Thursday, 11 February 2016

11‭ ‬February‭ ‬1867:‭ ‬The abortive Fenian Raid on Chester Castle on this day.‭ ‬An audacious plan had been put together by the Fenian Leadership to seize the arsenal at Chester Castle in England.‭  ‬The plotters would then bring the considerable stock of weapons and ammunition held there to Ireland where they would be distributed to the volunteers in order to overthrow British rule.‭ ‬So much for the plan‭ ‬-‭ ‬but the night before it was to be out into operation the whole scheme was betrayed to the local police by an informer from within the Movement.‭ ‬It had been betrayed by John Carr,‭ ‬alias Corydon who was a paid informer.‭ ‬The cache of rifles had been removed to the castle and the garrison quickly reinforced by another‭ ‬70‭ ‬regular soldiers from Manchester.‭

Despite efforts to turn their men back,‭ ‬an estimated‭ ‬1,300‭ ‬Fenians reached Chester,‭ ‬in small parties from Manchester,‭ ‬Preston,‭ ‬Halifax,‭ ‬Leeds and elsewhere.‭ ‬Mostly,‭ ‬they discarded what few weapons they had and melted away.‭ ‬The next day,‭ ‬with nothing now happening,‭ ‬a further‭ ‬500‭ ‬household troops arrived by train from London in time for a tumultuous reception and breakfast at Chester hotels.‭

The man who was the mastermind of the projected operation was John McCafferty,‭ ‬US Citizen and an ex Irish American soldier who had served in the Confederate Army in the American Civil War.‭ ‬Once he realised that his cover had been blown he effected a quick escape with the intention of making it back to Dublin.‭ ‬His accomplice was‭ ‬John Flood and as a result of the hunt now on for them they decided to return to Ireland by collier and not a passage steamer which were all being watched.‭ ‬The ship they returned home on was called the‭ ‬New Draper.

However,‭ ‬when the‭ ‬New Draper arrived at Dublin on the‭ ‬23rd February‭ ‬1867,‭ ‬the harbour was being watched.‭ ‬The two Fenians were to be put ashore from the vessel in an oyster boat,‭ ‬but were spotted by policemen,‭ ‬and their vessel was pursued in a chase across the river Liffey involving a ferry,‭ ‬a canal boat and a collier and the men were arrested.‭ ‬Ultimately they were tried for‭ ‘‬High Treason‭’ ‬and McCafferty was sentenced to life imprisonment,‭  ‬but he was released under Amnesty in‭ ‬1871.‭ ‬He returned to the US where he kept up the Fenian Campaign against Britain.‭ ‬He went back to Ireland in the‭ ‬1870‭’‬s and became involved in Mayo bye election of‭ ‬1874.‭ ‬After a further period of revolutionary activity when he became involved with the Invincibles he went back to America and disappeared.‭

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