Plot Leads to Major Catastrophe

Alexander 'Sandy' Keith, Jr. was a notorious nineteenth century criminal from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Keith was born in 1827 in Caithness, Scotland, immigrating to Halifax when he was a small boy. The nephew of Alexander Keith, founder of the Alexander Keith's brewery, Keith worked for a time as a clerk in his uncle's brewery.

Keith became a secret agent for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, acting mostly as a blockade runner and courier. He was involved with Luke Blackburn in an infamous plot to send clothes infected with yellow fever to northern cities in the United States.

In 1865, he swindled his associates-in-crime and fled to St. Louis, Missouri, settling finally on the prairie. There, he married Cecelia Paris, a milliner's daughter from St. Louis.

Hunted down by one of his victims, he fled again with Cecelia to Germany, where they lived the high life in Dresden and Leipzig, hobnobbing with wealthy socialites and Saxon generals under the assumed name of William King Thomas. When the couple began to run out of money, Sandy Keith concocted a plot to blow up passenger ships and collect the insurance money.|

This led to a major catastrophe in Bremerhaven, in December 1875 when one of his bombs accidentally went off on a dock, killing eighty people. At the time, the deed was known as the "crime of the century."

Alexander Keith Memo:

My Lord,
A very painful frustration has been produced by the appearance on the coast of the Northern United States of the Confederate Cruiser called the "Tallahassee".
This vessel is reported to have been out of Hatteras, North Carolina, about the 1st of this month.

She showed herself off the New York harbor on the 11th of August. In the days which followed she is believed to have destroyed fifty four federal vessels. Her arrival at Halifax was reported to the United States Authorities yesterday by telegraph. The newspapers of today publish a telegram from Halifax, dated yesterday, stating that the "Tallahassee" was coaling there from a vessel alongside and would probably sail again in the night. It is added in the telegram, that she as formerly the blockade runner "Atlanta", which had made three trips into Wilmington.

The appearance of this vessel and the havoc made by her have caused a load and almost universal outcries against the inefficiency of the Navy Department; nor have accusations and approaches against England been spared.

Mr. Leward spoke to me on the subject yesterday He observed that the effect which might be produced upon the feelings of the people of the United States towards Great Britain was a matter for very serious Consideration. Reports had, he said, reached the Government, that the "Tallahassee" had taken her armament onboard at Bermuda. He had not however any positive information on this point, and he hoped that he should be spared the necessary of making a complaint respecting it to Her majesty's Government.

He would not however conceal the uneasiness with which he had learned that the "Tallahassee" had put into Halifax nor the apprehensions which he curtained, that she might receive supplies there. Mr. Leward then reminded line of a paper which he had put into my hand some months ago, with reference to the affair of the "Chesapeake", and which purported to be the Decipher of a letter from a Confederate Agent to Mr. A Keith, respecting the seizure of the "Chesapeake", and respecting a shipment of a thousand muskets to Halifax.

A copy of this paper was transmitted to your Lordship with the dispatch No. 913 of the 21 December last. Mr. Leward went on yesterday to say that the United States Government had discovered that this Mr. A Keith, who was a Merchant at Halifax, had recently written to New York to order a compass, which was no doubt intended for the "Tallahassee", and three thousand Barrels of Pork. Mr. Leward begged me to inform the Lt. Gov. of NS by telegraph of this discovery