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War on the Canal (Irish workers), 1834

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information



The Williamsport Banner, of Saturday, gives the following particulars of the affray, among the workmen on the Canal, noticed in our last:

If we learn aright, there are two national parties among them, composed respectively of those from the North and those from the South of Ireland. The former are designated the Fardouns and Longfords; the latter, Corkonians. Their antipathies are, we understand, of ancient origin, probably growing out of the measure of the union with the British Crown. Be this as it may, these parties have assumed a hostile attitude on the Canal.—

The first demonstration by numbers and arms was made early on Monday morning last, about five or six miles below this place, in which the Fardouns, if we have been correctly informed, were the attacking party, The forces consisted, as accounts variously state, from one hundred to two hundred men, some of whom were armed with fire arms. The onset was fierce, and the first accounts received, much exaggerated of course, excited great alarm among the friends of the work and the citizens generally. The party attacked were engaged on the work at the time the assault was made, having no warning of the approach of the enemy till the latter was upon them. They were routed and dispersed, four or five were badly bruised and wounded, one man escaped by swimming the river, though unusually high and rapid, to the opposite shore. The victorious party was left in possession of the field. A company of mounted citizens, in aid of the civil authority, repaired to the scene of action, and apprehended about fifty persons supposed to be engaged in the affray. They were brought to this place, examined by C. Hesletine, Esq. and thirty-five of them regularly committed. These were conducted to prison, in Hagerstown, on the following day, under guard of the two Hagerstown volunteer companies Captains, Artz and Robertson, upon whom a requisition had been made early on Monday, and who instantly and gallantly obeyed the call and marched to this place to render such service as should be required.

The cause of the above battle was a beating received by one man, a Fardoun, on the Thursday previous, from some of the opposing party, on the section attacked. This individual, named John Irons, has since died of the wounds received, and an inquest been held over the body — the verdict, “he came to his death from blows received on several parts of his body and head, from persons unknown.”

No injury was done to the work, with the exception of the partial destruction of one or two shantees. Nor was there any other cause, than the one here given, of the disturbance.        

Since the foregoing event, great commotion has exited among the hands. Very little work has been done, and a state of alarm and warlike preparation has taken its place. On Thursday last, we are informed, a party of Corkonians committed excesses along the line above this place.- Yesterday morning a small party were seen approaching this place from above, and were met on the Aqueduct and driven back by an opposing party of their countrymen in the town. In this affray one man-was very seriously beaten and wounded. The citizens of the town. with commendable alacrity, soon put themselves in military order, under arms for the protection of the peace of the place, and remained under arms for the balance of the day, and the greater part of the night.

This scene was soon followed by another which resulted in a disastrous battle and several deaths. A party of Fardouns or Longfords, consisting of about three hundred men, headed by intrepid leaders, were announced as approaching from below. Their design they stated to be, to pass up the line of the Canal to the upper dam, for the purpose of exhibiting their strength, and not to commit a breach of the peace unless attacked. They were armed in part with guns, but principally with helves, clubs etc. They passed quietly over the Aqueduct, and on their way, as we learn, three or four hundred more of the same party fell into their ranks. At the upper dam in a field on the other side of Middlekauff’s they met the enemy in battle array, drawn up on the top of a hill, about three hundred in number and armed, in part, with military weapons. The information we have is it -as one that the attack or at least the challenge to the combat, was made by the latter party. Volleys of shot were exchanged; some men were seen to fall and the party above were seen to fall back and disperse before the superior forces of their enemy. A pursuit ensured through the woods where frequent firing was heard and no doubt lives were taken. Persons who traversed the field after the battle was over observed five men in the agonies of death, who had been shot through the head, several dead bodies were seen in the woods and a number wounded in every direction. Those who observed the battle described it as one of great rage most deadly violence. All the dead and wounded are reported to have been of the Corkonians.

Postscript. Since writing the above a principal leader of one of the parties has been arrested for examination. The volunteer companies have arrived from Hagers-town, commanded by Col. Wm. H. Fitzhugh, who is also Sheriff of the county and are now in readiness to act in aid of the civil authority. An express has been despatched to the seat of government for a sufficient regular force to be sent on and stationed here or at other suitable points along the line of the Canal, to preserve order among the laborers, and for purposes of general protection.

On Monday a meeting was held at Williamsport, for the purpose of adjusting the difficulties between the contending parties which resulted in a treaty of peace. We have not room for it this week.

On Tuesday intelligence was received that a force of several hundred men, Corkonians, had passed Harpers’-Ferry on their way up the Canal, to assist their friends at Middlekauff’s dam—they were met at Hollman’s dam, and made acquainted with the terms of the treaty, whereupon they gave up their arms, and returned to their work.

Peace and quiet appears to be restored.


Hagerstown Mail

Public domain

The term Fardouns is usually spelled Fardowns, and is used to denote the Ulstermen or men from the North of Ireland. The men of Cork in the south of Ireland differed in religion and a strong sense of localism.

There were reports of altercations among the Irish in the construction of other canals, like the Erie and the Wabash and Erie.

Joseph Hollman had the contract to build Dam 4. Mike High in his C&O Canal Companion notes that the Middlekauff Dam was the dam for the Middlekauff Mill, also known as Colton's or Charles Mill.


Collection Location:

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (Md.); Washington County (Md.), History

Maryland, 1830-1940

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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