When one thinks of the Civil War, bucolic Vermont usually does not come to mind, except for the troops from Vermont who fought for the Union. However, on October 19, 1864 the Civil War came to Saint Albans, Vermont.
21 Confederate raiders from Canada disguised as civilians, the border being only 15 miles from the town, entered Saint Albans beginning October 10, two or three arriving each day so as not to attract attention. At 3:00 PM they staged three simultaneous bank robberies. Several armed citizens of Saint Albans resisted the raiders, with one of the civilians killed and one wounded. Infuriated by the resistance, the raiders attempted to burn the town but succeeded only in burning a shed. Escaping with $208,000.00 dollars the raiders, under pursuit, escaped to Canada.
The raid caused an enormous furor in Canada which wanted no part of the Civil War. The raiders were arrested and $88,000 returned to the banks in Saint Albans, all that could be recovered by the Canadian authorities. A Canadian court however ruled that the Confederates, because they were members of the Confederate Army, were not criminals and could not be extradited to the Union. No further raids were stage from Canada.
The leader of the raid, Lieutenant Bennett Young, was excluded from President Andrew Johnson’s amnesty and spent several years abroad, studying law and literature in Ireland and Scotland. Being permitted to return to the US in 1868, he became a prominent attorny in Louisville, Kentucky. His charitable works were legion, including founding the first black orphanage in Louisville and a school for the blind, along with quite a bit of pro bono legal work for the poor. He served as national commander of the United Confederate Veterans.
A film The Raid (1954), starring Van Heflin, Ann Bancroft, Richard Boone and Lee Marvin, was released on the 90th anniversary of the Saint Albans raid. Like most Hollywood “historical” productions, any similarity between the actual events of the raid and what was depicted in the film was purely coincidental.