Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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O'NEILL, John, soldier, born in County Cavan, Ireland, in 1834: died in Omaha, Nebraska, 7 January, 1878. He emigrated to the United States in his youth, served three years in the National army during the civil war, and, resigning in 1864, established a pension agency in Nashville, Tennessee, with branch offices in other cities. In 1866 he was appointed by his Irish compatriots to command the Fenian forces that invaded Canada. On 1 January he set out with 1,500 men, crossed the Niagara river at Buffalo in canal-boats, and took possession of Fort Erie. A skirmish ensued the next day, but General Grant, with a considerable force of United States troops, having arrived in Buffalo and issued orders that no additional Fenians be permitted to cross the river, O'Neill's party was left without ammunition or supplies, and by his order left the encampment and retreated to the American shore. Seven hundred Fenians were intercepted and arrested by the United States gun-boat " Michigan," and the remainder were disbanded and ordered to their respective homes. In September of the same year O'Neill was a delegate to the Fenian congress, and was elected inspector-general of the Fenian forces. After his second invasion of Canada in 1870 he was imprisoned for several months. He subsequently engaged in lecturing and in organizing a movement for the colonization of his countrymen in Nebraska.
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