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Attack at Calais

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Attack at Calais, Maine

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Attempted Raid On The Border

There is a challenger for the location of the northernmost incident of the Civil War! Vermonters like to claim it is the St. Albans Raid, but recently a reader forwarded the following information to the webmaster. The following has been extraced from the State of Maine Adjutant General's Report for 1864/1865. Note: Calais, Maine is located at 45 degrees, 5 minutes north latitude; St. Albans, Vermont, is at 44 degrees, 49 minutes north latitude.

On the 14th of July, His Excellency Gov. Cony received the following telegraphic dispatch from the American Consul in St. John, New Brunswick:

St. John, N.B., July 14, 1864

Governor Cony, Augusta, Me.:

A small raiding party left St. John last night to commit depredations on the Maine frontier. Will send you more definite information soon.

J.Q. Howard, U.S. Consul.

On the receipt of this dispatch, I immediately telegraphed to the Mayors and authorities of the principal cities and towns on the coast and frontier as follows:

Augusta, July 14, 1864

A dispatch from our Consul at St. John to the Governor says that a small raiding party left there last night to commit depredations on the frontier of Maine, You will be on the alert with your available force to resist any attack in your vicinity, and to render aid in repelling elsewhere, if needed.

The recent departure at that time of certain suspicious steamers from St. John, coupled with the report that a rebel privateer was hovering on our coast, furnished tenable grounds for apprehensions of a serious nature, and led me to take without delay such precautionary measures which in my judgement were proper, believing that none too much vigilance could be exercised when the property and lives of the citizens of Maine were imperilled.

On the 18th, Mr. Lee, Cashier of the Calais Bank, received the following dispatch:

St. John, N. B., July 18, 1864

J.A. Lee, Cashier, Calais:

Fourteen men left here in lead colored sail and row boat for Calais. Would touch at Robbinston. Intention was to rob your bank in daytime. If they have not been alarmed, you can apprehend them quietly in the bank. William Collins is the leader.

J.Q. Howard, U.S. Consul.

"By means of this information the people of Calais were prepared to give the party a suitable reception. It was known that the bank would be assailed first. A portion of Capt. B. M. Flint's company of the State Guards was detached for service. Pickets were stationed at different points to give the alarm. At about noon, three of the party, named William Collins, Francis X. Jones and William Phillips, went to the bank, and while their leader, Collins, pretended that he wanted to exchange some gold for "greenbacks," it was noticed that his hand glided suspiciously towards a revolver in his side pocket. Mr. Lee, the Cashier, immediately gave the alarm, when the three were arrested and taken to the Municipal Court Room. The excitement was intense. There were good grounds for believing that the robbers had accomplices in the vicinity, and the State Guards and citizens were soon on hand in a body to repel any invasions and depredation. Collins had a new Confederate flag on his person, which was captured by Capt. W. B. Taylor. He claimed to be a Captain in the Fifteenth Mississippi Regiment. The testimony of the prisoners during their examination established the fact that they were determined upon plunder, pillage, and robbery, to be carried out on a large scale, if their associates had joined them. They were ordered to recognize for trial in the sum of $20,000, which failing, they were sent to Machias jail under a strong guard. They were subsequently tried on the charge of conspiracy, found guilty, and sentenced each to three years in the Maine State Prison. A detail of fifty men belonging to Capt. Flint's company patrolled the city night and day several weeks after the raid was made, since which time no violations of law or order have occured".

Source: State of Maine Adjutant General's Report, 1864/1865, Volume I, 67-68, provided courtesy of Alan Poor, 3rd-great-grandson of Private Henry G. Hemenway, Co. I, 2nd Vermont Infantry.

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