October 18th 2014 (through the 21st), marks the 150th anniversary of a strange, largely forgotten event of The Civil War that was the basis of one of Lee Marvin’s earliest film roles. The 1954 film The Raid headlined Van Heflin, Anne Bancroft, Richard Boone, Peter Graves and a 4th billed Lee Marvin in the true story of events of St. Albans, Vermont. Advertised with the following posters, the Hollywood filmmakers clearly emphasized action over reality….
According to St. Albans website, “The story of the attack on St. Albans starts in Kentucky, birthplace of both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Kentucky did not secede and tried to remain neutral, but thousands chose sides. John Morgan, together with his five brothers, organized Morgan’s Raiders which made lightning strikes against Union depots and supply lines. Many of the raiders were captured, imprisoned at Camp Douglas at Chicago, some escaping into Canada.
These Morgan’s Raiders were given a warm welcome at the Confederate headquarters in Montreal. What could they do now to advance the rebel cause? They decided to attack northern cities, hoping to boost Southern morale, cause panic in the North, draw Yankee troops to the Canadian border, avenge destruction inflicted by Union armies, help defeat Lincoln as he sought re-election a few weeks later, create tension between Great Britain and the Union, and rob banks.
Bennett Young, 21, emerged as the group’s leader, the charismatic son of a wealthy Kentucky milliner who also owned a plantation with dozens of slaves. Young checked out St. Albans before deciding that this would be the first target. When he noted the busy railroad shop and foundry downtown, he knew that their getaway had to be fast.
Young then chose those who would accompany him on the raid. Twenty others infiltrated into St. Albans in groups of two and three, most arriving by train, representing themselves as vacationers, sportsmen, and horse traders. Each had been supplied with a concealed pistol, then registered at one of the three hotels and awaited Tuesday, Oct. 18, to attack. The schedule was changed after they discovered that Tuesday was market day, when people from the area flocked into the city.
That Wednesday, at 3 p.m., Confederates invaded the three banks as others rounded up horses or forced pedestrians onto the city’s green. The local people were stunned. They must be robbers, some assumed. How could rebels be so far north? One bank clerk was compelled to raise his right hand and swear allegiance to the Confederate States of America. In another bank two employees were locked in the vault after the raiders had boasted that they would soon burn the city down. The banks yielded a total of $208,000.
The commotion on Main Street came to the attention of the workmen nearby. As the raiders rode away on stolen horses they tossed “Greek fire” incendiaries at the stores, most of which did not ignite. A posse was soon in pursuit, helped by a trail of bank notes that fell from one of the money bags. The raiders managed to cross back into Canada where most of them, including Young, were rounded up. A lengthy legal battle followed in Montreal until the war ended and the case was dropped. Young went on to become a lawyer, author, railroad executive, and honorary general of the Confederate War Veterans. He was a featured speaker at the Gettysburg Reunion on its 50th anniversary.”
As for the real events in the town of St. Albans, they marked it with the following sign at the bottom of this post…..