Saint Albans Raid: October 19, 1864

St. Albans Raid

St. Albans Raid

On the afternoon of October 10, 1864 a young man checked into a hotel in St. Albans, Vermont. In the days that followed, leading up to October 19, more strangers would check into hotels within the tiny town. The unsuspecting townspeople had no way of knowing that while Civil War battles named Westport, Hatchers Run, Burgess Mill and Allatoona raged, their little town was about to be the subject of one of history’s strangest Civil War raids. The friendly young man and the other strangers who arrived in the town were Confederate Lieutenant Bennett H. Young and his band of twenty-one cavalrymen. They had planned to rob the town, burn it, take the townspeople captive then escape to Canada having committed the northern most battle of the Civil War and finding a place in America’s Strange History.

Lieutenant Young was chosen for the mission for his bravery during Morgan’s Raid in which Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and 2462 cavalrymen rode nearly 1000 miles from Sparta, Tennessee to Salinesville, Ohio, raiding towns in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. The raid ended in Salinesville following the defeat of General Morgan by forces under the command of Union General James Shackelford. General Morgan and most of his officers, including Lieutenant Bennett Young were captured. They were confined in the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. Young and four other confederates escaped the penitentiary and swiftly made their way to Canada. There, Young contacted Confederate agent George Sanders who planned and financed the raid on St. Albans with a goal of securing the town’s money for the Confederacy.

At 3 p.m. on the afternoon of October 19, the twenty-one Confederate raiders simultaneously began to rob the three banks in St. Albans, taking $208,000. After the robbery, the raiders gathered the townspeople in the center of town and attempted to burn the town however their fires did very little destruction. Lieutenant Young and his cavalrymen escaped back into Quebec, Canada having left two St. Albanians wounded and one dead. Upon their arrival in Canada the raiders were captured by Canadian government force and placed in a Montreal jail.

The Canadian court, wishing to remain neutral, refused to extradite the raiders back to United States citing that Young and his cavalrymen were under military orders from the Confederate government  therefore they had committed no crime under U. S. law as they were soldiers, not criminals. The court would also determine that Young’s Raiders had not broken any Canadian laws so they were released. Bennett Young would rise to the rank of General and served the Confederacy as an agent in Canada until the end of the war. He would be refused amnesty by President Andrew Johnson and would not be allowed to return to the U.S. until 1868.