50 millimetres in calibre. It lacks trunnions, although these may have been attached by a band around the tube, as suggested by photos of other Armstrong guns. Perhaps someone removed them before the gun accompanied the Fenians on their quest, which would have been counter-productive at best. We do know it fired fixed ammunition in the form of solid shot, but its effectiveness is an open question.
         Can anyone answer any of my questions?

Esprit de Corps has a pretty good little series of articles on the raid, which make mention of Fenian cannon:

Patrick O’Brien Riley and Samuel Spiers persuaded some Fenians to hold their ground, but the Canadians kept up their advance, maintaining a continuous fire with their Ballard rifles and Snider breechloaders. The Fenians had set up a cannon in a flanking position, but a charge by a battalion of volunteer cavalry led by LCol. William Osborne Smith overran the position and captured the field piece. By 1800 hours, the last Fenians were gone, leaving behind only Rowe’s body but suffering a total of three dead and 20 wounded, of whom two more subsequently died of wounds. The Canadians, whose ranks had included Victoria’s son — and future governor-general of Canada — Prince Arthur, had won the day without a single casualty.

http://espritdecorps.ca/the-fenian-raids/
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Offline Old Sweat

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Re: The Mystery of the Fenian Gun
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2018, 13:22:19 »
Interesting, but this account varies considerably from others, as is often the case.

Offline Dan M

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Re: The Mystery of the Fenian Gun
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2018, 13:59:25 »
The Fenians had set up a cannon in a flanking position, but a charge by a battalion of volunteer cavalry led by LCol. William Osborne Smith overran the position and captured the field piece.

Unless I'm mistaken, William Osborne Smith was the first Commander of Military District 10 (Manitoba) when it was organized, and the person for whom Fort Osborne is named. Nothing to do with Fenians, I'm afraid. Just a piece of military trivia.

Cheers,
Dan.
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Offline FJAG

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Re: The Mystery of the Fenian Gun
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2018, 14:10:47 »
There's this article which, if I'm not mistaken, may show a picture of the gun in question.

http://tourismebrome-missisquoi.ca/en/blogue/dunhams-red-sashes-a-home-guard-confronts-the-ira/



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Offline FJAG

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Offline FJAG

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Re: The Mystery of the Fenian Gun
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2018, 14:18:13 »
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Offline Chris Pook

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Re: The Mystery of the Fenian Gun
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2018, 14:33:34 »
Is it possible that it was an "unmarked" Armstrong supplied to the Confederacy so that it couldn't attributed to Britain if captured by the Northern States?

As I understand it British policy tended to favour the Confederacy while presenting a formally neutral face.

How does it compare to the Whitworth 3 Pounder?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGRLeJqS_tg
« Last Edit: August 27, 2018, 14:41:15 by Chris Pook »
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Offline Old Sweat

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Re: The Mystery of the Fenian Gun
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2018, 14:40:14 »
Is it possible that it was an "unmarked" Armstrong supplied to the Confederacy so that it couldn't attributed to Britain if captured by the Northern States?

As I understand it British policy tended to favour the Confederacy while presenting a formally neutral face.

That occurred to me, and is a likely answer. There should be a proof mark, and not the broad arrow,but it may be obscured by the substitute breech block.

According to Wikipedia, without citing a reference, that the first experimental Armstrongs were 3-pounders. We just don't know how some came into Fenian service, and that is what we hope to determine.
A
« Last Edit: August 27, 2018, 15:02:38 by Old Sweat »