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An act of war

But let’s go back to 1864. On October 19, with the American Civil War raging across the border, about 20 Confederate agents intended to seek refuge in Montreal after robbing three banks in St. Albans of more than $200,000. The money was to be used to help finance the war in the southern states.

Left photo: In front of the First National Bank, two robbers, pistol in hand, threaten a man in their path; Right photo: Three of the robbers escape on horseback.

The southern soldiers had planned both the attacks and their escape very, very well.


The robbers used different routes to flee to Canada. According to Knowlton novelist Donald Davison, six of them followed the Sutton River Valley. Eventually, 14 fugitives were arrested by Canadian authorities, including two in the Waterloo region; they were likely part of the group that had crossed the Sutton River Valley.

The map identifies each group’s escape route. The westernmost, under Sergeant Collins, crosses the border at St-Armand; the second, identified as Young and McGrorty's, crosses at Freligsburgh; the third, led by Teavis, enters at Abbot's Corner, skirts Mount Pinnacle, reaches Abercorn and then heads north up the Sutton River Valley.

The Southern rebels used three different routes to flee.


Only five of the St. Albans raiders were ever tried. The United States sought their extradition; the defence argued that they were soldiers and the St. Albans raid was a chapter in the Civil War organized by the Confederate Government in the South. The defendants were released. The American government responded by requiring that anyone entering the United States through British North America had to have a passport. Congress even threatened to repeal the reciprocal trade treaty that had been in force since 1854.