The Catalpa Escape

Among the Irish expatriates who emigrated to the United States was John Devoy, the man who recruited John Boyle O’Reilly into the Fenian movement in Dublin. Pardoned after serving five years of a15-yearsentence, the 29-year-old Devoy traveled to the United Statesin 1871and became a reporter with the New York Herald, where he continued to champion Fenian causes. In July 1874, a Clan na Gael convention in Baltimore named Devoy to oversee the rescue of the prisoners in Australia.

Fund-raising was still unfinished in February 1875, when he traveled to New Bedford in search of a ship and crew. Devoy carried an introduction from John Boyle O’Reilly, a former inmate at Fremantle who had escaped by stowing away on a whaling ship in 1869, and contacted former whaler Henry Hathaway. Hathaway then introduced Devoy to John Richardson, a whaling agent and Fenian sympathizer who nominated hisson-in-law,George S. Anthony, to command the rescue vessel. Devoy explained the rescue plan. Under the guise of a whaling voyage, Anthony merely would have to sail to a given point off the coast of Western Australia on a certain date, take on several passengers, then make a beeline back to the United States. He would be well compensated.Anthony relished the chance to return to the sea, but it would mean leaving behind his wife of less than a year, his infant daughter and his invalid mother–not to mention the risk of capture and imprisonment by the British. To aggravate matters, the Irishmen had only given him24 hours to make his decision. That night Anthony weighed the risks and decided to accept the command.

Within days of his decision, Anthony and his father-in-law began to scour the wharfs of Boston for a ship.