Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, a myth has persisted that the hijackers entered the United States from Canada. This is completely untrue. Nevertheless, there was a time during the U.S. Civil War when attacks on America were launched from Canada, but the aggressors were mostly fellow Americans engaged in a secessionist struggle. Among the attacks were three daring naval commando expeditions against a prisoner-of-war camp on Johnsons Island in Lake Erie.
These Confederate operations on the Great Lakes remain largely unknown. However, some of the people involved did make more indelible marks in history, including a future Canadian prime minister, a renowned Victorian war correspondent, a beloved Catholic poet, a notorious presidential assassin, and a son of the abolitionist John Brown.
The improbable events linking these figures constitute a story worth telling and remembering. Rebels on the Great Lakes offers the first full account of the Confederate naval operations launched from Canada in 186364, describing forgotten military actions that ultimately had an unexpected impact on North Americas future.