Admission to the Ohio Veterans Home Museum in Sandusky is free (donations accepted).
- Open: Saturday through Wednesday 10:00 A.M. to 4 P.M. or by appointment to individuals, families, and for group tours.
- Location: (Map It) Ohio Veterans Home and I.F. Mack Building at 3416 Columbus Ave. in Sandusky, Ohio
- Phone: 419-625-2454
Excerpt from a past edition of OhioTraveler
by Sandy Zeigler, Travel Journalist
Ohio Veterans Home Museum in Sandusky
Do you know where thousands of Confederate Civil War prisoners were sent? Ohio. Nestled up near Sandusky, Ohio, along with tourist attractions like Cedar Point, Put-in-Bay, Wild Animal Safari, and Wolf Lodge is another special place. We were shocked when we “happened upon” a cemetery for Confederate prisoners.
Driving in an area about three miles from Sandusky, we came to a small bridge that allowed our entrance onto another area called Johnson’s Island. Curious as to what was on this island, we inserted the mandatory two dollars at the tollgate, which allowed the crossbar to rise, and our entry onto the island was permitted. Continuing for a short distance from the causeway, we spotted a small cemetery. Stopping, we read signs which indicated that this was the location of a former Prison Camp for Confederate soldiers who had been captured during the Civil War. I learned afterward that this was the only camp designated for captured Confederate officers. There were also prisoners held there who were non-commissioned Confederate officers, as well as a few Union soldiers who had been charged with desertion or other war crimes.
During the period of operation from April 1862 through September 1865, about 10,000 prisoners were incarcerated at the POW Camp on Johnson’s Island. In spite of that large number, according to records, only 267 people died. Their deaths were attributed mainly to the harsh Ohio winter weather, food and fuel shortages, and diseases. The many rows of gravestones that we spotted marked the final resting places for 206 of the deceased. Some of the soldiers who died at the prison were taken elsewhere for burial, and it is believed that there are additional graves in this cemetery that are not marked.
As we walked the cemetery and looked at gravestones, we read the deceased soldiers’ names, ranks, company numbers, and their company’s locations, which included the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Our hearts were saddened even more when we came to tombstones that read “Unknown Soldier.”
In May 1890, wooden grave markers were replaced with the current Georgia marble tombstones. Concerned citizens in Georgia raised the necessary money for this to be accomplished.
Besides the gravestones, there are three other monuments in the cemetery. The largest monument, the “Bronze Monument to Confederate Soldiers on Johnson’s Island,” was added to this setting with its dedication in 1910. This very impressive tribute was placed at the rear of the cemetery. Two additional monuments were dedicated on June 21, 2003. These two show additional information concerning those buried in this cemetery.
This sacred burial ground is the only part of the original POW Depot that is open to the public. The area where the actual prison was once located is being excavated for additional clues concerning this Civil War Prison.
In the summer of 2001, the Johnson’s Island Museum was opened in an attempt to publicly share artifacts from the Prison Camp on Johnson’s Island. Because of the lack of space for these materials, the Johnson’s Island artifacts were moved and are currently on display for public viewing in the Ohio Veterans Home Museum in Sandusky, Ohio. This display includes letters and other items from private collections regarding the Civil War POW Depot, information on the attempt to change the island into “Pleasure Resorts,” and the quarrying business that occurred on the island.
The Ohio Veterans Home Museum is located on State Route 250 just before the city limits to Sandusky. The museum is housed in the Isaac Foster Mack Building on the Ohio Veterans Home Grounds. The other archives there are divided into “War Rooms” which include artifacts for each of the different wars and conflicts from the Civil War to present times. The museum is open Saturday through Wednesday from 10:00 A.M. to 4 P.M. or by appointment to individuals, families, and group tours. Group tour reservations can be made by calling 419-625-2454, extension 1447. There is no charge to view the museum, although a donation box is available for those who want to contribute.