June 20, 2010

Rebels on Lake Erie

During the course of research for my current project, I discovered a slender book entitled Rebels on Lake Erie, a work by author Charles Frohman that was first published in 1965 by the Ohio Historical Society. Though still in print as a trade paperback, the original hardcover first edition appears rather scarce, and I really don't know if that edition included a dust jacket.

A review of the book from 1965 describes how the book "details the many plots formulated in the island regions of Canada and the United States to free the imprisoned 'flower of Southern manhood,', who could again take up arms under the stars and bars of the Confederacy."

The work had been serialized in the Sandusky Register in 1964 and early 1965 as part of the war's centennial and timed to coincide with the Confederacy's ill-fated raid on Johnson's Island on Sept 21, 1864. That island, which sits in Ohio's Sandusky Bay, is about a mile from the shoreline and was home to approximately 2500 Rebel POW's, mostly officers, from 1862-65.

Frohman's book also contains insights into the physical aspects of the prison, escapes, executions of both enemy and convicted Union troops by musket and the rope; the health and welfare of the prisoners; and the guard units. More than 30 rare drawings and photographs illustrate the 200-plus page volume. Also included are lists of Confederate dead buried in the island cemetery, a history of the island after the war, and poems by some of the 2500 men who at one time or another were imprisoned there.

The book reproduces a healthy dose of letters pertaining to the island and the rescue plots. A good starting point for those not familiar with the Confederate schemes to disrupt Great Lakes life that emanated from Canada.

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