In September 1864, a college-educated pirate from Virginia sailed out onto Lake Erie. He was intent on liberating the Confederate officers imprisoned on Johnson’s Island, near Sandusky, Ohio.
That’s just part of this story of intrigue, conspiracy and adventure about the Civil War in this documentary, "The Rebels on Lake Erie."
“Rebels on Lake Erie” tells the story of young John Yates Beall and his abortive attempt to liberate the Confederate prisoner-of-war depot on Johnson’s Island.
That prison was unique in the Civil War. It was built specifically to hold all captured Confederate soldiers. But as the war dragged on and more Confederate prisoners were captured, the prison was converted to one that held officers only – and a few political prisoners and spies. During the Civil War, more than 10,000 Confederate officers at one time called Johnson’s Island home.
Pirate John Yates Beall was unique as well. The wealthy Virginia plantation owner served under the legendary Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. But Beall is best known for his exploits on the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie.
Three years in the making, the documentary was written, directed and produced by Kathleen Endres of the School of Communication of The University of Akron under a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council.
The documentary was filmed on location – at the Johnson’s Island prisoner-of-war-depot archaeological dig; in Sandusky, Ohio, and on Governor’s Island in New York City harbor. It features photographs, maps and illustrations from libraries and archives from across the nation and Canada.
The documentary features music performed in their original Civil War arrangements. Popular Ohio folksinger/composer Chuck Keiper performs in the documentary.
The documentary is narrated by Rusty Sommer, now of San Francisco and formerly of Akron.
Experts featured in the documentary include: David Bush, professor of Anthropology & director, Center for Historic & Military Archaeology, Heidelberg University (Tiffin, Ohio); James Duffey, author, Victim of Honor: John Y. Beall and the Northwestern Conspiracy, and adjunct professor of History, Kent State University (Ohio); and Lesley Gordon, editor,Civil War History, and professor of History, The University of Akron (Ohio).