An Andover author’s newest book about the little-known Irish invasion of Canada could be a delightfully informative part of any corned beef and cabbage dinner or parade plans this St. Patrick’s Day.
Christopher Klein, an author and freelance writer who specializes in sports, travel and history and is a frequent contributor to History.com, has written “When the Irish Invaded Canada: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom.”
The book is published by Doubleday and came out Tuesday.
“The timing is no accident,” Klein said.
The book tells the outlandish, untold story of the Irish American revolutionaries who fought passionately on both sides of the Civil War for the sake of an independent Ireland.
“They undertook one of the most fantastical missions in military history — to seize the British province of Canada and to hold it hostage until the independence of Ireland was secured,” Klein said.
A self-described history buff who loved learning history as a kid, he still loves to do the digging — research — for his books. The fact that the story of these men has been largely overlooked was part of the intrigue for Klein, and he was determined to bring them back to life.
The invasions were known as the Fenian raids and began in 1866. Ireland was Britain’s unwilling colony for 700 years back then. These Irish freedom fighters set off to Canada to fight for independence of their beloved homeland. This band of Irish immigrants had fled to America after the potato famine, fought in the Civil War, and then would hold the British province of Canada hostage and ransom it for Ireland’s independence.
It may sound like a bunch of blarney, Klein said, but the self-proclaimed Fenian Brotherhood attacked Canada not just once, but five times, between 1866 and 1871.
There are even local ties to the story, as Lawrence’s first Irish American mayor, John Breen, is believed to have traveled to Ireland to participate in a possible revolution, Klein said, adding that some of the most influential members of the Fenian Brotherhood came from the mill cities of Massachusetts.
“This untold tale of a band of fiercely patriotic Irish Americans and their chapter in Ireland’s centuries-long fight for independence is inspiring, but also kind of funny,” Klein said. “Dozens of men from Lawrence joined in the Fenian Raids, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were Irishmen in Andover who did the same.”
Klein is the author of three books, including “Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America’s First Sports Hero.” He has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Harvard Magazine, Smithsonian.com and AmericanHeritage.com.
Klein is married and the father of two children.
If you go
What: Book talk and signing
When: Monday, March 18, 7 p.m.
Where: Memorial Hall Library, 2 N. Main St., Andover
What: Book launch party
When: Sunday, March 31, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Oak & Iron Brewing Co., 18 Red Spring Road, Andover
What: Book talk and signing
When: Monday, May 6, 9:30 a.m.
Where: Beverly Public Library, 32 Essex St.