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, which premieres in 2012.
“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).
The film is edited by Matt Rafferty. Gabor Smith serves as audio editor and assistant editor.
Ben Whaley serves as the voice of John Y. Beall. Other voices are: Amani Abraham; James Aucoin; Dale Carpenter; David Copeland; Patrick Cox; David Davies; Jon-Fredric Endres; Elliot Lewis; James Martin; Nadia Mullin; Val Pipps; Andrew Rancer; David Ritchey; Phil Shackelford; Philip Shackelford; William David Sloan; Gabor Smith; Peter Smith, and Leonard Teel.
Videographers include Georges Yazbek, Ryan Keeper, Keith Aukeman, Christopher Collins , Michael Wendt, Gabor Smith, Luke Janisko and Jon-Fredric Endres.
Original art is by David Szalay. Animation is by Jon-Fredric Endres. Musical consultant is Katrina DeFord.