RSS .92| RSS 2.0| ATOM 0.3
  • Home
  • Subscribe
  • Privacy Policy

    Canada’s border patrol armed with reading material. The St. Albans Raid: Episode 3

    The government of John A.Macdonald had to act quickly to avert the danger of the U.S. Civil War spreading to Canada, a risk heightened by the raid of Montreal-based Confederate espionage agents who robbed the banks of nearby St. Albans on October 19, 1864.

    The Americans were irate and bound for revenge. Union troops were moved up to the border. In defiance of British and Canadian sovereignty, Union general John Dix ordered his men to pursue the raiders “into Canada if necessary, and destroy them.” President Lincoln prudently revoked that order. War with the United States was averted, but the risk remained.

    Canada took several steps to keep the peace.

    Restitution was paid to compensate the St. Albans banks for the money stolen by the Confederate raiders.

    Canada’s first secret service was established. Described as “a detective and preventive police force for the purpose of watching and patrolling the whole frontier,” its job was also to thwart further action by any Confederate agents that might still be in Canada, or any Canadian sympathizers who might want to strike a blow against the northern Union. The secret service was the forerunner of the North West Mounted Police, established eight years later, eventually the RCMP.

    In addition to the secret service, 400 militia volunteers were also recruited to help defend the border, not from attack from the United States, but attack against the United States from Canadian soil. The volunteers were young men from the towns, villages and farms of Canada.

    The young volunteers were stationed at Windsor, Niagara, and La Prairie. If all went well, there were those who feared the men would have too much time on their hands to succumb to temptation. Was it gambling, whisky or the tender charms of camp followers and prostitutes that beckoned?

    Whatever it was, wholesome reading was the antidote offered by the Montreal Herald on January 4.

    “We learn,” wrote the Herald, “that the officers of the volunteers belonging to the city have written to friends in town to say that the men are exposed to considerable temptations, and that in order to counteract them, it is judged desirable to furnish them with as much agreeable reading as possible. Arrangements have, therefore, been made to forward newspapers, and we believe that something like a subscription is on the tapis for the purpose of furnishing books. Persons who have old novels or other literary wares likely to amuse the men will confer a favour on the officers of the various corps by presenting them for this purpose. If any gentlemen is disposed to do so, we shall be happy to put him in the way of having the volumes forwarded to their destinations.”

    The 150th anniversary of the St. Albans Raid will be marked by a celebration and re-enactments from Sept. 18-21, 2014 in St. Albans, Vt. For more information, please visit

    About Canada, my latest book, is crammed with more “Amazing stuff” about our great nation, says popular historian Christopher Moore. “I’m a fan,” he adds. For a free sampler copy, more information and accolades, or to order your copy, click here.

    TAGS St. Albans Raid, Canadian-American Relations,Espionage,Canadian Secret Service,North West Mounted Police, RCMP, John A. Macdonald, Abraham Lincoln.

    Leave a Reply

    You must be logged in to post a comment.