Montreal, City of Secrets

Confederate Operations in Montreal during the American Civil War

Reviewed by Mark Collin Reid

March 19, 2018

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.

In Montreal, City of Secrets, author Barry Sheehy paints a vivid portrait of a city teeming with spies, smugglers, and assassins. Perhaps the most notorious Confederate expat in Montreal was John Wilkes Booth — the man who assassinated U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. The book’s appendix contains an especially intriguing list of all the known Confederate agents and sympathizers who operated in the city during the period.

Well-researched, with detailed endnotes and ample black-and-white period photography, the book is a real eye-opener for those who think Canada sat idly by during America’s bloodiest conflict.

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