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Rebels on Lake Erie

FROHMAN, Charles E.

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ISBN 10: 0967839629 / ISBN 13: 9780967839622
Published by Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, [Fremont, OH], 1997
Soft cover
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About this Item

Small 4to. Stiff grey wrappers. v, 157pp. Map, illustrations. Fine. First paperback edition of the Union prisoner of war camp located at Sandusky Bay, Ohio. First published by the Ohio Historical Society in 1965. Tight, pristine copy. Bookseller Inventory # 33713

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Rebels on Lake Erie

Publisher: Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, [Fremont, OH]

Publication Date: 1997

Binding: Soft cover

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


The story of Johnson's Island prison in Lake Erie where 2500 Confederate officers were incarcerated during the Civil War. Frohman uses diaries, letters, official records and newspaper accounts to describe the prisoners' lives and the history of the prison.

From the Author:

As the Civil War increased in length and devastation, 300 acres of land off the Ohio shore of Lake Erie in Sandusky Bay became more and more important to both the Federal and the Confederate commands. On Johnson's Island were confined about 2500 officers captured on the fields of battle - "the flower of Southern manhood."

Midway in the war experienced leaders were sorely needed in the Southern armies, more seriously affected than those of the North by lack of men. A number of adventurous imaginations, in the summers of 1863 and 1864, toyed with schemes for the liberation of the officers on the Island, perhaps simultaneously with many more thousands of Confederate troops held prisoner in Camp Douglas near Chicago, Camp Morton at Indianapolis, and Camp Chase at Columbus, Ohio.

These northwestern states seemed to be the logical place for such an uprising. This region was the stronghold of copperheadism of various titles and degrees. A partisan estimate was of 300,000 who were "agin the government" in its war policies. Here the peace faction of the Democratic party was sizable and belligerent. Its eloquent leader, Clement L. Vallandigham, had been banished from his native Ohio and was living within easy reach in Canada.

Many Canadians were warmly sympathetic to the Southern cause, and the Confederate government had appointed three commissioners to that province to influence public opinion and to make trouble for the Union as opportunity arose. The Great Lakes were undefended except for one small gunboat. If lake commerce might be disrupted and lake cities threatened, military attention might be diverted to the new danger points, with happy results on battlefields farther south.

But the so-called Northwest Conspiracy was dependent upon too many imponderables, was too loosely organized and quite too impractical to be translated into action. A mixture of chivalry and chicanery was involved in both its formulation and its failure.

For a few years, then, there were rebels on Lake Erie, rebels in and around Sandusky and its neighboring islands, contributing their special footnote to Civil War history, a footnote which, with many ifs, might have been pages.

This book consists mainly of a series of Johnson's Island articles which appeared in the Sandusky Register beginning in September, 1964, the centennial of the Lake Erie piracy, and continuing into 1965. Diaries and letters written by men who were prisoners on Johnson's Island, or who were members of the Island garrison, have been traced to libraries, historical societies and museums throughout the United States. All of them add color to the accounts of Island life, but all of them vary according to the age, education and tastes of their writers, as well as to the times when they were written. They have to be considered in balance with voluminous official records, and with day-to-day reports in the newspapers. These pages represent an amalgam of all these elements in an attempt to bring to life, as completely and authentically as possible, a few years of local history which had wider implications.

What happened at Johnson's Island a century and more ago affected many families, both North and South. This volume helps to preserve for our time and years to come the backgrounds of stories that have been handed down from men who looked out on Sandusky Bay with thoughts bitterly at variance with its beauty. Sandusky, Ohio ; C. E. F.; November 1965.

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