The St. Albans raiders in the Montreal Jail. Their leader, Bennett Young, is on the right. 1864
St. Albans, Vermont, far removed from the battlefields of the war, became a target of a Confederate raid late in the Civil War. St. Albans lies 15 miles south of the Canadian border.
For days prior to the raid, groups of 2 to 3 men slipped across the border, headed for the small farming community and checked into the local hotel. The group’s size eventually grew to 21. Their leader gave his name as Bennett Young and explained that they had come from Canada on a hunting expedition. Actually, all the men were Confederate soldiers previously captured by Union troops and had escaped to Canada. They were on a mission to rob the village banks for cash desperately needed by the Confederate government. They also hoped that the raid would divert Union forces away from the southern battlefields to protecting the Canadian border.
At 3:00 PM on October 19, 1864, members of the attack team simultaneously entered the town’s three banks, looting them of $203,000. Other members of the gang rounded up the townspeople, along with their horses, and herded them into the town square. The raiders’ attempt to burn the town was foiled when the bottles filled with incendiary liquid they had brought with them failed to catch fire. The Confederates then mounted their stolen horses and galloped into Canada. One townsman was killed and one wounded in attempting to protect the village.
The raiders were immediately arrested by the Canadian government and placed in the Montreal Jail. The Canadians refused to turn the raiders over to the U.S. government, saying that the men were soldiers under military orders. The Canadians, however, did return $80,000 of the stolen money to the town of St. Albans.