Life of John Boyle O'Reilly/Chapter 6
Arrival in Boston—Untoward Experience in a Steamship office—Public Lectures—His Personal Appearance—Characteristic Letters—Employed on The Pilot—At the Front with the Fenians—The Orange Riots in New York—O'Reilly sharply condemns the Rioters—A notable Editorial.
HE had not, so far as he knew, a single friend in all America, but the Fenians had not forgotten him. They had eagerly read the news of his escape, and were advised, through their correspondents in England, of his having taken passage on the Bombay. On the day after her arrival, as he was working on the deck, a Fenian delegate came on board and accosted him, whereupon ensued the following dialogue, as substantially told afterward:
"They tell me that Boyle O'Reilly's on this ship."
"The man that got away from Australia? "
His visitor had grown visibly excited. At last he clutched O'Reilly's sleeve, and asked:
"Where is he?"
"I'm the man."
His youthful appearance and unassuming manner were so out of keeping with his romantic career that the delegate was inclined to set him down as an impostor, but, to make sure, he invited the young man to meet some fellow Fenians. O'Reilly readily complied, going attired as he was in his sailor clothes. The Fenians, before whom he presented himself, cross-questioned him sharply, and were so obviously incredulous that he grew a little impatient and indignantly said:
"Gentlemen, I have not come here to ask any favor of you nor to make inquiries about your personal affairs; I came at your request. I have answered your questions truthfully. If you do not choose to believe me, I cannot help it; but as I did not seek this interview, I will take my leave." The frankness and independence of the youth told with his inquirers, and they no longer doubted him.
The identification, however, did not prove of any great service to him. Nor was this remarkable. Fenianism was a losing—all but a lost, cause. Its enthusiastic supporters had given their money and their labors, as most of them would have gladly given their lives, in its behalf. Naturally they were poor men; he that hath the envied talent of money-making seldom invests his cash in sentiment.
There was no field for his ambition in Philadelphia. He went to New York, and was warmly received at the headquarters of the Fenians in that city. By their invitation he delivered a lecture in the Cooper Institute, on the 16th of December, 1869. John Savage presided, and the platform was occupied by leading spirits of the Fenian movement. Over two thousand people greeted him with enthusiastic applause, as he told of the sufferings and wrongs endured by himself and his fellow prisoners. He assured his hearers that the revolutionary movement had permeated every branch of the British army. He then modestly recounted the incidents of his escape, and told, with eloquent gratitude, of the part taken in it by the American captains of the Gazelle and Sapphire.
Successful as the meeting was, and gratifying to the feelings of the young lecturer, it did not give him any promise, either in his ambition to be of material service to the Irish revolutionary cause, or in the more prosaic and pressing need of earning his daily bread. He thought, as a practical man, though a poet, that both ends might be attained without the sacrifice of either, and he quickly saw that New York did not offer any field for that ambition. He was advised to go to Boston, and accordingly did so, arriving on the 2d of January, 1870, and bearing letters of introduction to Mr. Thomas Manning and Dr. Robert Dwyer Joyce; he had no other friends or acquaintances in all New England. Mr. Manning invited him to the hospitality of his house. Dr. Joyce, himself a rare poet, and a genial, kindly man, took a warm interest in him from the beginning.
One of the most prominent and ablest of the young Irish-Americans of Boston at that time was Patrick A. Collins, a lawyer just entering on his professional career, an orator of mark, and a man of affairs with a promising future. He was a friend of Joyce, and soon became a friend of O'Reilly. The two consulted earnestly over the matter, and agreed that 0'Reilly was altogether too bright a man to be wasted in the barren career of a public lecturer, or the still less satisfactory field of politics. The first thing to be done was to secure for him the comparative independence which comes from steady employment. The Boston Manager of the Inman Line Steamship Company at that period was an Irishman, Merrick S. Creagh, an intimate friend of both Collins and Joyce.
On their recommendation, O'Reilly was given a situation as clerk in the company's office, filling the place with perfect satisfaction to his employers for four or five weeks. At the end of that time Mr. Creagh received a communication from the general office at home in England, to the effect that information had been received that he had in his employment an escaped convict named O'Reilly. The company did not desire this young man retained any longer in their service. Some zealous Briton had doubtless sent this information across the Atlantic. Mr. Creagh could do nothing but obey his orders.
In the mean time, O'Reilly had made himself fairly well known to his fellow-countrymen in Boston. He lectured before a large audience in Music Hall, on Monday evening, January 31, on "England's Political Prisoners," and won the immediate regard of his bearers. His handsome face and charming manner would have atoned for any defects in his oratory, even with an audience more critical and less sympathetic than his. The personality which was to captivate thousands in after life, was reinforced by the grace and enthusiasm of fervid youth.
Recalling him as he then was, the abiding memory of him is that of his marvelously sweet smile, and his strikingly clear and frank gaze. The beauty of his face lay chiefly in his eyes. The official advertisement of his escape says that those eyes were brown, and prison descriptions are generally more accurate than flattering. Almost anybody, looking at him less closely, would have said that his eyes were black. As a matter of fact they were hazel, but his dark skin, and jet-black eyebrows and hair, gave an impression of blackness to the large, well formed eyes beneath. They were very expressive, whether flashing with some sudden fancy, or glowing with a deeper, burning thought, or sparkling with pure, boyish fun. There was another expression, which they sometimes wore at this period of his life, and which may b© described, for lack of a better word, as a hunted look—not a frightened or furtive, but an alert, watchful expression, which made it easy to understand how he could have deliberately armed himself, at Roderique, and again at Liverpool, with the firm intention of surrendering his liberty only with his life.
Yet with that determined look went the gay, good-humored, fan-loving soul which is the Irishman's one gift from Pandora's box. Even in Liverpool, when a fugitive for life and liberty, he could not resist the temptation of indulging his English friend's rather British sense of humor by occasionally stopping a policeman on the street, and asking to be directed to some imaginary destination. "The idea of an escaped convict asking a bobby to show him the way," furnished an innocent source of delight to his companion, who, in his turn, supplied amusement enough to O'Reilly. No portrait ever made of him does justice to that which was the great charm of his countenance, its wonderful light and life. His eyes had the depth, and fire, and mobile color of glowing carbuncle.
For the rest, he had the rich brown complexion, so familiar in after years, a small black mustache, only half concealing his finely cut mouth, and revealing a set of perfectly white, regular teeth.
His form was slight, but erect and soldier like. He carried his head well raised, and a little thrown back. He was a man whom not one would pass without a second glance.
His lecture was successful, and he immediately received invitations to repeat it in Providence, Salem, Lawrence, and other towns. Precarious as were his means of support at this time, he never parted with his independence, as the following characteristic letter will show. It is dated:
Boston, February 23, 1870.
Colonel John O'Mahony:
Dear Sir: I am sorry that your letter has remained unanswered until now. I was absent from Boston and did not receive it. Will you, in returning this check for ten pounds to the Ladies' Committee in Ireland, express my deep gratitude for their thoughtful kindness? Of course, I cannot accept it. There are many in Ireland—many who suffer from the loss of their bread-winners in the old cause—they want it; let them have it. It is enough—more than enough—for me to know that I have been remembered in Ireland, and that still, in the old land, the spirit of our cause and the energies of our people are living and acting. I remain, dear Colonel,
Very truly yours,
Less than two months later, we find him writing in this cheerful strain to his aunt, in Preston, England:
"Boston Pilot" Office,
Franklin Street, Boston, April 5, 1870.
My own dear Aunt: How happy I was made by seeing your letter. I am truly glad that you and Willy and Uncle are so well. I was thinking of you when I was in Liverpool. I dared not go to Preston. It is strange how I love Preston—I felt it then, and I feel it now.
I am a very fortunate fellow to pull clear through. I am likely to become a prosperous man in America. I write for the magazines and report for the Pilot, drill the Irish Legion, make speeches at public meetings, lecture for charities, etc., etc. This course in the old countries would soon make a fortune: and, after a time, here it will have the same offect; but, at present, all this must be done to establish a reputation. I just manage to live as a gentleman. I have paid my debts to the captains who brought me here. In a few years it will be my own fault if I do not make a name worth bearing.
And how are all my friends in Preston? . . . . I am glad you liked Mr. Bursley. He is a noble fellow. He knew who I was from the first day I went on the ship . . . . Send on your pictures, Aunt, dear, I'm eager to see you all again.
Tell me all about the Preston people whom I knew. I will order some cartes to-day. I don't like the style of the present ones—they will do for people I don't care about . . . . I am proud of Willy. He will be a fine fellow—a prosperous, able man, I know, whenever I see him again. Does Uncle James go to sea yet? It's time he gave up; he has lots of money made now. And do you sit down quietly and rest yourself? or do you still go on with the old, old toil? Now, Aunt, you must write me long, very long letters. A lady correspondent of your ability and taste is invaluable to a literary man. Now, don't laugh—I'm in earnest. Write often. I'll send you some papers. I lecture to-night in a city called Quincy, near Boston. I have four lectures this week. I inclose a ticket for one. I wish I could see you there. Goodby, dear Aunt, Uncle, and Willy. I am, always.
J. Boyle O'Reilly.
As he had given sufficient evidence of his literary skill and journalistic instincts, his steadfast friends, Mr. Collins and Dr. Joyce, addressed themselves to the editor and proprietor of the Boston Pilot, an old established newspaper devoted to the interests of Irish-American Catholics, of whom it had been the recognized organ for more than thirty years. Mr. Donahoe recognized the ability of the young man and gave him a temporary engagement as reporter and general writer on the Pilot. This was early in the spring of 1870.
The moment was propitious, occurring as it did at the time of the second Fenian invasion of Canada under the leadership of General John O'Neill. O'Neill had made a successful foray across the border, near Buffalo, in 1866, and had everything his own way with the Canadian militiamen, until the United States forces under General Grant, cutting off his supplies and reinforcements, compelled him to retreat. In June, 1870, he made his second attempt at the conquest of Canada by way of St. Albans, Vt. O'Reilly went with the invaders to the front as "war correspondent" of the Pilot.
Coincidently with the date of his first bulletin in that brief and inglorious campaign, in the Pilot of May 28, 1870, there appeared a little poem, written by him in prison and entitled "Pondering." It is interesting for its hopeful spirit, if not for its poetic worth.
Have I no future left to me?
Is there no struggling ray
From the sun of my life outshining
Down on my darksome way?
Will there no gleam of sunshine
Cast o'er my path its light?
Will there no star of hope arise
Out of this gloom of night?
Have I 'gainst Heaven's warnings
Sinfully, madly rushed?
Else why were my heart-strings severed?
Why was my love-light crushed?
Oh, I have hopes and yearnings-
Hopes that I know are vain;
And the knowledge robs Life of beauty,
And Death of its only pain.
On May 28, he wrote his first dispatch as a special correspondent from the "seat of war." On the 30th he telegraphed from St. Albans, Vt.: "I have just been arrested by the United States marshal. I shall not have a hearing until to-morrow."
His first dispatches and letters were terse summaries of the events which he had witnessed. On the following week appeared his full report, as follows:
Your reporter left Boston on Tuesday evening, 26th inst., en route for St. Albans, Vt., and having provided himself with divers morning papers had his imagination inflated to extreme tightness before his second cigar was finished. Each paper had distinct and detailed accounts of thousands of men and trains of war material; and so precise were they in their statements, that even the officers commanding were named. These statements were all false. There were no thousands of men moving on St . Albans, nor on any other point, as the sequel shows. The best way to give a correct idea of the numbers of the Fenian " armies," is simply to state what was seen by a man who was there.
At six o'clock on the morning of the 25th, I arrived in St. Albans. There were about sixty Fenians on the train—forty from Boston under command of Major Hugh McGuinness, and about twenty who were taken in at the various stations. When the train arrived at St. Albans these men passed quietly through the town, and proceeded to the front, beyond Franklin, which is seventeen miles beyond St. Albans. Along the road between St. Albans and Franklin were scattered groups of men, principally hurrying to the front, but some, even at that early stag,, turning their faces and steps homeward, and excusing their cowardice by tales of mismanagement and discontent. However, these dispirited ones grew fewer as we went on, the hurrying men seeming to lose their weariness as they neared the front. About ten o'clock we arrived in the village of Franklin, and found the solitary street filled with wagons and teams of every description, and a large crowd of men, composed principally of citizens, attracted by curiosity. For the first time, we saw the uniformed Fenians here in very considerable numbers. The uniform was a capital one for service, and, in mass, most attractive,—a green cavalry jacket, faced with yellow, army blue pantaloons, and a blue cap with green band.
General O'Neill commanded in person. He walked up and down the road conversing with his chief of staff. Gen. J. J. Donnelly, observing the occupation of the men, and now and then making some remark to aid a waverer in his choice of two rifles with perhaps equally bright barrels. Gen. O'Neill was dressed in a light gray suit, and wore a staff-sword and spurs. His horse, a small bay, stood by the roadside, held by a green-coated orderly. When informed of the arrival of the United States Marshal, he merely smiled and continued his walk. He said to your reporter that he meant to fight, and he would have a fight. Among the officers present was Major Daniel Murphy, of Bridgeport, Conn., in command of a very fine body of men. Major Murphy had his men formed up on the road, and minutely inspected them to see if every man's equipment was complete. He looked a fine, soldierly fellow, and throughout the whole day, and since then, no officer or man deserves higher notice than he for conspicuous bravery or clear-headed projects. Capt. Wm, Cronan, of Burlington, Vt., also commanded a splendid company, in perfect uniform and equipment. His men had asked to be given the front hi the advance on the enemy, and their request was granted. They were in line farther on the road, going through their manual and platoon drills, and showing by their motions that they were well disciplined soldiers. Another company, under command of Capt. J. J. Monahan, was still nearer the Canadian front. Col. Humphrey Sullivan, of Boston; Col. Brown, of Lawrence, Mass.; Major Chas. Carlton of Burlington, Vt.; Capt. John Fitzpatrick, of Bridgeport, Conn.; Capt. Carey of Fort Edward, and many others were also present. Of the above-named officers the name of Capt. John Fitzpatrick should be especially mentioned for personal bravery, shown in the course of the day.
General O'Neill told your reporter that he knew that the Canadians had taken up a position, and were prepared for him in force. He said he meant to draw their fire, and find their strength and position; and then he would know whether a project he entertained was feasible or not.
At eleven o'clock. Gen. George P. Foster, United States Marshal for Vermont, arrived at the encampment. The guard which the Fenians had posted had orders to stop all carriages and traffic on the road; and according to orders the Fenian sentinel told the marshal to "halt." Gen. Foster immediately told Gen. Donnelly that this must not continue, as they were breaking the laws of the United States. The guard was accordingly withdrawn, and the teams were allowed to pass. General Foster then formally ordered O'Neill to desist from his "unlawful proceeding." The order was coolly received by Gen. O'Nelll, who then, in a low tone, spoke a few words to Gen. Donnelly. Donnelly went forward and ordered the men to "fall in." In a few minutes the entire Fenian force was in column of fours, with fixed bayonets and shouldered rifles, ready for their general to give the word "Advance!"
General O'Neill, putting himself at the head of his troops, addressed them.
The line of road which the column had to march was narrow and hilly. The distance to the line was about a mile, but the Canadian front would not be visible until they had ascended the last hill, at the base of which ran a small brook. About eighteen rods on the American side of the brook was a post marking the boundary line. The troops marched steadily and well, but they certainly did not think that they would be engaged as soon as they were. Gen. Foster, the United States Marshal, who had driven over the line and visited the Canadian forces, now returned, meeting the Fenians on their advance. He told them as soon as they cleared the hill the Canadians would Are on them. Many teams were on the road, but at this news they disappeared very quickly. The Fenians were in good spirits, and when they heard the fight was so near, they flung down their knapsacks and took off their great coats to be ready for it. Up to this time everything was orderly and soldierly. The men kept their places, and the officers held them in strict command. Col. Brown, who had no definite command, shouldered a breech-loading rifle, and went forward with Cronan's skirmishers. Gen. O'Neill rode at the head of the column, which presented a fine appearance, with its steady line of bayonets and the green flag in the front.
As soon as the column had reached the brow of the hill overlooking the line, Capt. Cronan's and Capt. Gary's companies were sent forward by the road as skirmishers, with orders to deploy when they had reached the base of the hill where stood Alvah Richards's farm-house. This house is about fifty rods from the line. On the Canadian side of the line, for about five hundred yards, the ground is flat, and then rises abruptly into a steep, rocky hill, on which the Volunteers were strongly posted. From Richards's farm on the west side of the road, rose another abrupt hill covered with trees. On this side O'Neill had determined to take position, and, while his men were under cover, draw the fire of the enemy, and find their exact position. His object was to make a flank movement on the Canadian right, and advance on Cook's Corners, a village about two miles to the west.
Capt. Cronan's company advanced steadily to Richards's farm, and on passing it, dashed with a cheer along the road to the bridge. When the first files had crossed the line, and before the company could deploy, the Canadians opened a heavy fire on them. Almost at the first discharge, Private John Rowe, of Burlington, Vt., was shot through the head, and fell dead in the center of the road. The Fenian troops, without deploying, returned the fire for a short time, and then fell back in rear of Richards's house, where General Donnelly commanded a reserve of about fifty men. The Canadians then turned their fire on the troops, which were taking up positions on the hill. The men were filing over the exposed ground between the road and the hill, when the heaviest firing of the day was opened on them. Francis Carraher fell by the roadside, shot through the groin, and, in an instant after, Lieutenant Edward Hope went down in the field, and Mr. O'Brien fell dead, with a Canadian bullet through his heart. When the troops gained the hill, they got the order to advance to the front and open fire. They advanced, but before they had reached the position which General O'Neill wished them to occupy, they fell back again under the close, steady fire of the Canadians. The Fenians also kept up a steady fire, but all the energies of their officers could not get them to advance. Major Murphy, Col. Sullivan, and Capt. Fitzpatrick did all that brave men could do to inspire the men with confidence. It was evident then that the troops were too few to achieve anything. The men felt that they had no support to fall back upon, and that even if they drove the Canadians back, they were too weak to hold a position against any considerable force. Gen. O'Neill, who had been in their front under the hottest fire, cheering and rallying the men, then formed them up under cover and addressed them.
After some ineffective attempts by the officers to rally the men and lead them to the position on the hill which O'Neill wanted, the men fell back in rear of the hill.
This was virtually the end of the fighting. The Canadians still kept up a close fire on the hill, and the road leading to Alvah Bichards's house, where they knew that General Donnelly, with the reserve, was posted. The bullets of the volunteers swept every approach to the house, and Donnelly determined to hold it until night, and then evacuate.
The news of Gen. O'Neill's arrest was a crushing blow to Gen. Donnelly and Col. Brown. Donnelly was so much affected that he walked away from his men some fifty yards, and bowing his face in his hands cried bitterly for several minutes. He returned to his men, calm and collected, and told them he would hold the place until night.
At about half-past three, a flag of truce was observed coming from the Canadian lines, and Gen. Donnelly ordered his men at once to cease firing. The volunteers who carried the flag came down to the line, and General Donnelly went to meet them. At first they asked Donnelly if he did not want to take away the body of Rowe, which lay in the center of the road about ten rods on the Canadian side of the line. They proposed some conditions to Gen. Donnelly, which your reporter, who accompanied him, could not hear. Gen. Donnelly drew himself up, proudly, and said: "Sir, go back and say that on those conditions I will never treat with you." He then turned and walked back to the farm-house, and the Canadians returned to their lines, the body of Rowe remaining on the road where he had fallen.
The Fenian troops on the hill, under command of Maj. Murphy, fell back to the old encampment, where a reinforcement of about fifty men had arrived from New York. They held a council of war, when the majority of officers decided to go to Malone, N. Y., but before doing so they would move to the assistance of Gen. Donnelly.
At six o'clock the solitary field-piece which represented the "parks of artillery" of the Fenians, was brought into position on the hill overlooking Richards's farm. Col. McGuinness of Boston directed its operations. The piece was loaded with round shot, and three or four missiles were sent whizzing into the Canadian lines. This was done to draw the attention of the volunteers from the farm-house, and so enable Donnelly and his men to escape. Gen. Donnelly immediately took advantage of the ruse, and led his men, by the left, into the low ground, where, after a short distance, he would be under cover. The Canadians, however, saw the movement, and opened a tremendous fire on the retreating men. Maj. Charles Carleton, of Burlington, a brave and handsome young officer, was wounded, a bullet passing through his leg, but his men carried him off. Another man was shot badly in the foot. When nearly out of range, a bullet struck Gen. Donnelly above the hip, passing into his body. Some time afterward two gentlemen who were returning from the Canadian side in a carriage brought Gen. Donnelly to the Franklin House, where he now lies. The report of his death is incorrect. A physician, who saw him on Saturday afternoon, says he is progressing favorably.
In the evening the men deserted the encampment and strayed off toward St. Albans, utterly demoralized and disheartened.
On the next morning, when your reporter visited the encampment, not a vestige of the immense quantity of stores was left—,not even the empty boxes or broken cartridge tins remained. AH was gone. Ah, me! ah, me! all was "gobbled up"!
The citizens here all feel for the poor fellows who are thus left destitute in their towns. It is a universal theme of wonder that the men are so respectful and well-conducted. They may be seen in groups of from ten to a hundred, sitting on the side path or lying under the trees; and, if a question be asked them, they invariably answer it cheerfully and politely. A United States officer yesterday asked a Fenian officer how in the world they kept their men, disorganized as they were, in such splendid order, and the Fenian major only smiled sadly, and went over among his poor boys.
It is a grand truth, spoken of here by every citizen, and your reporter is very proud to write it, that not one outrage, of any sort whatever, has been committed by a Fenian, either in St. Albans or Malone.
When the "thousands" of Fenians who had been sent to Malone (by telegraph) had arrived there, they numbered about 400 or 500. This was the strength on the morning of the 27th, when the attack, or, rather, the attempt at an attack was made by the Fenians. For two days previously their camp had been pitched in the enemy's country, but on the evening of the 27th, when "General" Starr took command, he wisely recrossed the line to the safe side, fearing the proximity of a fight, and, like all the other "generals," I suppose not knowing what to do with the spreading wings of the army under his command, in case of a breach of the peace. Taking a mean from all the conflicting accounts, the troops under his command, on the morning of the 27th, numbered 450 men. Rumor in the Fenian camp had swelled the Canadian force to about 4000 men and three regiments of cavalry. Although the poor fellows believed this, and believed, also, that the Canadians had artillery, they were not disheartened. They were older and steadier soldiers than the men who had been engaged at Richards's farm, and they were eager for a fight and sanguine of results, even against superior numbers. They were in uniform, and armed with the breech loader. In passings, we may remark that this weapon is, perhaps, as good a service rifle as any in the world, and the cartridge supplied was of the best material.
About nine o'clock, a.m., the advance commenced. A strong skirmish line was thrown out, and the men acted in a steady, soldierly manner. The Canadian troops were posted strongly on elevated ground, with good shelter, and their skirmishers well advanced. There were fears among the Fenian ranks of the much talked of American guns, but, if they were there, they were silent. The skirmishers had not passed the line twenty rods when the Volunteers opened fire, which was steadily answered by the Fenians for a short time. Their main body had not reached the line when the Canadian troops were seen advancing. The Fenian skirmish line fell back in first-rate order. The Canadians then fired some heavy volleys, and made so rapid an advance that it was thought they meant to cross the line. This, however, they did not do. They followed the retiring Fenians to the line, sent some triumphant bullets whizzing after them, took three prisoners, wounded two men slightly, and fell back, to indulge in mutual admiration on account of their victory.
Your reporter is sorry to have to write it, but this is what the Fenian officers (not the men) call "the fight at Trout River."
As soon as the direful strife was over, "Generals" Starr, O'Leary, and several other generals (we use the word general as a mean—there might have been a colonel, and there probably was a field-marshal) ordered their carriages, which, like prudent soldiers, they had kept in readiness, in case of failure, and left the men to look after themselves, they starting for Malone. There they held a council of war—a favorite occupation of Fenian officers, it would seem. A great Bashaw of their organization, and, of course, a general, named Gleason, was here, holding a court at the Ferguson House. He vociferously expressed his "disgust" with affairs in general, and interlarded said expression with Munchausen assertions of what could be done, were things after his way of thinking, and especially of what he himself could do.
Along the road from Malone to Trout River the poor, disheartened fellows came straggling. Unlike the men at Richards's farm, they kept their rifles and equipments, and, notwithstanding the intense heat of the day, great numbers of them still carried their knapsacks and great coats. When they gathered in large groups they imitated their officers so far as to express disgust at existing generalities, and especially were they disgusted with the man of the Munchausen proclivities.
Your reporter drove out to Trout River, where the encampment had been formed, and a repetition of the scene at Hubbard's Corner was presented—an immense quantity of military stores, piled there awaiting the men who were not coming; hundreds of young men grouped around in utter disorder; very little noise or bustle for so large a gathering, and when the voices of the men were heard in passing through the camp, their tenor was an emphatic and stern condemnation of their officers. Many of the men, in describing the events of the day to your reporter, burst into tears at what they termed their disgrace, and said that they only wanted a man to lead them, and they would go anywhere with him. Judging from the military physique of the greater number, there can be no doubt that, with qualified officers, these men would prove that they did not merit the name they now feared—cowards. The officer in command, when Starr and O'Leary went away, was Maj. Lindsey, but his men declared that they had no confidence in his ability to lead them.
Sitting on a log by the roadside we saw a group of officers, among whom were Col. W. B. Smith, of Buffalo, and Maj. Robert Cullen, both, we believe, brave and accomplished soldiers. Their faith in the success of the movement was gone, as the men were hopelessly demoralized; Col. Smith had arrived that morning. He had started from Norfolk, Westchester County, for Trout River, on Tuesday, in command of 380 men from Buffalo, armed and equipped. His command formed an escort for a train of 130 wagons, loaded with arms, ammunition, and provisions. He had accompanied the wagons to within seven miles of Trout River camp. When the state of affairs existing there became known it was deemed best to send the wagons back to the places from which they came, and where they have been held in secret by friends of the Brotherhood. It was reported that the Government had seized six of the wagons, but the remainder had disappeared.
On the afternoon of the 37th a number of the demoralized Fenians were addressed by Surgepn Donnelly, of Pittsburgh, Pa. He urged them to march to the front again, and by a sudden and unexpected attack they might retrieve in part, at least, their former defeat. He said that he was not a soldier, but if they could not find one to lead them, he would lead them again across the lines, and would do all he could to guide them to success. About forty men fell into rank and followed him for some distance, but, rightly appreciating their insignificance, they melted away among the demoralized crowd again.On the 27th, and following day, men continued to arrive in Malone from various places. They met with a sorry reception from the mass of weary men who crowded the depot; but, as a rule, they expressed their disbelief in the statements of failure, and would go to the front and see for themselves; and go they did, and came back sadder and wiser men.
Immediately after Gen. O'Neill's arrest at St. Albans, O'Reilly had attempted to assume the command verbally delegated to him by the former, but the men were demoralized, and one officer, to whom he had issued a command, refused with an oath to obey. Another, who had seen real fighting, was so chagrined with the insubordination of his comrades, that he broke his sword, and so surrendered his brief commission. Among the trustworthy friends of O'Reilly in this wretched fiasco was Mr. (now Rev.) P. B. Murphy, who had with him attended an enthusiastic rally at the Sherman House in Boston, and had gone forward full of bright anticipations. He and Mr. Chas. E. Hurd, representing the Boston Journal, saw the ignominious end of the campaign, and the arrest of O'Reilly and Maj. McGuinness, both of whom were released after a detention of a day or two.
The Fenian leaders had been egregiously misled by lofty promises of support from various quarters. O'Neill was undoubtedly an honest man, but his followers, equally honest, were for the most part untrained and undisciplined raw recruits; some were so unacquainted with warfare that they did not know how to load their guns! They were brave enough, unskilled as they were, to have overcome the forces confronting them, had they been well handled and assured of reinforcement. The United States Government would not have been very sorry had they been able to carry out their scheme of invasion successfully; but, as it was, it interposed at the proper time and ended the tragical farce.
O'Reilly's correspondence from Canada was his first extended work on the Pilot. It created a marked impression both on account of the writer's revolutionary antecedents, and because of the frankness with which he had criticized the whole ill-judged and ill-managed undertaking. Still more frank and daring was his criticism of some of his countrymen in the matter of the Orange riots in New York a month later.
On the 12th of July, the Orangemen of that city held a picnic, and paraded the streets with insulting flags and music, to which they added, on entering the Irish quarter, delicate shouts of, "To hell with the Pope," "Croppies lie down," etc. The natural, if not justifiable, consequence ensued; and some three or four men were killed and several others wounded. It is almost impossible for an American to understand the bitter anger with which Irish Catholics resent these taunts from the party of Protestant ascendency, or the tragic memories of two hundred years of persecution which they evoke. O'Reilly was born on the banks of the Boyne, ill-fated scene of Irish disaster; he had suffered every insult, torture, brutality, that his enemies could inflict, as punishment for the crime of patriotism. If any man would have been justified in feeling the bitterness of party spirit to the uttermost, it would have been he.
Instead of extenuating or defending the action of those Irish Catholics, who had resented the insults of the Orangemen, he looked upon the whole affair with the eyes of a patriot, ashamed of the disgrace which his countrymen of either class had brought upon their name. In the Pilot of July 23, he wrote this strong and scathing rebuke:
Events have at intervals occurred in the history of this country which have justly called up a blush of shame on the faces of patriotic Irishmen; but we doubt if they ever have received so great a reason for deep humiliation as during the past week. On the 12th of July the "American Protestant Association,"—in other words, the Orange Lodges of New York, had advertised their intention of celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. Accordingly on that morning, with colors flying and bands playing, they paraded to the number of 3000, and marched to the scene of their celebration, Elm Park. On the line of march they lost no opportunity of goading to intensity the bitter feelings of their Catholic fellow-countrymen whom they passed. This resulted in a general banding of the laborers of the vicinity, who set upon the Orangemen with sticks and stones, which were answered by them with pistol bullets. A terrible melée was the consequence, in which four lives were lost, and numbers endangered.
Is not this cause for deep humiliation? Earnest men have labored for years to remove that bitter old taunt of our enemies—"You cannot unite." Patient workers have tried to teach the world, and even ourselves, that this reproach was not the truth. This is the reward of their labor. Our own people, in a strange land, have insultingly turned on their benefactors and flung their labor in their faces. Oh, what a national degradation is this! We talk of patriotism and independence! We prate and boast of our "national will"! What evidence is this? What are we to-day in the eyes of Americans? Aliens from a petty island in the Atlantic, boasting of our patriotism and fraternity, and showing at the same moment the deadly hatred that rankles against our brethren and fellow-countrymen. Why must we carry, wherever we go, those accursed and contemptible island feuds? Shall we never be shamed into the knowledge of the brazen impudence of allowing our national hatreds to disturb the peace and the safety of the respectable citizens of this country? Must the day come when the degrading truth cannot be muffled up, that the murderous animosity of Irish partyism has become a public nuisance in almost every corner of the world? We cannot dwell on this subject. We cannot, and we care not to analyze this mountain of disgrace, to find out to which party the blame is attached. Both parties are to be blamed and condemned; for both have joined in making the name of Irishmen a scoff and a byword this day in America.
Thus, almost his first word as a journalist was one of rebuke to the wretched spirit of faction which has ever been the bane, and shame, and ruin of Ireland. So also, the last words that he ever penned for the Pilot, after twenty years of untiring service as the guide and friend and counselor of his people, were in condemnation of the foolish, futile, dangerous dissensions among men who, enlisted in the service of their country, would forget the enemy before them, to turn their arms against one another.
A year after the Orange demonstration of 1870, the same organization again paraded in New York, and again another disgraceful riot ensued. In the Pilot of July 29, 1871, O'Reilly wrote these wise and temperate words concerning—"The Orange Parade—and Other Parades."
After reviewing the comments of the press on the riots the article continues:
It may appear very strange to some of us that all men do not see at once that the Orangemen have no right to parade. They cannot be citizens of this country so long as they remain citizens of England, to which their oath as Orangemen binds them. But the Irish people here could talk with more weight on this subject if they could show that more than a tithe of their own number evinced such an interest in the welfare of the Commonwealth a§ to secure the power of a vote. Such a time as this is too serious for flattery. It may be outside the track of Irish-American journals to say harsh things to their readers, or venture to attack old beliefs. But there are things to be said on this question that must be said some time; and it is better that a friendly hand should pull down our old rookeries than that an enemy's torch should be applied to them. Plain talk is like spring medicine—unpalatable, but necessary.
If the Orangemen determine to parade, they have a right to parade; that is, they have as much right to parade with orange scarfs and banners, as a Fenian regiment has with green scarfs and sunbursts. But, it may be that neither party has a right to parade; that they have simply been tolerated by the authorities. If it be found that such toleration is detrimental to public security, we think that every reflecting Irish-American citizen will at once say that both processions should be proscribed. The very ablest defenders of the mob say that they do not quarrel with the Orangemen simply because they are Protestants. What do they quarrel with them for? They have no right to quarrel with them for their colors, for the Fenian Legion of St. Patrick, organized with a view to make war on England, flaunts the green flag of Ireland in the faces of thousands of Englishmen in New York City. Really, we are almost forced to the conclusion that the whole ground of objection consists in the fact that the Orangemen play, "Croppies Lie Down." We admit that this is, and should be considered, an insulting tune by the Irish people; and we should deeply regret to see them lose their detestation of it. But, let us ask, is it sufficient cause to warrant a violation of the law and a sacrifice of life?
We have written this article with a most oppressive feeling of its necessity. Thousands of people who are too intelligent to put their individual opinions against the decree of the State of New York, still allow their sympathy to run away with them, and thus leave it in the power of their enemies to say that they are in all things in unison with the New York mob. This is a sad mistake. Certain it is that the Orange procession is not a pleasant sight to any Irish Catholic, however unprejudiced; but it is just as certain that the Irish Catholics of this country, as a body, condemn all breach of the law in attacking an Orange procession, just as honestly as they would condemn a riot of any other criminal nature.There are two ways of getting rid of this apple of discord. The first is, by an agreement between the general Irish population and the Orangemen foregoing all right to parade, and expressing their determination never to hold processions for Irish political objects alone. This we may rest assured, will not be easily agreed to. The second one is the best, and the one that must come in the end, when America, tired out and indignant with her squabbling population, puts her foot down with a will and tells them all—Germans, French, Irish, Orange—"You have had enough now. There is only one flag to be raised in future in this country and that flag is the Stars and Stripes."
Such bold and frank expressions elicited, as might have been expected, comments of approbation as well as of censure. The unpartisan press commended the honesty and courage of the young journalist. Some of his countrymen criticized his sharp rebuke of hot-headed Irishmen, who had allowed their natural indignation against the oppressors of their native country to make them forget their duty to the land of their adoption. To one such critic he replied as follows, defending the right of an honest man to change his opinion, or, as he expressed it, "It is better to be Right than Stubborn."
On our third page will be found a letter signed "Corcoran," purporting to be an expression of Fenian dissatisfaction with our editorial on the New York riot. When we wrote that editorial we were fully aware that it would not be acceptable to certain people in the community. But we knew that therein we expressed the opinions of the calm, rational, and respectable Irish Catholics of America. Least of all did we expect dissatisfaction from the Fenians, whose temperate action in New York, during the excitement immediately preceding the riot, won for them the well-merited praise of every class in the community.
We must, as a friend, remind the writer of this letter that his assertion that we "sneer at the Sunburst" is extremely unjust—and he knows it. Boasting is not our trade, but none of them all loves the Sunburst better than we do. The writer also says, "The Pilot has entirely changed its tone on Fenianism, and, from being friendly, adopted directly the opposite course."The Pilot has done no such thing. The Pilot is as true a friend to all organizations aiming at Ireland's good, now, as it ever has been, and ever shall be. Still, we must reserve our right to criticise unfavorably as well as the opposite. It is said that "there has been no change in the circumstances of Ireland, nor in the principles or policy of the Fenian Brotherhood," but that all the change has been in ourselves. This is incorrect. There has been a very great change in the circumstances of Ireland since the Fenian Brotherhood was a great organization, and, whether in its policy or not, there has been a vast change in the organization. On the column next to that in which is "Corcoran's" letter, is something that tells of a change in Ireland, and something well worthy of every intelligent Irishman's consideration. We don't believe in that ignorant old prejudice that sneers at every man who changes his opinions. There is much of Ireland's bane in the habit. The man who has the courage to honestly change his opinions is the best man. If convinced that we were pursuing a wrong course, or that a better one was open, we would change every day in the year. The world is all change. Every thinker is a changer—every discovery is a change. Only an ignorant or thoughtless person can believe that a man who changes is a bad man; such a belief would sink the world in stagnation in a day. Our friends may rest assured that, with God's assistance, we shall never change from the Eight or turn our back on the Truth: but in all debatable questions our motto is—" It is better to be Right than Stubborn."
- O'Neill was arrested by the United States Marshal near the house of Farmer Richards. He turned the command over to O'Reilly, who was also in turn arrested. Both were released after a brief detention.