St. Albans, Vermont. October 19, 1864
A Confederate attempt to create a strong feeling of insecurity and unrest amongst the civilian population of the Union during the American Civil War, this raid was the northernmost action of the war. Lead by Confederate Lieutenant Bennett H. Young, the raiders were a group of 21 former cavalry officers from the south who had moved to Canada before the war. Like the plot of an old western, Young traveled to Canada and assembled his band piece by piece until he had the group he sought. They rode across the Canadian border into Vermont, and prepared for their strike.
They slipped into town in groups of two or three over the course of a week. After registering at a local hotel, the American House, they made their way out into the streets in the late afternoon of October 19th and robbed three banks of over $200,000.
The operation went off without problems, but one factor had not been taken into account by the raiders. Union Captain George P. Conger was at home in St. Albans on leave from duty with the 1st Vermont Cavalry. While the raiders were rounding up civilians in the street to prevent them from sounding the alarm, they unwittingly captured Conger. The Union captain would escape and alert the rest of the townspeople, which sent the raiders riding hard out of town.
When the Confederate raiders reached the Canadian border, they slipped across without being checked by the border patrol. They then assumed they were safe and stopped to catch their breath, until one of their group looked down to see that the border patrol wasn't stopping Captain Conger and his band of merry men either. Conger captured ten of the raiders, and an eleventh was killed in the firefight (whether this occurred during the bank lootings or in Canada is told differently by different sources). The Canadian government then stopped Conger on his way back into Vermont. The Canadians refused to allow them to take back the prisoners, especially as talk of them being hanged was being bandied around the posse. They were held in protective custody by the Canadian government until the dispute could be resolved.
A total of $86,000 of the stolen $200,000 was recovered. The remainder of the money was never returned. Some say the Canadian government "made it disappear" while others say the rest was simply never recovered and that one of the escaping raiders made off with it.
In the entire affair, only two people died in the raid, one of the townspeople and one of the raiders. In the years that followed, the memory of the raid would linger... brought to life by letters and cards sent by the raiders to the people of the town, taunting them in a humorous way. One of the raiders even mailed payment to the hotel for the room he had been staying in remarking "I was regrettably forced to leave town rather suddenly. Thank you for your hospitality and extend my best wishes to the fine young lady in the room adjacent to mine."