Battle of Trout River

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Battle of Trout River
Part of the Fenian Raids
Date 27 May 1870
Location Huntingdon, Quebec

Canadian victory;

Fenian Brotherhood Canada
Commanders and leaders
John O'Neill
Owen Starr
Colonel Bagot
Unknown Three units of Canadian Infantry

The Battle of Trout River was a military conflict that occurred on 27 May 1870. It was a part of the Fenian raids. This battle occurred outside of Huntingdon, Quebec near the international border about 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Malone, New York. The location of this battle should not be confused with Trout River in the Northwest Territories.

Before the battle[edit]

The Fenians, an extremist group of Irish Republicans, were under the command of General John O'Neill and General Owen Starr, and the Canadians were under Col. George Bagot of the British 69th Regiment of Foot.[1][2][3] The day before, the Fenians had crossed the border to build several positions, which were apparently well chosen and built. However, due to lack of reinforcements, they crossed back onto American soil. At 7:00 in the morning of May 27, Starr initiated the conflict after receiving more troops, by crossing the Trout River and establishing a position on "the right and left roads, with his extreme right resting on the Trout River." [4] His force rested behind a post and rail fence which he added to the existing works. To this was added a very reliable route for retreat.

Canadian troops advance[edit]

Three units of Canadian infantry were ordered to march from Huntingdon Village where they were stationed. These three units were the 69th Regiment, the 50th Battalion and the Montreal Garrison Artillery.[1] The entire force marched along the road towards Holbrook's Corners in order to meet the Fenians. At Hendersonville, part of the Montreal Garrison Artillery was sent to flank the Fenian positions. The rest of the force proceeded towards a frontal engagement.[1]

Engagement at Holbrook's Corners[edit]

The 50th Battalion formed an advance guard for the Canadian forces and advanced within 300 yards of the Fenians when they deployed to assault. The Fenian advance guard had a very strong position which they held for several minutes. The British and Canadian troops advanced out of the woods by the river, firing as they moved. Said one observer, "It was not an intermittent fire, but one continuous fusillade".[5] Starr told his own men to fire for 10 minutes. They held the advance for several minutes until Canadian forces moved to flank the Fenian position. At this, Starr formed up and retreated in order to the United States border where they crossed.[6] The Fenians denied they were defeated in any way and had simply redeployed. At this time it is also mentioned that up to 1,000 Fenians were in New York and more were expected.[4]


Shortly after his return to the United States, O'Neill was placed under arrest by George P. Foster, United States Marshal for Vermont and a former Union Army general, and charged with violating neutrality laws.[2]

General Starr, from Louisville, Kentucky disappeared in the immediate aftermath of the skirmish, was eventually located and tried, and served time in prison in Auburn, New York.[7] Starr had also been involved in the Battle of Ridgeway.


  1. ^ a b c Canadian Genealogy Resources, "Fenians Gather on the Huntingdon Border", extract from Troublous times in Canada; a history of the Fenian raids of 1866 and 1870 by John Alexander MacDonald, published in 1910.
  2. ^ a b The Fenians at Trout River, South Australia Register, July 29, 1870
  3. ^ Major Smyth, Records of the Sixty-Ninth, or, South Lincolnshire regiment (1870). p. 21
  4. ^ a b The Sydney Mail (Australia), July 23, 1870
  5. ^ Robert Sellar, editor of the Huntingdon Gleaner, quoted in Robert Hill (1999), Voice of the Vanishing Minority: Robert Sellar and the Huntingdon Gleaner, McGill-Queen's Press, p. 67
  6. ^ Villanova University,
  7. ^ "The Condemned Fenians at Auburn Prison". Daily Alta California. 28 July 1870. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 

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