John Yates Beall (January 1, 1835 - February 24, 1865) was a Confederate privateer in the American Civil War who was arrested as a spy in New York and executed at Governors Island, New York.
He was born in Jefferson County, Virginia, now West Virginia, on his father's farm, Walnut Grove. He attended the University of Virginia to study law but on the death of his father he left his studies to take up farming in 1855. At the start of the war he joined Bott's Grays, Company G, in the 2nd Virginia Infantry. He received a wound in the lungs which left him incapable of active service.
Inspired by John Hunt Morgan, he conceived a plan to launch privateers on the Great Lakes. He presented his plan to Confederate authorities, who were interested but declined to act since it might endanger the neutral relations with England. However, Beall was commissioned as acting master in the Confederate States Navy, though not given a command. He then proceeded on his own as a privateer, active in the areas of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. He assembled a crew of 18 men, and commanded 2 boats called The Raven and The Swan. His second in command was a 22-year old Scotsman named Bennett G. Burley. Beall was captured in November, 1863, and was jailed at Fort McHenry, in Baltimore until he was exchanged on May 5, 1864.
On his release he returned to Canada in order to implement a plan to release Confederate prisoners on Johnson's Island. On September 18, 1864, with a small group of volunteers he captured the ship Philo Parsons, and then the Island Queen, which was scuttled. However, at this point the crew refused to act further on the mission without outside assistance. Beall reluctantly agreed and together they sailed for Sandwich, Canada, where they scuttled the Philo Parsons and separated, all escaping arrest except for Bennett G. Burley, whose extradition was demanded by U.S. authorities.
Beall then decided to free some captured Confederate officers by derailing a pa...