This story is totally badass. I heard about it from the St. Albans Messenger here, which, by-the-bye, is my local town paper (I grew up in a nearby town too small for its own paper). This is exciting! I almost never have anything to blog about from my neck of the woods. This article tells about the aftermath of the St. Albans Raid, but before I can discuss the aftermath, I’m probably going to have to explain what the St. Albans Raid was, because I’m guessing most of my readers didn’t grow up in Franklin County, Vermont.
Basically, the Raid was the northernmost land action in the American Civil War. This may seem like a kind of dull fact, but when I talk about ‘northernmost’, I mean ‘almost in Canada’ (about 15 miles away). St. Albans is highlighted in red below. Above that top boundary is Quebec.
Most fighting during the Civil War took place in border states like Virginia and Maryland, and then deeper into the South. For anyone who knows anything about the Civil War, this was . . . hilariously northern. And pretty much unconnected from anything.
Basically, a Confederate soldier named Bennet H. Young became a Union prisoner of war, but managed to escape to Canada, from which he then stealthily returned to the South. Knowing that the Union prooooobably didn’t have many troops garrisoned in Northern Vermont because they were kind of needed, uh, ANYWHERE ELSE, he proposed that Confederate troops should ship up to Canada and then raid the Union down through the unprotected Canadian border, in order to build up the Confederate treasury. This would also force the Union to divert some of its troops back up North to protect the border, making the numbers down south where the real fighting was happening slightly more even.
Young and a few other men staked out the St. Albans area for a few days and then robbed three banks simultaneously. Bank robbin’ for the Noble Cause! They actually did quite well, making off with $208,000, but unfortunately one local man was shot and killed during their escape. The raiders also brought Greek fire with them in order to burn the town to the ground you no good cowardly so-and-sos, I’ll show you Yankee aggression, but it didn’t work and only a single shed was burned. HAHA, YOU FUCKERS. HA. HA.
They fled to Canada, where they were promptly arrested. Since the soldiers were technically under orders and Canada was technically neutral, they couldn’t extradite them back to the States for Yankee justice (ahhh, so that’s why there’s so much Vermont/Quebec tension. Probably.), but the Canadian government was able to return $88,000 of the $208,000 the soldiers had on them (what happened to the other $120,000? Oh. I forgot. Quebec is full of strip-clubs. Even back then, I’m sure. No need to check my facts. They are 100% legit).
And now, every year on October 19th, St. Albans holds a reenactment in which people dress up and set off the town cannon in the main park.
Okay so that’s the badass back-story to an even more death-metal story.
In 1865, a few months after the Civil War ended, Hezekiah Payne (nice name) took a ferry from Windsor, Canada into Detroit in order to take his new lady-friend to the theatre. Upon stepping onto US soil, he was arrested. Why?
Because his girlfriend was a private detective working undercover for the Union government, and she had honey-trapped him into revealing that he had been a part of the St. Albans Raid and got him to willingly go back to the US.
Best sentence ever written on this blog.
Payne, whilst living up in Canada, had boasted to his landlord (who was also a former Confederate soldier living abroad) that he had taken part in the robbery. What Payne didn’t know was that, yes, the landlord was a former Confederate soldier, but he was also an informant for the Union. The landlord immediately reported back to his Union contacts, who decided to plant this utterly cool female detective in the hotel, “who by her charms induced the latter to escort her to the theatre in Detroit on an evening”.
Sadly, her identity was never revealed, either because she acted “indelicately” and was in an “unseemly profession”, or because they didn’t want to compromise any other missions she might be working on. What we do know about her, however, is that: “Payne was arrested by a U.S. Marshal, ‘apparently very much to the disgust and chagrin of his fair companion‘”, which, at least to me, indicates that she was hoping to make the arrest herself. I could be wrong. Although how cool would that have been? “You have the right to remain silent, SUCKER”. *sigh* Stupid US Marshal.
Hezekiah Payne was the only one of the raiders to be arrested and tried on US soil for the Raid and, rather fittingly, the trial was held in St. Albans. The evidence against him was fairly strong. Not only did he confess to the landlord, but “In the lining of Payne’s coat were bills from one of the St. Albans banks robbed during the raid.”
He was also “indicted for an additional crime – the theft of Ed Nettleton’s hat, valued at five dollars.”
While his alibi was very thin (read the original article for details of the trial), it was enough to provide reasonable doubt, and he was acquitted. THIS NEVER WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HAD LET THE LADY DETECTIVE GET MORE INFORMATION BEFORE THE ARREST, YOU GOOBERS.