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On November 8, 1861, the USS Jacinto, flouting international laws, stopped the British mail packet the Trent sailing from Havana to England and arrested two Confederate diplomats and their secretaries who were on a diplomatic mission to England. They were imprisoned in Boston. The British government demanded their release.
The affair caused a "profound sensation" in British North America as the Maritimes and Canada realized that they could become a battlefield in a potential Anglo-Northern war. The militia was called up. London announced that it would defend its colonies with all its power and sent 14 000 officers and men as reinforcements. On December 26, 1861 the prisoners were released and tension relaxed for the moment.