The 1864 Plot To Burn Down New York City

From our partners at Gothamist: Last night’s season finale was literally fiery: The Confederates’ plot to destroy New York City by setting a series of blazes in various hotels and venues was set in motion on November 25, the day after Thanksgiving. Luckily, Corcoran and other members of NYC’s police department were able to thwart the plan. In real life, the sabotage was stopped by the police as well as the War Department.

A double agent amongst the Confederate soldiers had passed on information that there were plans to firebomb the city’s hotels on Election Day, November 8, 1864. The Confederates were relying on northern Confederate sympathizers called Copperheads, but the Copperheads’ aid fell through and Election Day was uneventful. Then the same double agent notified the War Department about a Thanksgiving Day plot. While some, including Major General John Dix and New York Police Superintendent Joseph Kennedy, thought the new plot might be a hoax, the War Department felt confident of its source.

David Homer Bates, who worked in the War Department’s Telegraph Office at the time, recounted that the Major Thomas Eckert managed to convince federal and local authorities of the plot after meeting with the double agent, who “had hurried from Toronto to New York to communicate to the War Department the fact that the conspirators intended to set fire to twelve or more New York hotels, whose names he gave, that very Friday evening.” Bates also said that when Eckert presented the new information, “…both the military and civil authorities then accepted the situation and took immediate steps to thwart the plans of the conspirators. Plain-clothes men, policemen and soldiers by the hundred were quickly distributed about the city, with particular reference to the hotels that had been specially named by our spy as starting-points for the general conflagration.” The hotels targeted were the 5th Avenue Hotel, Lovejoys Hotel, Howard Hotel, Astor House, Belmont Hotel, St. James Hotel, La Farge House, Metropolitan Hotel, St. Nicholas Hotel, Tamany Hotel, United States Hotel and 5th Ward Museum Hotel.

The fires were set by Confederates who would check into a room, move furniture around, spread the “Greek fire” around the room, and then close the door. Here’s how the NY Times, which headlined its article, “THE REBEL PLOT; ATTEMPT TO BURN THE CITY,” described the destruction:

The plan adopted by the incendiaries was to set fire at once, or nearly at once, to the principal hotels and other public buildings in the city. At seventeen minutes of nine the St. James Hotel was discovered to be on fire in one of the rooms. On examination it was discovered that the bed and several other articles of furniture had been saturated with phosphorous and set on fire. A few minutes afterward Barnum’s Museum was discovered to be on fire; but the flames were soon extinguished, and the building sustained very little damage. At five minutes of nine fire was discovered in rooms No. 138, 139, 140, and 174 of the St. Nicholas Hotel. The fire was got under without much difficulty by the fire department of the hotel, but not until the furniture and the rooms had been damaged to the amount of about $2,500. The beds in this case, also, were found to be saturated with inflammatory materials. At twenty minutes past nine the inmates of the Lafarge House were alarmed by the cry of fire; but the flames were extinguished without much difficulty, and the damage received was comparatively slight.

A non-hotel venue for firebombing was Barnum’s American Museum, a popular attraction, which was packed with visitors. Luckily, a fire set in the stairwell was quickly extinguished, though patrons did panic to get out. Additionally, the Winter Garden Theatre, where the Booth Brothers. were performing their fund-raiser for a Central Park’s Shakespeare Statue, was also another target.

Robert Cobb Kennedy was the only person captured and convicted in the plot to burn New York City. He and the other conspirators fled the city to Canada after the failed scheme but Kennedy returned soon after and was arrested in Cleveland, Ohio. He was tried at Fort Lafayette (in current day Brooklyn) in January 1865 and hanged in March 1865.

Historian Clint Johnson, author of A Vast and Fiendish Plot, about the failed terror attempt, says that the Confederates were terrible saboteurs, “All of the fires either fizzled out on their own, or were discovered by hotel staff. The Greek fire never flamed up as it should have because the Confederates left their hotel windows closed, thus robbing the flames of a steady supply of oxygen.”

Johnson also points out that the plotters never visited New York before the plot, “A sure disaster would have occurred if the Confederates had set 144 separate fires, all on the west side of the city, on a windy night, at all those choice targets of highly flammable lumber yards and fuel distilleries. What if the conspirators had studied the properties of coal gas, then gained access to the Manhattan Gas Works?” What if indeed!

Writer’s Room: Five Favorite Moments

Series writer Kevin Deiboldt counts down his five favorite moments from the first season.

Three hundred and seventy-eight minutes down, forty-two minutes to go. Tare an’ouns. It’s been a downright pleasure to share these last ten weeks of Copper with our fans. And so, before the good Detective Corcoran calls it a night on season one – I’ve been asked to look back and pick my five favorite moments from our first year. It sure as hell wasn’t easy, but I did my best…

5. Twisted Tale o’ the Fruitcake
I chose this one for two reasons (neither being to toot my own horn, believe it or not). First, this scene was a perfect example of what our cast and crew were able to do throughout the entire season – to meet and exceed our expectations. I had very specific ideas about this scene, and you can never be sure whether what you end up with will be what you envisioned. Dylan, Tom and Kevin took what could have been a challenging bit of verbal choreography and made it sail. Secondly, I chose this scene for the moment it gave our characters (and audience): a last chance to see our three friends laugh and smile – before everything comes crashing down over the final four episodes.

4. Morehouse, Elizabeth, and a Little Friend Named Opium
On its face, this scene is a chance for the Widow and Young Morehouse to play kissy-face. But Anastasia and Kyle lent such depth and nuance to the characters – and have such chemistry – that you’re never quite sure who is manipulating whom (or whether they’re engaging in mutual manipulation). It’s a delightful moment where you can’t be sure of anyone’s true intentions (…and a chance to play kissy-face).

3. Sara Is With Child (aka, Doctor Smooth)
For a show that can often be quite dark, emotionally, this scene was a chance to bring some joy to the screen. From the opening when Freeman is clinically (and awkwardly) describing his wife’s symptoms, to the playful smack Sara gives him for being sassy – it was, quite simply, a lovely moment. Also: it helps that Ato and Tessa make everything we throw onto the page look effortless.

2. Say Your Prayers
After watching Corcoran spend an episode (hell, a season) coming off the rails and threatening every last person in Five Points on his search for truth, I thought the interrogation with Maguire in the church was brilliant. The way Tom started this frighteningly tense moment off – with a conversation – fed perfectly into the emotional and physical eruption that followed. Kevin’s mixture of remorse and indignation leaves you almost feeling sorry for Francis. …Almost. A truly stunning scene (in an episode chock full of them).

1. The Final Five Minutes
You haven’t seen it yet, but the last five minutes of the Copper finale are quite possibly my favorite moment(s) of the season. There is always a tall order to leave your audience (and characters) with some sort of emotional payoff. I think the final minutes of episode ten deliver this in spades. We’re very proud of it, and I hope it resonates with the rest of you.

Thanks for an incredible season, and I’ll see you in 1865.

Have questions or comments for Kevin? Leave them below! And for more of Kevin’s ‘Copper’ musings, check out his personal blog, Ithaca Mafia, and follow him on Twitter at @Kluv32.

The Brass is Back: ‘Copper’ Season Two Announced!

Copperheads, your prayers have been answered. We’re thrilled to announce that Copper is returning in 2013 for an all-new season! In 1864, Detective Kevin Corcoran was New York City’s finest…but what will 1865 hold for your favorite Five Points detective?

Excited about another vacation to Five Points, NYC? Catch the Copper Season 2 trailer below, and leave your predictions for the upcoming season in the comments!

Earn A Badge: Best of ‘Copper’ Giveaway: WINNERS!

Congratulations to fans April Gemeinhardt and Mallory Sholtz, the winners of our Best of Copper Giveaway! A BIG thank you to all of the Copperheads who played – the winners were chosen at random, and we loved all of your submissions. (We’ll be highlighting a few of our favorite fan comments on the site and on our Copper Facebook page, so keep your eyes peeled!)

Didn’t win a badge? Don’t worry, there will be another coppertunity to score swag today… stay tuned!

We’re just four days away from the season finale of Copper, and to celebrate, we’re giving away TWO Kevin Corcoran replica badges, perfect for your Halloween costume or for everyday wear. (A badge on your lapel makes a great conversation starter.) But we can’t just hand these badass badges over – you gotta earn one.

HOW TO ENTER: Take a stroll down Five Points memory lane and answer this question: What was your favorite Copper scene and/or quote this season? Post your answer in the comments, and you’ll be automatically entered to win.

WHEN TO ENTER: The contest starts NOW and ends tomorrow (10/18) at 10AM/9c. So yeah, Copperheads, get movin.’

PRIZES: TWO lucky fans will score a replica of Kevin Corcoran’s 1864 Metropolitan Police badge (pictured above.)

It’s that easy. So what are you waiting for? Leave your favorite Copper scene or quote below, and stop back here tomorrow at 10AM/9c to find out if you’re an honorary member of the Sixth Precinct (and have a spiffy badge to prove it.)

OFFICIAL RULES: http://www.bbcamerica.com/copper/copper-badge-giveaway-official-rules/

Episode 9 Recap: A Day To Give Thanks?

The date is November 24, 1864. Happy Thanksgiving, Copperheads! Unfortunately Corcoran and the Five Points gang are not in a very festive mood. It’s “A Day to Give Thanks” (and the title of this season’s penultimate episode), but for most of these characters, you gotta wonder: Give thanks? For what?

We open in the black heart of the city, Paradise Square, where the men are boozing, the women are picking through produce, and a bunch of unlucky turkeys are losing their heads. Beheading: Just one of the many, many gruesome ways to die in Five Points. Gobble, gobble.

He may not be on the chopping block, but back at the Corcoran residence, Kevin’s losing his own head. It’s been two weeks since he discovered Ellen at the Earle House, and she still can’t string together a sentence. Doctor Freeman Medicine Man is doing his best to nurse a sickly and seizing Ellen Corcoran, who is coming off a hydrargyri chloridum high. But despite Freeman’s best efforts, Mrs. Corky looks bad. Worse than bad. She looks like she might end up six feet under, buried next to half the cast of Copper.

When Corky’s not by Ellen’s bedside attempting to revive her with pocket watch tunes, he’s playing Mad Dog the Bounty Hunter. His mission? Find and kill Detective Francis Maguire. Anyone who gets in the way is in for a world of hurt. Police captain, shop owner, priest, friend… doesn’t matter who you are, you talk or you die. It’s clear Corcoran’s gone completely unhinged – you don’t shove your gun in the gut of an innocent priest unless you’ve lost your grip – but, as usual, his loose cannon investigation tactics prove surprisingly effective. Eva and O’Brien think Maguire hightailed it outta the state, but Corcoran sticks to his guns (literally!) and after roughing up half of Manhattan for answers, hunts down his old friend exactly where he knew he’d be – hiding out on home turf.

Kudos to Tom Weston-Jones and Kevin Ryan, who knock their church showdown scene right outta Five Points. “Churches are the only places in Five Points that are unlocked day and night,” Corky tells Francis when he discovers the fugitive hiding in the house of God. “Even the taverns close eventually. Guess a man can survive a few hours without a drink…but not without a chance to repent.” Francis gets his mea culpa, but not a shot at absolution. Staring down the barrel of Corcoran’s cocked gun, Francis admits to bedding Ellen, refuses to explain the circumstances surrounding the death of Kevin’s daughter, and then begs Corcoran to deliver the kill shot. Francis half-heartedly argues that his transgressions are partly Corcoran’s fault – Corcoran chose to be a war hero instead of a husband and father, and Francis felt it his duty to step in. But as tweeter @Undrawn_Blog put it, the ‘It’s your fault I slept with your wife’ defense is a weak defense. Right or wrong, Francis would rather die than live with his guilt, which is why Corcoran lets him walk. He can tell Francis is in living hell, and he wants to see his former friend suffer.

And the brutal confrontations and heart-wrenching admissions don’t end there.

After nine long episodes, we finally get the truth about Maggie’s death. But it’s a truth that literally knocks Corcoran off his feet – his wife killed their six-year-old daughter. Ellen reveals she conceived a child with Francis, and sold her prized locket to pay for an abortion from Madame Grindle. The abortion left her disturbed, haunted by the cries of her unborn child, a crying that was echoed by Maggie when she discovered Ellen in bed with Maguire. To stop her daughter’s screams, Ellen pushed her daughter away – a mistake, but a fatal one. “I wish it was me… instead of her,” Kevin says, choking on his own guilt and tears. But there’s hardly time to assign blame, because the 10-minute emotional rollercoaster ride comes to an abrupt end with a mystery knock at the door. And end scene. (You can breathe now.)

FIVE MORE POINTS

Confederate Conspiracies
Terrorist John Kennedy is playing the Morehouse fam like a game of Monopoly. Robert asks Kennedy to chill for two weeks on the whole evil scheme to burn New York to the ground, advice Kennedy ignores with a throaty chuckle and a smarmy smile. Instead, Kennedy dumps Robert and sets his sights on Daddy Morehouse, who he blackmails by threatening to expose Norbert’s arms dealings with the Confederacy. Now with money to burn, he circles back around to Robert, and promises he’ll keep Norbert out of his evil plot, in exchange for Robert’s support. The only thing that could stop Kennedy at this point in the game? A go directly to jail card.

Forever Drunk
Norbert Morehouse wins most valuable Copperism of the episode with this outstanding zinger, “Robert, if you wish to discuss conduct, when I return, we can speak of your infinite intoxication.” Door slam.

Forgive and F* That
Robert’s had enough of Elizabeth and Corcoran’s silly little feud. Corcoran only held Elizabeth at knifepoint for a few minutes and the guy didn’t even draw any blood, so, like, time to rebuild the trust bridge. Riiight. Most friendships and affairs are over when someone pulls a knife.

You Can Trust Me, I’m Trustworthy, Trust Me
Speaking of trust bridges, Morehouse believes Corcoran is his only confidant. This revelation inspires Elizabeth to offer a litany of ‘trust me’s,’ but you don’t ask for trust. You earn it. And when you beg? You look sketchy. So Copperheads, can Elizabeth be trusted? Or does she have something hidden up her white-laced sleeve?

Knock, Knock
Who’s there? Any theories?

There’s only one episode left. See you in 1864 next Sunday, boyo.

Thanksgiving During A Turbulent Time

Last night’s episode, “A Day To Give Thanks,” is set during Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1864. Turkeys are being sold and slaughtered in the open-air market in Five Points. In spite of worries about a possible Confederate plot to burn the city, Thanksgiving is being celebrated all over the city, whether at Eva’s Paradise or in Carmansville at the Freemans’ home. This was also the first anniversary of the official Thanksgiving proclamation.

Since 1846, Sara Josepha Hale, author and editor of the “socially influential” Godey’s Lady’s Book, had petitioned the government to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, with pleas to Congress and Presidents of the United States: Zachary Taylor, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln.

Previously, Thanksgiving was mainly celebrated in New England, and governors of various states would issue their own proclamations for Thanksgiving which were different. And there had been other days of Thanksgiving proclaimed, they were more related to the Civil War’s soldiers rather than the Pilgrims and Native Americans of the 17th century.

It wasn’t until 1863 when Lincoln decided to make a Thanksgiving proclamation. He noted, “In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity,” and wrote, “I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” He also noted its possible unifying power to restore “peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.” (Lincoln also made a Thanksgiving proclamation in 1864.)

It’s also believed that the White House tradition of pardoning a turkey originated with Lincoln: As the story goes, Lincoln’s son Tad had befriended a turkey sent to the White House for dinner and begged for the bird’s life to be spared. Tad’s wish was granted.

During the Civil War, Northerners sent Union soldiers turkeys, puddings and pies. Here are some Civil War-era Thanksgiving recipes—stuffed turkey, plumb pudding and cranberry sauce, plus how to cook a full Thanksgiving meal.

Copper: The Final Two Episodes

BBC America’s first original scripted series, Copper, which delivered the channel’s highest rated series premiere ever, is building to an explosive finale that will change lives and New York City forever.  With Confederate terrorists threatening to destroy the city as they know it, unexpected traitors will be revealed and once air-tight bonds will be broken beyond repair.  The gripping drama – filled with intrigue, corruption, mystery and murder – will close its record-breaking season with Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) giving everything he has to protect his town from the terrorist attack he knows is coming. From award-winning executive producers Tom Fontana, Barry Levinson and Will Rokos, the penultimate episode of Copper, “A Day To Give Thanks” will air October 14 at 10/9c, and the season finale, “A Vast and Fiendish Plot” will air October 21, 10/9c.

The series began with Corcoran’s search for answers after returning from the Civil War to find his daughter murdered and wife missing.  Assisted by partner and friend, Detective Francis Maguire (Kevin Ryan) and Detective Andrew O’Brien (Dylan Taylor), Corcoran seeks justice for the powerless as a way of dealing with the injustice of his own loss. His friendship with two Civil War compatriots – Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid), the wayward son of a wealthy industrialist and African-American Doctor Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh), who secretly assists Corcoran with his work – takes him to the contrasting worlds of elegant Fifth Avenue and Northern Manhattan.

In the season finale, Corcoran teams up with Robert Morehouse and the coppers of the Sixth Precinct to thwart a brazen terrorist attack on New York City by Confederate soldier’s intent on watching the city burn.  With his personal life in shambles, his closest friendship in pieces and the truth finally uncovered about his daughter’s death, Corcoran must set aside his inner turmoil to save the city he vehemently protects. Meanwhile, betrayal runs deep as Morehouse learns just how entangled his father has become with his new business associates. Madam Eva Heissen (Franka Potente) and Aristocrat Elizabeth Haverford (Anastasia Griffith) find themselves in unexpected positions, while in Carmansville, Doctor Matthew Freeman makes a dangerous decision in defending his wife.

Watch the trailer for this Sunday’s episode, “A Day to Give Thanks” below.

Who’s excited for the final two episodes of Copper? Not ready to say goodbye just yet? Share your favorite moments from this season in comments!

The Booth Brothers: A Legacy On Stage and Off

‘The Shakespeare monument in Central Park, New York.’ (1864) Courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery

From our partners at Gothamist: In a passing mention at the beginning of last night’s episode, Elizabeth Haverford says that she’s headed to tea with the Booth brothers, “to discuss their upcoming performance to raise funds for the Shakespeare statue.” The Booth Brothers were a famous acting family of the time—Edwin Booth, Junius Booth Jr. and John Wilkes Booth. Yes, that John Wilkes Booth.

The year 1864 was the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, and New York’s theatrical community wanted to erect a statue of the playwright in Central Park. Edwin Booth, who also managed the Winter Garden Theater, and various theater owners and actors contributed money and/or their performances for the effort.

According to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the group “received permission from Central Park’s Board of Commissioners to lay the cornerstone for a statue at the south end of the Mall between two elms” in 1864. Edwin Booth, an acclaimed Shakespearean actor, and his brothers performed a special production of Julius Caesar at the Winter Garden on November 25, 1864. He was Brutus, while Junius played Cassius and John played Mark Antony.

However, it wasn’t until 1866 that a sculptor, John Quincy Adams Ward, was selected through a competition and in 1872, the statue was erected on a temporary base. You can see the statue, featuring Shakespeare in Elizabethan dress on Central Park’s Literary Walk. The park today remains a touchstone for Shakespeare lovers: Every summer, one of his plays is performed outdoors in Shakespeare in the Park. Famous actors from stage and screen (for instance, Al Pacino as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice) can be seen at Delacorte Theater—for free.

As for the Booth brothers, Junius Booth Jr. never achieved the fame of Edwin Booth or the infamy of John Wilkes Booth. John Wilkes Booth was killed 12 days after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. on April 14, 1865.

Edwin Booth, who had a falling out with John Wilkes before the assassination (he reportedly threw him out of his house), retreated from the spotlight after Lincoln’s murder. Many people even wrote letters in support of Edwin, and Booth was thankful, writing, “While mourning in common with all other loyal hearts, the death of the President, I am oppressed by a private woe not to be expressed in words. But whatever calamity may befall me or mine, my country, one and indivisible, has been my warmest devotion.”

When he returned to acting, Booth continued to draw crowds and promote theatrical performances. At his final performance (he played Hamlet) in 1891, the Brooklyn Academy of Music was a crowded affair with over 3,000 attendees. The Times reported, “Seats were sold at prices ranging from $1.50 to 75 cents. and admission with standing room could be obtained in some parts of the house for half a dollar.” Booth died in 1893.

The Booth Theatre, on West 45th Street, is named after Edwin Booth.

Episode 7 Recap: Love, Lies, and Liquid Fire

The date is October 18, 1864. We open on lovers Elizabeth Haverford and Kevin Corcoran – Elizabeth’s literally humming with joy, and Corky’s sporting the biggest smile we’ve seen all season, a cocky postcoital (I believe this is one word) grin that’s quite adorable. It’s a lovely scene that’s instantly ruined when Detective Buzzkill brings up his favorite topic of discussion – Annie.

Elizabeth insists Annie’s livin’ the good life with a respectable family in a house with ocean views in San Fran, aka Fantasy Island. She spins her web of lies, sealing each untruth with a kiss, and Corky laps it up. He’s just relieved Annie’s not with John Reilly, that lunatic child molester claiming to be Annie’s father. Cue Elizabeth’s panic face – the look of a woman who just realized she pawned off her adopted child to a deranged psychopath. Oops?

After a failed attempt to rescue Annie (Ms. Haverford could use a tutorial on intimidation from Eva), Elizabeth turns to Morehouse for help. His advice? ‘Fess up to Corcoran, and fast. “Corky is like a mad dog,” Robert warns. “The longer he chews on the bone, the sharper his teeth get.” Wise words, but alas, it’s too late – Mad Dog Corky is already chomping at the bit.

Say what you will about Annie, but for better or worse, the girl is a brilliant manipulator. She convinces her husband he’s about to get lucky, and the second he loosens her shackles, she grabs a scythe and disembowels the guy. Annie hightails it back to Five Points, where she gives Kevin the lowdown on where she’s been. Judging from Kevin’s reaction, it might be a good time for Elizabeth to make like Jasper and set sail for Halifax.

But she doesn’t. And then this happens:

But oh, it gets worse. Elizabeth heads to the Morehouse mansion to make a few more bad decisions…

Oops?

In other Five Points relationships gone horribly wrong, Maguire and Lockwood’s engagement is officially off. Turns out Mary was blackmailing men listed on abortionist Grindle’s ledger. Lockwood allegedly heads to England with another guy while Maguire heads to Eva’s Paradise to get naked and belligerently drunk.

But not all love is lost – the Freemans are expecting!

Five (More) Points

Who’s a Southern Sympathizer?
This week Morehouse makes a new friend – a terrorist named Thomas Kennedy. If Lincoln beats McClellan in the upcoming election, Kenney (a former Union war prisoner) plans to burn New York City to the ground. (Spoiler alert: Lincoln totally wins.) So has Morehouse turned to the dark side?

Playing with Greek Fire
Kennedy’s secret weapon is Greek Fire, a combustible liquid that catches fire without a match, and is so potent it can burn on water. Greek Fire was the weapon of choice for Byzantines in 678AD, but good luck trying to make a batch today. The original recipe was lost.

Quotable Copper
“Hey, it’s a whorehouse. People are trying to concentrate.” – Corcoran to a wailing Maguire

Title of the Next Episode: Better Times Are Coming
We doubt it.

RIP John Reilly.
In hog heaven.

So, what did you think of last night’s episode? Will Corcoran ever forgive Elizabeth? Is Morehouse in cahoots with terrorists? Anyone inspired to become a vegetarian after saying goodbye to John Reilly? Sound off in the comments below!

The Wild Raid At St. Albans: Confederates Invade Vermont

Confederates humiliate St. Albans residents, making them pledge an oath to the Confederacy at the St. Albans Bank.
Image ourtesy of the St. Albans Historical Museum

From our partners at Gothamist: Last night’s episode showed that New Yorkers—including Detective O’Brien’s wife—are becoming anxious about a possible terror threat—from the Confederates in New York City, because a group of Confederates managed to raid a town in Vermont just 15 miles from the Canadian border. By mid-October 1864, nearly two dozen Confederate cavalrymen arrived in St. Albans, Vermont, by way of Canada. Many of them posed as Canadians on a “sporting vacation.” On October 19, Lieutenant Bennett Young led the raid and yelled, “This city is now in the possession of the Confederate States of America!”

Young, a native of Kentucky, joined the Confederate army in 1862 when he was 18 or 19. He was part of Morgan’s Raid, the Confederates’ 1,000-mile journey into Indiana and Ohio, and was captured in 1863. While he was held in Chicago, he escaped to Canada. According to The Lost Key, “He made his way back to the South sailing through the blockade from Nova Scotia to Bermuda, and reportedly on to Richmond, Virginia. Young proposed, and Secretary Seddon approved (commissioning Young a Lieutenant), to return to Canada and undertake missions into the U.S. from there.” Young built up a group of other escaped Confederates in Canada and planned the attack on St. Albans.

During the raid, Young and his men stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from banks, stole horses, ended up killing one man (who apparently may have been the town’s only Southern sympathizer!) and tried to humiliate residents by making them take an oath to the Confederate States of America. At one bank, a Confederate soldier said, “Not a word. We are Confederate Soldiers detailed from General Early’s Army to come North and to rob and plunder as your soldiers were doing in the Shenandoah Valley.”

The men also attempted to burn St. Albans down, but their bottles of Greek fire didn’t work. They left Vermont for Canada—dropping some of the stolen money on their way out (they still managed to take $208,000)—and when U.S. Authorities tried to get them extradited, Canada refused on grounds that it was neutral during the Civil War. Canada did, however, return $88,000 found on the men.

While President Andrew Johnson proclaimed amnesty for Confederates on May 29, 1865, Young was not included so he had to remain abroad until Johnson issued another proclamation in 1868.

Young become a notable citizen of Louisville, Kentucky; the St. Albans Historical Museum says he became a “railroad owner, bridge builder, author, highly popular lecturer, collector of Native American artifacts, and founding member of the Filson Club Historical Society in his home city of Louisville, Ky.” In 1911, a group of St. Albans residents went to Montreal to meet him, and he supposedly referred to the raid as “the reckless escapade of flaming youth” and he “wondered that he ever undertook it.”

The town of St. Albans is getting ready for the 150th anniversary of the raid—The St. Albans Raid Sesquicentennial Celebration—which is set for September 2014. This past July, residents paid tribute to its past with a re-enactment.