During the summer of 1863 the Confederate Secretary of War, S. R. Mallory, sent about seventy commissioned and non-commissioned officers to Canada to organize an expedition for the purpose of releasing Confederate prisoners held in the vicinity of Chicago. This plan failed through the vigilance of Union officers. Some Confederate prisoners, however, escaped from time to time, and not a few Southern sympathizers found a refuge in Canada. Niagara was the headquarters for these refugees and Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior, under President Buchanan, C. C. Clay, Jr., and George W. Saunders, were designed as the official Confederate agents in Canada. Both and Secretary Stanton were informed of activities across the border and Mr. Seward formally protested to the British Government against a condition of affairs which "would not be neutrality, but would be a permission to the enemies of the United States to make war against them from British shores." Rumors of hostile projects on foot across the international boundary line induced Governor Smith to ask the War Department for five thousand rifled muskets, a large supply of ammunition, and authority to station troops at Burlington, St. Albans and Swanton. General Dix, the commanding officer at New York, send Colonel Ludlow to Vermont on November 25, 1863, and the latter reported, "All is arranged well." Secretary Seward thereupon reported to Lord Lyons, "In the present peaceful aspect of affairs we shall not make any such military demonstrations, or preparations on the Vermont line, as General Dix suggest. Nor shall I call on Her Majesty's Government for and special attention in that direction."
In the autumn of 1863, according to statements made later in a Canadian court, one Bennett H. Young, a Confederate soldier, and held as a prisoner of war, escaped and made his way to Toronto, where he remained for several months. He attended a course of lectures at the University of Toronto, and left in the spring, having declared his intention to return to Richmond, Va. He was in Halifax in May and it is alleged that he did go to Richmond. Documents have been produced purporting to show that on June 16, 1864, Young was appointed by Secretary of War Seddon a temporary First Lieutenant in the Provisional Army of the confederate States for special service. There orders indicated that Lieutenant Young was to report to Messrs. Thompson and Clay for instructions, to organize a company of escaped Confederate soldiers, not exceeding twenty in number, and to execute such enterprises as might be entrusted to them, but to violate no Canadian laws. It is said that Young returned to Toronto in July; the he was in Chicago in August with a considerable number of Confederate soldiers, when an expedition against the United States was organized; that he visited Mr. Clay, a Confederate agent, at St. Catherines, Canada, in September; that he was in Montreal about the first of October, and in St. Johns, Quebec, a littler later that month. While in Montreal he received from C. C. Clay, Jr., a memorandum, in part as follows: "Your suggestions for a raid upon accessible towns in Vermont, commencing with St. Albans, is approved, and you are authorized and required to act in conformity with that suggestion." At this time Mr. Clay sent him four hundred dollars to be sued in financing his expedition.
On or about October 10, Young, who had made one or two preliminary visits, and two companions arrive at St. Albans and registered at the Tremont House. Two others of the party went the same day to the American House. The next day three others arrived. These men went about the village, learning the habits of the people, the location of the banks, and where horses could be obtained. They visited stores and endeavored to borrow guns for alleged hunting expeditions. The residence of Governor Smith was visited by Young and he was given the privilege of inspecting the grounds and stables. On the morning of October 18 two more strangers arrived, and at noon four others appeared at the Tremont House. On October 19 five others came to the American House and six appeared at the St. Albans House. Two of these men drove from Burlington, while the others arrived on a train from Montreal.
In addition to Young, the names of the following members of this party were learned when they were arrested, subsequently: Alamanda Pope Bruce, Thomas Bransdon Collins, James Alexander Doty, Samuel Simpson Gregg, Joseph McGrorty, William H. Hutchinson, Samuel Eugene Lackey, Dudley Moore, George Scott, Marcus Spurr, Charles Moore Swager, Squire Turner Teavis and Caleb McDowell Wallace. Most of these men were young Kentuckians under twenty-five years of age. There was nothing unusual in their appearance. Each man, however, carried a leather bag, or side valise, which was fastened over the right should by a leather strap.
These men had learned that Tuesday would not be a favorable day for an attack on St. Albans, is it was market day, when many persons from the surrounding towns would be in the village. Wednesday, usually the dullest day of the week, was chosen as a favorable time for Lieutenant Young's enterprise. On this particular day, October 19, 1864, nearly forty of the leading citizens were out of town, either in attendance upon the legislative session at Montpelier or at a session of Supreme Court at Burlington. It had been planned by the raiders that when the town clock should strike the hour of three, simultaneous attacks should be made upon the St. Albans, the First National an d the Franklin County Banks. This plan was carried out according to schedule.
At the St. Albans Bank, Cyrus N. Bishop, the teller, sat by a window counting and assorting banks notes, when two strangers entered. Mr. Bishop stepped to the desk to wait upon the supposed customers, who drew large revolvers and pointed them at him. Mr. Bishop sprang into the directors' room, where Martin G. Seymour, a clerk, was at work on the books. Bishop and Seymour attempted to close the door, but it was forced open. The raiders then declared that if any resistance were made, or any alarm given, they would blow out the brains of these banks officials. They further declared, when asked what such proceedings meant, that they were Confederate soldiers, detailed from General Early's army, to rob and plunder in retaliation for General Sheridan's acts in the Shenandoah valley. Three other Confederate soldiers then entered. An oath was administered to Bishop and Seymour, by the terms of which they promised not to give an alarm or fire on the raiders.
The bank officials were questioned concerning gold and silver on hand. Bishop told the raiders that the bank had no gold but did have some silver in a safe. He then unlocked the safe and two or three bags of coin, containing about one thousand, four hundred dollars, were brought out. Such a quantity was too heavy to carry and the men filled their pockets, taking about four hundred dollars. The robbers also took all the bank bills in the safe and a quantity of United States notes, or greenbacks. Samuel Breck, a St. Albans merchant, came to the bank while the raiders were there, bringing three hundred and ninety-three dollars for the payment of a note. He was admitted, his money taken from him, and he was forced into the directors' room. About this time Morris Roach, a young clerk in the employ of Joseph S. Weeks, came in with two hundred and ten dollars to deposit. He was forced to go into the directors' room. Three of thee robbers then left the bank and the two others remained only a little longer. These proceedings occupied only about twelve minutes. The amount of money taken was seventy-three thousand, five hundred and twenty-two dollars.
At the First National Bank a stranger entered, and approaching the counter, behind which Albert Sowles, the cashier, was standing, draw a large navy revolver and said: "If you offer any resistance I will shoot you dead. You are my prisoner." Two companions then entered the bank, and going to the safe took out bank bills, bonds, treasury notes and securities, which the robbers thrust into their pockets. While they were filling their pockets one of the raiders said in substance: "We represent the Confederate States of America, and we come here to retaliate for acts committed against our people by General Sherman. It will be of no use to offer any resistance, as there are a hundred soldiers belonging to our party in your village. You have got a very nice village here, and if there is the least resistance to us, or any of our men are shot, we shall burn the village. These are our orders and each man is sworn to carry them out." The sum of fifty-eight thousand dollars was taken from this bank. Gen. John Nason, nearly ninety years old and very deaf, was the only St. Albans man in the bank, aside from the cashier. Mr. Sowles was taken across the street to the park, where several citizens had been placed under guard. As the prisoner was being taken from the bank, William H. Blaisdell, a merchant, seized the raider who had Mr. Sowles in charge, and threw him from the bank steps to the ground. Two Confederates then hastened to the scene threatening to shoot Blaisdell, whom they conducted to the park.
Marcus W. Beardsley, the cashier, was in the Franklin County Bank when the raiders entered, and Jackson W. Clark, a laborer, and James Saxe were also present. One of the raiders entered and asked the price of gold. He was told that the bank did not deal in it. Just then a business man named Armington entered and made a deposit. As Mr. Armington dealt in gold the stranger was referred to him, and exchanged some gold pieced for greenbacks. As soon as Saxe and Armington had left, the purchaser of the gold drew a navy revolver and two companions came forward. The spokesman for the party said: "We are Confederate soldiers. There are one hundred of us in town. We have come to rob the banks and burn the town and we are going to do it." Clark attempted to escape but was ordered to halt under penalty of death, and was put into the bank vault. The cashier was then directed to bring out first all of the greenbacks in the bank and then all other money on hand. This order having been obeyed, the robbers filled their pockets and their haversacks with the bank funds. Beardsley was then thrust into the vault, in spite of his protests that it was air tight and he could not live if he was confined there. The iron doors were shut and bolted. Beardsley was very much alarmed as he had heard the threats of the robbers that they would burn the town, and he feared that he and his companion would perish like rats in a trap. About twenty minutes later Beardsley and Clark were released. Approximately the sum of seventy thousand dollars was taken from this bank.
While the banks were being robbed, other members of the raiding party compelled citizens who were on the streets or on the American House veranda, to line up in the park. Guards were stationed to prevent any person from leaving Main Street. Collins H. Huntington, a well known citizen, came along the street, on his way to the Academy to get his children, who were attending school. He was accosted by a stranger, who ordered him to cross the street to the park. Mr. Huntington paid no attention to the order, supposing the man to be intoxicated or insane. This stranger, who was Lieutenant Young, the leader of the bank, then fire at Mr. Huntington, inflicting a flesh wound.
Capt. George P. Conger, who had recently returned from the war, was ordered to the park by Young, but he ran into the American House, out the back door to Lake Street, and gave the alarm. Citizens began to assemble and the raiders seizing horses at Fuller's livery stable, and from persons on the street, started north, attempting to burn the village by throwing Greek fire. Captain Conger organized a pursuing party, and a running fire was kept up through the village streets. Elias J. Morrison, a contractor from Manchester, N. H., who was engaged in building the Welden House, was mortally wounded by one of the shots, a bullet entering his abdomen. He died three days later, as a result of the wound. It was a peculiar coincidence that the only person killed was a man said to have been in sympathy with the Confederate cause.
Captain Conger and a party of citizens followed the raiders, who took the Sheldon road. It is said that the plan outlined contemplated an attack on the Sheldon Bank, but finding it closed, and knowing that they were pursued, the raiders hastened on. They fired two bridges, but the blaze was extinguished by Captain Conger's party. Their flight was so precipitate that some of the bank notes were dropped by the robbers. The raiders were pursued to the Canadian border and Captain Conger entered Frelighsburg, Que., where he ordered the arrest of every raider that could be found, but the robbers had scattered and none could be located at that time. Captain Newton, in command of a company, took a westerly route to cut off the retreat of the raiders, but without success.
It appears that the raiders at first had planned to set fire to the residence of Gov. John Gregory Smith, and during the confusion that followed to rob the banks, but this plan was abandoned, as it was feared that the banks would be locked in such an event, and it might be impossible to gain entrance. At the time of the raid Governor Smith was attending a legislative session at Montpelier, and all the men employed about his estate were out of town or working at some distance from the house. Soon after the raid began, a servant girl from a neighboring house rushed into the Smith house, exclaiming: "The Rebels are in town robbing the banks, burning the houses and killed the people. They are on their way up the hill intending to burn your house." Such a message might well strike terror to the bravest heart. But Mrs. Smith did not lose her self control. She informed her servants of the peril that threatened them, drew the shades, closed the blinds, and bolted every door but the front entrance. Mrs. Smith's first impulse was to run up the flag, but she decided that such an act might be rash, under the circumstances. She then began a search for weapons, but could find only a large horse pistol for without ammunition, and with this in her had she took her stand in front of the house. Just than a horseman was seen galloping up the hill and it was supposed that this rider was the first of the raiding party. It proved, however, to be Mrs. Smith's brother-in-law, F. Steward Stranahan, a member of General Custer's staff, who was home on sick leave. He informed her that the raiders had gone and that he had come for arms. She gave him the pistol, saying: "If you come up with them, kill them! Kill them!" Some of the townspeople came for horses and four were furnished. Late that night a guard of soldiers was stationed at the Smith homestead and for nine months thereafter the Governor's premises were guarded day and night. Mrs. Smith was one of the most remarkable women Vermont has produced, courageous in the face of danger, possessed of great executive ability, a brilliant mind and scholarly attainments. The daughter of one of Vermont's anti-slavery leaders, the wife of one of the ablest railroad presidents of his day and one of the foremost Civil War Governors, the mother of one of the later Green Mountain Executives, she may well be taken as a noble type of Vermont womanhood; and her courage in taking her stand alone, revolver in hand, to defend her home and her children against the expected attack of a band of desperadoes, is an inspiring example of heroism for all future generations.
The telegraph operator at St. Albans sent a message to Governor Smith, at Montpelier, which read: "Southern raiders are in town, robbing banks, shooting citizens and burning houses." The operator then locked his office and hastened away to join the crowd that filled the village streets. Governor Smith had just received information from another source that trouble might be expected from Confederate refugees in Canada, and was in conference with Adjt. Gen. Peter T. Washburn and Hon. John W. Stewart, when the startling message from St. Albans was received. The Governor's first impulse was to start for home immediately, but realizing that a conspiracy might have been formed which would menace the entire northern frontier of Vermont, he decided that his duty to the State must outweigh his anxiety for the safety of his family. Repeated efforts to obtain further information from St. Albans by telegraph elicited no response. Governor Smith was president of the Central Vermont Railroad and his first order was to stop every train on the road and to recall to Montpelier the northbound train which had recently left. He then made a requisition on the United States hospital at Montpelier for a detachment of soldiers from the veteran invalid corps, under Lieutenant Murphy, and seventy-five men were sent to St. Albans. The next morning two additional companies of invalid veterans arrived in that village, and a home guard of infantry and cavalry was organized, the streets being regularly patrolled. Col. R. C. Benton, formerly of the Eleventh Vermont, was ordered to raise a company and take command of the militia at St. Albans. Louis M. Smith was appointed Captain of the home guard infantry and John W. Newton was made Captain of the local cavalry company. Guards were placed around the State House at Montpelier and the streets were patrolled. Col. Redfield Proctor took charge of the militia at Burlington. Major Austin, Provost General of the State, was ordered to St. Albans from Brattleboro, with two companies of invalid veterans.
A reward of ten thousand dollars for the apprehension of the robbers was offered by the presidents of the St. Albans and First National Banks. A little later the Twenty-sixth New York Cavalry was organized to guard the entire northern frontier. Two Vermont companies were recruited, one of which was commanded by Capt. Josiah Grout. He was soon promoted to the rank of Major and ordered to St. Albans, where he commanded four companies, and was given two field pieces. For several months St. Albans resembled a military camp. Rumors of other raids were frequent and the principal village of northern Vermont were guarded during the fall and winter months.
When the news of the St. Albans raid was received at Burlington, about 4:30 o'clock in the afternoon of the day on which it occurred, there was great excitement, as it was expected that that village would be attacked. It was reported that one of the Lake Champlain steamers had been captured and that a hostile expedition would be sent out against the principal lake ports. Alarm bells were rung, a public meeting was called, speeches were made, two military companies were organized and forty-seven volunteer soldiers were sent to St. Albans on the first train. Congressman F. E. Woodbridge of Vergennes ordered four hundred stands of arms from the arsenal in his home city for use in Burlington. Governor Smith ordered two thousand muskets from the Vergennes arsenal and eighty thousand rounds of ammunition, one thousand muskets being sent to St. Albans and two hundred to Montpelier.
Colonel Proctor reached Burlington at nine o'clock on the evening of October 19. A company from the shops and lumber yards, with a rifled six-pounder, were stationed on the docks, and the bridges were guarded.
President Oscar A. Burton of the Champlain Transportation Company sent a telegram to Rouses Point, N. Y., and learned that the report of the seizure of a steamboat was with out foundation, but he took the caution to arm the crews with revolvers and to direct that the boats should anchor some distance out from the wharves, to forestall any attempt at capture by raiders. A guard composed of veterans of the invalid corps was sent on the steamer United States going north.
Newport organized a company and Irasburg, Newport, Troy, Barton and Derby Line were guarded at night. General Jackman tendered the services of the Norwich cadets, and they were sent to Newport, where they performed guard duty for a few days. Other companies were organized at Alburg, East Berkshire, West Berkshire, Enosburg Falls, Franklin, Highgate, Richford, Sheldon and Winooski. Maj. J. L. Barstow was sent to St. Johnsbury to cooperate with the Canadian authorities.
Secretary of War Stanton, on the afternoon of October 19, received word that a battle was being fought at Cedar Creek, Va., the result of which, if unfavorable to the Union cause, might imperil Washington. At little later came the news that St. Albans had been seized by Southern refugees, who were killed and burning. Then the telegraph wires ceased working. All night long the Secretary remained on duty. Early the next morning came news of a great Union victory at Cedar Creek, and this was followed immediately by the information that the raiders had fled into Canada from St. Albans and that the town was guarded.
Thirteen of the raiders were arrested in Canada, this number including Alamanda Pope Bruce, Thomas Bransdon Collins, James Alexander Doty, Samuel Simpson Gregg, Joseph McGrorty, William H. Hutchinson, Samuel Eugene Lackey, Dudley Moore, George Scott, Marcus Spurr, Charles Moore Swager, Squire Turner Teavis and Bennett H. Young. Lieutenant Young was captured by George Beals and E. D. Fuller on Canadian soil, and were turned over to a local bailiff. Bruce and Spurr were arrested at a hotel at Stanbridge; Collins and Lackey at Stanbridge East; and Doty and McGrorty in a barn at Dunham. The prisoners asked that C. C. Clay, the Confederate agent at Montreal, be notified of their arrest. Young and some of his associates boasted that this was but the beginning of a series of attacks that would terrify the people along the northern border. The Canadian authorities were reluctant to aid in prosecuting the raiders and search warrants and warrants for arrest were refused by some of the magistrates.
Secretary of State William H. Seward on October 21 demanded the extradition of the fugitives and the surrender of the money and securities seized, basing his demand upon the provisions of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty. Lord Monck, the Governor General of Canada, directed Charles J. Coursal, a Police Judge of Montreal, to proceed to Stanbridge, take the prisoners into custody and try them. By order of Judge Coursal the men arrested were removed to St. Johns and committed to jail. Rumors having been set afloat that plans were being made to kidnap the prisoners and taken them into the United States, the raiders were transferred to Montreal, where they were greeted with cheers as they entered the city. A company of artillery escorted the men to the prison, where the prisoners were given apartments which corresponded to rooms in a good hotel, and the food served was of a quality far removed from ordinary prison fare. The money and securities were given into the custody of Chief of Police Lamothe of Montreal.
At the preliminary examination of the raiders, Andrew Tracy of Woodstock, Lucius B. Peck of Montpelier and George F. Edmunds of Burlington, three of Vermont's ablest lawyers, together with Bernard Develin of Montreal, appeared for the United States. E. A. Sowles and h. G. Edson appeared for the St. Albans banks. Messrs. Johnson and Carter appeared for the Crown, and J. J. Abbott, late Solicitor General, William Kerr and Mr. Laflamme were counsel for the prisoners. On October 27, Mr. Kerr applied for a write of habeas corpus in behalf of W. H. Hutchinson, one of the raiders, which was granted. Later this warrant was declared illegal and on November 2 motions were made for a writ of habeas corpus for the St. Albans raiders, confined in Montreal jail. The order of the court was that the defence take nothing by its petition. Meanwhile a warrant was issued by a St. Albans Justice of the Peace, charging the raiders with assaulting the teller of the St. Albans Bank and stealing a sum of money.
The taking of evidence in the case was begun on November 7, and included statements by the prisoners. Lieutenant Young, leader of the expedition, declared that he was a commissioned officer of the Confederate army, and that whatever was done at St. Albans was done by the authority and order of the Confederate Government. He said: "The course I intended to pursue in Vermont, and which I was able to carry out but partially, was to retaliate in some measure for the barbarous atrocities of Grant, Butler, Sherman, Hunter, Milroy, Sheridan, Grierson and other Yankee officers, except that I would scorn to harm women and children under any provocation, or unarmed, defenceless and unresisting citizens, even Yankees, or to plunder for my own benefit." The American lawyers were debarred from taking an active part in the case, not having been admitted to practice in the Canadian Courts. Mr. Develin and Hon. John Rose acted for the United States Government. The prisoners asked for thirty days in order to secure documentary evidence from the Confederate States and this petition was granted against the strenuous opposition of the counsel for the United States. Two bearers of despatches were sent to Richmond. One was captured by United States troops. The other, although in great peril, at times, succeeded in passing through the lines and, disguised as a priest, returned safely to Canada.
On December 13, before the Vermont attorneys, with a single exception, had returned, Judge Coursal, acting upon a motion made by Mr. Kerr, in behalf of the prisoners, upheld the contention that the warrants on which the prisoners were held were defective. He also discharged them on five other separate offences and warrants on which no hearings had been held, and ordered that the money and securities seized when the prisoners were arrested, should be returned to them. It has been asserted that the Judge's lengthy opinion must have been prepared in advance of the making of Mr. Kerr's motion. The announcement of the discharge of the prisoners was received with tumultuous demonstrations of applause.
In a speech delivered before the Montreal City Council, Mr. Develin, counsel for the United States in the trial of the raiders, called attention to the fact that apparently the prisoners and their friends knew in advance of the decision that a discharge was to be granted. The Chief of Police had placed the money taken from the prisoners in the most accessible bank. As the last word of Judge Coursal's decision was uttered, Mr. Porterfield, a Confederate agent, left the room hastily, being the first person to leave. In the corridor he met Chief of Police Lamothe, who have him an order for the removal of the money taken from the raiders. A sleigh in waiting took Mr. Porterfield swiftly to the bank, where the money was delivered to him. The release prisoners with their stolen money hastened to make their escape, while the Chief of Police pondered over the validity of a judicial order for rearrest, thus giving the raiders an opportunity to make their escape.
Messrs. Develin and Rose protested vigorously, but in vain, against the action of the court. In a letter written by Secretary Seward to Hon. Charles Francis Adams, United States Minister to Great Britain, on December 24, 1864, he told of the stolen money, and added "and thus richly furnished with the spoils of our citizens they were conveyed, amid popular acclamation, in sleighs which had been prepared for their escape, from the court room, beyond the reach of fresh pursuit; when new warrants wee issued the police were dilatory and treacherous in their execution. It is impossible to consider those proceedings as either legal, just or friendly towards the United States."
Judge Coursal was accused of complicity with the raiders and was summoned to appear before the Police Committee of the City Council of Montreal. He admitted that he had been in company with agents of the Confederate Government, but declined to answer questions regarding alleged malfeasance in office. He was suspended and as a result of an investigation it was declared that he was indictable for a "malfeasance in his functions. " Chief of Police Lamothe was discharged from office for his conduct in the case. Late Judge Coursal was restored to office by order of the Attorney General, and, subsequently, was several times elected Mayor of Montreal.
The discharge of the prisoners naturally aroused great indignation in the United States. It was reported at the time than when George F. Edmunds was asked if he would return to Montreal to ask for extradition in the even that any of the raiders were recaptured, he replied that if he did it would be at the head of a regiment. On December 14, General John A. Dix, commanding the Department of the East, issued a proclamation, in which he said: "Information having been received at these headquarters that the Rebel marauders who were guilty of murder and robbery at St. Albans, have been discharged from arrest, and that other enterprises are actually in preparation in Canada, the Commanding General deems it due to the people of the frontier towns to adopt the most prompt and efficient measures for the security of their lives and property.
"All military commanders on the frontier are therefore instructed in case further acts of depredation and murder are attempted, whether by marauders or persons acting under commissions from the Rebel authorities at Richmond, to shoot down the predators, if possible while in the commission of their crimes, or if it be necessary with a view to their capture, to cross the boundary between the United States and Canada, said commanders are directed to pursue them wherever they may take refuge, and, if captured, there are under no circumstances to be surrendered, but are to be sent to these headquarters for trial and punishment by martial law."
President Lincoln disapproved of General Dix's proclamation and that officer issued another in which he revoked the instructions relative to crossing the boundary line into Canada. The President, however, through Secretary Seward, issued an order directing that no traveller, except immigrants directly entering an American port by sea, should be allowed to enter the United States from a foreign country without a passport.
Several of the influential London newspapers criticised the theory that Lieutenant Young and his associated ought not to be extradited. The Post, a Government organ, said: "That these 'raiders' really come within the terms of the extradition treaty, there can, we conceive, be no manner of doubt." The News declared: "We are bound to show the example of doing as we would be done by; and as we have in former times uttered keen remonstrances, and ever resorted to actual force when an enemy used neutral soil to prepare machinations against us, it is imperative that we should now vindicate our fair dealing and maintain our friendly character by prohibiting absolutely the abuse of our protection for the inhabitants of a bordering and allied State." The Morning Star said: "If effective methods are not adopted to compel our neutrality to be respected by the other belligerent; natural irritation will beget exasperation and exasperation will beget war. Such a result will be rather too high a price to pay for the honor of being selected by the Confederate skedaddlers from their own country as the base from which to sally forth upon little robbing expeditions.
Immediately after the discharge of the prisoners by Judge Coursal, Justice James Smith of the Superior Court issued a warrant for the rearrest of the raiders, and five of the thirteen were apprehended near Quebec, the men arrested being Young, Hutchinson, Teavis, Swager and Spurr. The trial was begun at Montreal on December 27 and some of the testimony given in the previous case was repeated. Mr. Bethune, a Montreal lawyer, took the place of Hon. John Rose, whose duties in parliament prevented further service in court. Another delay of thirty days was asked and granted on January 10, 1865, although the prosecution strenuously opposed the delay. A request for another postponement was denied. The evidence given shows that John G. K. Houghton, a Montreal lawyer, was sent to Washington and endeavored without success to secure a pass permitting him to go to Richmond. He appealed to president Lincoln, who refuted the request, saying, "These men are rebels. They go cutting and slashing around, and I do not see that it is any part of my business to help them." It was shown that C. C. Clay, the Confederate Commissioner in Canada, had received from the raiders who were not recaptured their portion of the money taken from the St. Albans banks, that Mr. Clay had advanced funds for the defence of the prisoners, and had left Canada. S. F. Cameron, A Confederate Chaplain went to Richmond in the interest of the captured raiders. He called on President Davis and Secretary of State Benjamin and secured certain documents, although other papers had been sent the preceding day by another messenger.
In his decision, announced on March 29, 1865, Justice Smith declared that the attack on St. Albans by Young and his associates "Must be regarded as a hostile expedition, undertaken and carried out under the authority of the so-called Confederate States, under the command of one of their officers." Therefore these acts were not to be dealt with under ordinary criminal law. He decided, therefore, that the prisoners could not be extradited, that he had no jurisdiction over them, and that they were entitled to their discharge. This announcement was greeted with loud cheers in the court room, in the lobbies and in the street.
The prisoner immediately were rearrested and were taken to Toronto for trial. The proceedings were very slow and had not been completed when the war ended. No punishment was meted out to the offenders, but the Canadian Government in April, 1865, paid to the First National Bank nineteen thousand dollars; to the St. Albans Bank, twenty thousand dollars in gold; and to the Franklin County Bank, thirty one thousand dollars in the bills of that bank. In April, 1865, the raiders, so far as were known, were indicted for alleged murder, attempted murder and arson, and similar charges were brought against one Hezekiah Payne. A detective obtained evidence against Payne, showing that he had been implicated in the St. Albans Raid, and he was arrested at Detroit. He was tried in Franklin County Court, but proved that on the morning following the raid he was in Montreal, and was acquitted.
It is not strange that the action of the Canadian courts aroused intense indignation in the United States. Soon after the raiders were freed Congress, influenced apparently by this failure of justice, passed an act abrogating the Canadian reciprocity treaty, and it was proposed to abrogate the treaty concerning disarmament on the lakes. Secretary Seward, however, did not terminate that agreement. Both Canadian and American troops guarded the frontier for many months.
Source: Walter Hill Crockett, Vermont, the Green Mountain State, (The Century History Company, New York, 1921), pp. 591-613.