Second Chesapeake Affair: 1863-1864

“As the Civil War began, most Nova Scotians favoured the northern cause. While little was known of Abraham Lincoln, it was generally felt that the Republican party was pledged to a crusade against the dreaded institution of slavery. This all Nova Scotians could support. As the war progressed, however, many Nova Scotians began to have second thoughts about the struggle. To begin with, it had become apparent that the Republican party was very reluctant to abolish the institution of slavery in its entirety”


“While Wade had been saved, the Haligonians had to face the consequences of their action. The Northern authorities were of course infuriated by the turn of events. The American vice-consul, Nathaniel Gunnison, demanded the arrest of Wade and his accomplices. Secretary of State Seward informed Lord Lyons that “it would be necessary for the United States government to seriously consider whether or not it would be necessary to adopt extraordinary precaution with respect to intercourse with Nova Scotia”

“This did not mean, however, that the excitement was over for Haligonians. The civic and police authorities, now completely emptyhanded, felt it incumbent to do something to cover their bungling. As a result Dr. Almon, Dr. Smith and Alexander Keith were arrested on a charge of “interfering with the police in the discharge of their duty”. Their case eventually reached the Supreme Court and General Doyle urged their conviction as a show of faith to the American Government. His arguments, however, fell on the deaf ears of a rather unsympathetic local government.

I have had a very uphill game to play with the Government, in some particulars, more especially as regards the steps required to be taken against those…persons who prevented the capture of Wade…, for the ringleader of the party (Dr. Almon) is nephew to the Premier and attorney general, whose business it would be to prosecute him, which of course he is not overwilling to do. Then, again, the Mayor, with whose business, as regards the non-capture of Wade, I have had great reason to find fault with, is Dr. Tupper’s grand supporter and thus am I frequently thwarted in carrying out my views.

Nevertheless, Doyle continued to do all in his power to secure the conviction of the offenders. Eventually, he seems to have been outmanoeuvred on this matter, however, as the charges against the suspects were dropped when the Supreme Court jury found “no bill.” It would seem that Halifax, where blood runs deep, was protecting its own.”

McDonald, R.H. “Second Chesapeake Affair: 1863-1864” Dalhousie Review, Volume 54, Number 3, 1974