A Decade of Turbulence

The St. Albans Raid

Confederates Strike From Canada

The defence of the Province of Canada resurfaced as an issue in the fall of 1864. In September a group of Confederates based in the Province of Canada captured two American merchant ships on Lake Erie. A more serious incident occurred in October when some 20 Southerners left Montreal and took the small border town of St. Albans, Vermont, killing a civilian, robbing banks and attempting to burn down the town before taking refuge in the Province of Canada. Indignant that a neighbouring country should be used as a base for Confederate raids, the United States government threatened to take action. The border states were particularly outraged at Canada's tolerance, which they perceived as a betrayal. In Vermont 2,200 volunteers were mobilized, and a regular cavalry regiment was posted to Burlington and St. Albans. The state of New York sent 13 regiments on active duty to its border with Canada and Michigan mobilized a few companies.

This time the Canadian government was truly worried. On December 19 it mobilized 30 companies of volunteers into three "administrative battalions," with headquarters in Windsor, Niagara and Laprairie, to stave off any further raids along the border. This was the first time since the 1837-38 rebellions that the volunteers were called up for active duty. The companies in these battalions came from a variety of regions. For example, three of the 10 companies stationed at Windsor were from Montreal. The three battalions spent a quiet winter and were disbanded on March 28, 1865.