1864 : Civil War Comes to the Detroit River / Lake Erie

September 19, 2023 all-day

PARSONS, PHILO (1861, Steamer)

A sketch of the Philo Parsons

On September 19, 1864,  the American steamer “Philo Parsons” was seized off Kelley’s Island by some thirty Confederate sympathizers under John Y. Beale, a Southern naval officer. The group, whose members had embarked at Sandwich and Amherstburg, Canada West, intended to free the  3000 Confederate inmates of a prison camp in Sandusky Bay, Ohio. The plan included the capture of the U.S. gunboat “Michigan” for use in commerce raiding and attacks on Great Lakes ports.

Arriving off Sandusky Bay the raiders found the “Michigan” forewarned and called off the operation. They returned the following morning to Sandwich, abandoned the steamer and dispersed.

The Philo Parsons Incident

Sources :

Ontario Historical Plaque

The Rebels on Lake Erie; Pariculars of the Attempt to Capture the Steamer Michigan“, Toledo Blade, September 21, 1864; reposted in New York Times, September 25, 1864.

Another New York Times article from 1895.

For more information about the Confederate Prison on Johnson’s Island during the Civil War, see http://www.johnsonsisland.org/history/war.htm

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