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