In 1858 he received a commission in the 69th Regiment, which he joined at the depot at Fermoy, and after two years he was sent to Madras. The regiment returned to England in 1864. In 1867 he visited Canada for the first time, and went back there again after a brief visit to Ireland, with a mission from Colonel Wolseley to find out the true state of feeling in the Red River settlement. In October, 1870, he was intrusted with a fresh mission to report on the need of troops, the fur trade, the Indians etc., in Saskatchewan, following the course of the Saskatchewan River from Carlton to the Rocky Mountains. At the close of 1875 he joined the staff of the War Office, and in 1877 he married Elizabeth Thompson, the famous military painter. He was denied some promotions due to the fact that he was a Catholic, but he took part in campaigns in Egypt and South Africa. After retirement he returned to Ireland. He was a frequent lecturer both in Dublin and the provinces on historical, social, and economic questions. He was a member of the senate of the National University of Ireland, and a commissioner of the Board of National Education.