After Action Report, St. Albans

To Major General Jake Jennette
1st  Division, Army of Northern Virginia, commanding

I herewith submit my report on the actions of the ANV detachment in the vicinity of St. Albans, this past September 19-21, 1864.
The detachment consisted of good turnouts from the 4th and 6th regiments, and the 9th battalion, Our total field strength was approximately 20 soldiers, supported by a battery of mountain howitzers. This small detachment acted in support of the military raid on the city of St. Albans, Vermont.

My lovely wife and I embarked from Wilmington, running the blockade, and taking to the high sea. Our ship made its way undetected on the trip north, and we found ourselves in the bustling city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on the St. Lawrence River. We found it quite a simple matter to catch a train south to St. Albans. We found that our encampment was an easy walk from the station. There was no difficulty in getting situated, and we were made to feel very welcome by all. Camp set up proceeded with dispatch and we settled in for most comfortable afternoon and evening.  We were pleased to see Private Gerald Nelson form the 1st Maryland, Sgt. Dan Spinner of the 12th Georgia, as well as civilians, Robert and Wendy Benedict from Alabama  had all made the arduous trip up to the far north.

We also found, camped as we were on the town green, that many townspeople stopped by, wondering about our presence in their town. I believe we were able to put their minds at rest for the moment, and, after sharing the fine companionship of good friends, we settled in for a rather cool but comfortable night's sleep.

Morning broke, rather raw and overcast, with a considerable wind.  At the Officer's call we covered the day's activities with Captain Steve Smith of the 2nd Mississippi, who had arranged our stay. With a period of unscheduled time ahead, I was able to dry out the head of my banjo upon the fire, and played a selection of airs, to the delight of the townspeople who continued to wander by in ever increasing numbers, I might add. I attempted to continue to play, even with the town band behind me giving a concert.  The visiting townspeople were quite fascinate2d with my banjo, almost as though they had never seen one.

From 9 to 10, drills were held.  The artillery drill went most smoothly at 9, followed by a short but crisp infantry drill.  I supervised the drills, but did not feel the need to step in, as the men were in good hands. The noon hour approached, as we spoke with the ever increasing crowds of townspeople, and soon luncheon was served and enjoyed.

At 1 o'clock, the sounds of activity were heard in the enemy camp, and we quickly formed our forces to meet the threat. Our artillery opened up, laying down a hot fire, which weakened our foes considerably. Moving quickly onto the field, we opened a hot fire on our wobbling enemy. We advanced, but though they fought with gallantry, we were too much for them. As we made for their lifeless bodies, to attempt to render what assistance we could, ( and perhaps liberate some shoes from those who no longer needed them), the Federal officer, Capt. Peter Gilbert, who was known to me before the war, dragged himself to his feet, and drew his sword, in a last valorous attempt.  Seeing that his wounds were surely mortal, I decided the humane course was to draw my sword and release him from this mortal coil.  The sad deed done, we retired from the field. 

After we retired, Lt. Bennett  Young's raiders arrived to liberate funds from the local banks. we could hear the commotion, but were unable to see exactly what transpired. 

As a modern aside, this was far from a normal event.  We were camped at taylor park, which is actually the town green in St. Albans, and was where the townspeople were led during the raid itself. Our "battle" was a small skirmish designed to lead the many spectators to the location of a play with local actors, recreating the raid. The only way to see it, really, was on a jumbotron which was erected in the park. I heard an estimate that 6000 spectators came through the park on Saturday.  While that seems high, the actual number was likely in four digits. If you like doing living history, this is the event for you.

The hordes of townspeople grew and grew. It was decided that a short parade through the green might be entertaining for them, and so we marched. We did seem to be very well received.

On our return to camp, the parade of townspeople to us continued apace. Despite the cool temperatures, overcast skies, and the ever strong winds, they came.  I lit the fire again, this time to make my banjo playable, and entertained the throng with a series of lively airs.  My lovely wife joined me on her guitar, and we had a small concert for the passersby.  They had many questions, which we were happy to answer as best we could.

After a time, we learned of an afternoon church service scheduled at a lovely Episcopal church on the green, St. Luke's.  At the appointed time, 3:30, we enjoyed an excellent service of Evening Prayer.  The stained glass in the church was truly beautiful.

We returned to camp feeling renewed by our experience.  We had friends visit, including Lt. Col. Rathbun, of the 9th Battalion, with whom I discussed plans for thew upcoming campaign into the Shenandoah Valley. We were still besieged by the many curious townspeople, who all wanted more banjo music. The town band had begun yet again, seeming to play every three hours or so.   Their music was not unpleasant, but I much prefer playing airs myself.

The afternoon gave way to the early evening.  The fire was lit, and our dinner was cooked, a delicious stew prepared by Mrs. Johnson. Our civilian friends, the Benedicts made use of the fire for their dinner as well. Having had an excellent repast, we settled in for the evening, joined by Pvt. Nelson, the Benedicts, and Sgt. Spinner, who had brought along his metal vest contraption. I used an oil lamp to dry my banjo, as Mrs. Johnson brought out her guitar.  We had a lovely evening playing music for the camp, and the ever present townspeople, as well as most pleasant conversation and fellowship.  The hours passed quickly, and the night air was decidedly warmer then the night before. Soon enough, we retired to comfort of our tents, where we all passed a most comfortable night.

Morning dawned, and blessing of blessings, the sun began to fight its way through the cloud cover! The ever-present wind continued, but the warmth of the sun made it seem not so bad. We had an officers' call at 8:00, and planned the days actions.  With a little free time, I pulled out my banjo.  The sun dried the head marvelously, and the strains of the familiar airs flowed freely into the morning air. Townspeople continued through at a rapid rate, though not as many stopped to question us, perhaps beginning to accept our presence. Cavalry, artillery and infantry drills took place much as the previous day, to good effect, although our ranks were diminished by several soldiers who had to return to Montreal. After the drills, I strummed a few more familiar airs, until I heard once again a stirring from the advancing Federals. Our artillery again managed to keep the advancing foes at bay, though at the expense of one gun, while we formed what was left of our infantry. The men moved onto the field with dispatch, but I fear our fate was sealed.  The Federal delivered a most effective fire, and our ranks thinned quickly.  After a short time, the few Confederate soldiers remaining melted into the trees, while the victorious Federals celebrated over the taken guns.

From the safety of our camp, we heard a sound that must have been out of a dream.  The Raid, which had taken place yesterday, seemed to be happening again! Lt. Young, whom I knew to have ridden to Montreal,  or his ghost, appeared again, and the banks, with no funds left, were magically restored, only to be emptied again!

As this mirage played out, we reformed our depleted ranks, and prepared to march through the green again, a huge throng of townspeople having gathered again. We began to march, the crowds waving as we progressed. Our hallucinations began again though,  when we came to a halt.  It seemed as though the raiders, rather then having escaped, were presented to the populace, who, rather than calling for their heads, actually applauded! What engendered these mad thought, I know not, but soon enough, it passed, and we returned to our camps to prepare for the long journey back to the safety of Virginia.

We began to break camp, loading our equipment onto the wagons, and after some hours of work, made our weary way to the train station, for the short ride to Montreal.  From that lovely city, we embarked for the sea voyage home.  Our trip was uneventful until our arrival at Wilmington, where our reentry to the Confederacy was hotly contested by the hated blockaders.   We feared that we would be taken, however, our prayers were answered by the opening of a fearsome fire from the walls of Ft. Fisher. Once there, we were able to make our way back to Virginia.

Respectfully submitted this 29th day of September, 1864,
Colonel Bradley Tyler Johnson (aka Leonidas Jones) commanding
6th Regiment, 1st Division, Army of Northern Virginia
The Liberty Greys
Any Fate But Submission