Confederate Operations in Montreal during the American Civil War
By Barry Sheehy with photography by Cindy Wallace
Baraka Books, 2017
Reviewed by Sandra
Originally published in Quebec Heritage News, Spring 2018
“The main theme of this book is the little-known role that Montreal, and to a lesser degree, the Niagara area, played
as spying posts for the Confederacy in the Civil War years of the 1860s. Even the assassination of President Lincoln may have been plotted here. Only recently, in fact, an obscure plaque on the wall of The Bay store on St. Catherine Street was finally consigned
to the dustbin of politically incorrect monuments as it commemorated the location of Jefferson Davis’ house when the former president of the Confederacy lived in exile in Montreal. Very little has ever been mentioned about Montreal – and Canada’s
– involvement in American affairs at this time.“
"When the United States of America went to war against itself
in 1861, it sparked a conflict of catastrophic proportions. The northern states fielded more than 2.1 million soldiers in the American Civil War, roughly double the number of Confederate troops. The combined death toll stands at approximately 620,000, but
some estimates place it as high as 850,000. As for Canada, while it was far from the battlefields geographically, it was on the front lines when it came to the machinations that went on behind the scenes. The nexus of this activity was Montreal, which played
host to Confederate spies as well as to millions of dollars in hard currency or gold — much of it used to bankroll clandestine activities against the U.S. North."
lavish inclusion and excellent reproduction of many Notman photographs from the McCord Museum Collection are in themselves worth the acquisition of this outstandingly researched and clearly-written history. The many shady and not-so-shady characters who lurked
in the St. Lawrence Hall Hotel on St. James Street (now Rue Saint-Jacques) were obviously keen to have their pictures taken at the fashionable Notman Studio on Bleury Street. Notman appeared to be the preferred photographer of Confederate agents, commissioners,
raiders, soldiers and spies visiting Montreal.
ledgers from Barnett’s Niagara Falls Museum, 59 books in all, cover more than a century and a half of Canadian history from the 1830's to well into the 20th century. This is a priceless font of historical information and the recent acquisition
of the collection by the Niagara Falls History Museum is a boon to historians everywhere. In completing my next book, City of Secrets, about Confederate operations in Montreal during the American Civil War, I have used the ledgers for June through
November 1864 to identify historical characters who appear to be in both Montreal and Niagara. In some cases, the Barnett register helped confirm the presence in Canada of important historical figures such as super-banker Jay Cooke and Edwin Stanton’s
telegraph operator and confidant, Thomas T. Eckert. These were important finds."
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