By Cassie MacDonell
Local Journalism Initiative
On Friday, descendants and community members gathered at the Fenian Raids Memorial in Frelighsburg to commemorate the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Eccles Hill. The event paid tribute to the efforts of Canadian home guards and volunteers who, in 1870, drove away the Irish-American revolutionaries known as the Fenian Brotherhood.
“For people living along the border in Missisquoi county, the Fenian raids were a shock, and they disrupted the peaceful communities like Saint-Armand, Frelighsburg, Bedford, and Stanbridge East,” said Heather Darch, on behalf of the Missisquoi Historical Society, which organized the commemoration ceremony. The event was originally scheduled for May 2020 to remember the battle’s 150th anniversary, but was moved to 2022 due to the pandemic.
The Fenian Brotherhood’s mission was to invade Canada, a takeover which they believed could act as a bargaining chip to free the Republic of Ireland from England’s reign. Darch explained that The Battle of Eccles Hill is not just an important part of Eastern Township history, but also a significant battle in Canadian history. “The Fenian Raids were Canada’s first battle. It was the first we fought with rifled weapons. The first using the telegraph to communicate. The first with steam power. The first battle in parliamentary democracy. The first with newspaper reports and images being distributed widely. And the first where public opinion made a difference,” said Darch.
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