Fenian Uniforms

From the Crimean War to the Wars in the Gulf. The death of global empires and the rise of a global economy.

Moderator: the_power

Fenian Uniforms

Postby euryalus on Sat Feb 14, 2009 7:52 pm

I have been undertaking some research into the role of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry in Ireland, and, in considering the Fenian period, it struck me how little I actually knew about the Fenian Risings of 1867 (apart from all the political aspects, which I “did” �part of my A-Levels). I assume that this period has not yet attracted the attention of living history groups, although the 1860s would presumably be an interesting decade to present to the public, as it would provide ample scope for Victorian military enthusiasts, as well as any “Fen�s”. In �s context, I have just found this intriguing report from The Times, dated 28 November 1866:

“FENIAN �FORMS - Yesterday the Liverpool detectives seized a large box recently arrived from America which, on exanimation, was found to contain a very handsome Fenian officer’s uniform�to wit, a rich tunic of green cloth elaborately braided and with gold lace on the collars, a dress waistcoat with harp buttons, and a cap of green silk with the Irish harp in gold on the front. The box also contained three revolvers, a dagger, a leathern belt and cartridge box, and a book of official regulations”.

I would �gine that this would have been a typical 1860s-style uniform, with a short jacket and low shako resembling those worn by American soldiers and English “volunteer” co� – in eff� a gree�ersion of the familiar American Civil War style uniforms (?) As I understand it, the rank-and-file Fenians did not wear uniforms of any kind, although former Union Army uniforms are said to have been worn by some of the American Fenians who tried to invade Canada in 1866.
User avatar
euryalus
Full Name: Stanley C.Jenkins
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:08 pm
Location: Oxfordshire
Karma: 9

Re: Fenian Uniforms

Postby bannerman on Sun Feb 15, 2009 12:45 pm

Hello euryalus,
I have some information on the fenian rising of 1867 in Clare if youd be interested, Volume Two of The Green Flag by Robert Kee also has some good information. The period has been covered by some living history groups in the united states they are especialy interested in the Fenian Invasion of Canada - I Think they have some videos on youtube.
Im currently working on a fenian uniform from the invasion of canada, theres an origional one in the soldiers and chiefs exhibition in Collins barracks Dublin and Garry O Brien in Cork has already reproduced the uniform buttons. Get the last edition of History Ireland, its a special on the fenians and had a section on the uniform worn in Canada
With regards to uniform i think its like the United Irishmen and Irish Volunteers/!.R.A. fancy military uniforms were made but were seldom worn and then usually only by the officers. The Fenians who invaded Canada were the exception it seems that many of the rank and file were properly uniformed.
With regards to the fenian uprising of 1867, the only report Ive seen of a fenian in uniform was the leader of the group that attacked the Irish Constabulary Barracks at Killmallock, who was dressed in a green uniform and hat. The fenians - properly known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood founded in 1858 were a secret society and would have worn civilian clothes in the uprising. A fenian flag captured at the "Battle of Tallaght" in 1867was based on the U.S. flag. With 32 gold stars in the canton of a green field and the rest of the field had white stripes. Another flag captured from the Fenians had 32 stars on a green field with the slogan, "Remember Emmett" beneath. The Fenians who invaded Canada carried a green flag with a gold harp surmounted by the letters I.R.A., this was the first time the term Irish Republican Army was used. The letters I.R.A. were also on the buttons of the uniform used for the invasion - but I have no references to the Fenians using the title I.R.A. in Ireland itself.
The only other references i have to Fenian articles of uniform were captured from The Irish National Invincibles. A breakaway Irish republican organiseation from the Fenians / I.R.B. who comitted the Pheonix park murders in the 1880s when arrested one of the Invinvcibles had a brass buckle engraved with a harp and the script "God Save Ireland"

Did you know that the Fenians bombed the speakers chamber of the house of commoms in 1882? And that they were the first to bomb the London train system - however i dont believe that any civilians were killed in fenina bombing attacks - with the exception of The Clerkenwell explosion which was not a bombing attack per se but a plan to blow up a wall as part of a prison escape.

Also interesting is the number of protestant fenians. For example the belfast circle of the I.R.B. did not allow catholics for a period because they were afraid that they would give up the organiseations secrets in confession.

When I get my fenian uniform and kit together id be happy to go th Britain and re-enact with Victorian troops if you know any? I went to Military Oddesy in 2002 and 2003 in Irish Volunteer and Black and Tan kit and generaly got a good response.

Padraig
http://www.warofindependence.net/

"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
Jim Larkin 1913
User avatar
bannerman
Active Newbie
Full Name: Padraig O Ruairc
 
Posts: 248
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2008 12:00 am
Location: Clare - An Clar
Karma: 16

Re: Fenian Uniforms

Postby euryalus on Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:11 pm

Hello Padraig,

Thank you, once again, for a very full reply. Yes, I envisaged that the uniform described in The Times must have been a hand-made specimen destined for an officer (who must have been quite well off). The Liverpool address may have been significant in view of the abortive Fenian attempt to capture Chester, which was foiled because railway officials in Liverpool and Birkenhead reported that about 1,500 Liverpudlians were heading towards Chester on one-way tickets, which seemed highly suspicious.

The sequence of events at Chester must have been very similar to those at Tallaght, when the authorities received reports that large bodies of armed men were heading towards that locality (which must have been a designated as an assembly point for the Dublin contingents of the Fenian army). The 52nd (Oxfordshire) Light Infantry were sent from Aldershot to Dublin on 29th November 1866, and they were involved in the Tallaght episode when an “Auxiliary Force” �four officers and 150 men of the 52nd under the command of Major the Hon E.G.Curzon were marched towards Tallaght to intercept the Fenians – al�ugh in the event the local policemen had already dispersed them after an exchange of fire.

It is surprising who quickly the Fenians became dispirited at Chester and Tallaght (and indeed elsewhere), which suggests that they had been confident that the soldiers would join them – the �d, for example, was probably about 60 per cent Irish in 1867.

I think the best scope for a re-enactment would be provided by the attempted invasion of Canada, which would give scope for American Civil War and Victorian army living history groups to participate in the same event (the red, the blue and the green?)
User avatar
euryalus
Full Name: Stanley C.Jenkins
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:08 pm
Location: Oxfordshire
Karma: 9

Re: Fenian Uniforms

Postby euryalus on Mon Feb 23, 2009 2:04 pm

The later period of Fenian acivity that took place during the 1880s, sometimes known as "The Dynamite War", was of course significant in that it led to the formation of the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police, which was, for many years, run by "Melville of the Yard" - a Kerryman. William Melville (1850-1918) later became the first chief of the British Secret Service and, as such, he can presumably be regarded as the founder of MI5?
User avatar
euryalus
Full Name: Stanley C.Jenkins
 
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:08 pm
Location: Oxfordshire
Karma: 9


Return to 20th Century

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron