View from Confederate Prison. This is a contemporary view of the Sandusky skyline as seen from Johnson’s Island, site of a prison for Confederate officers during the Civil War.
There were several individual escape attempts and a few were successful. There was one organized attempt in September,1864, involving a plan for Canadian-based Rebel spies and sympathizers lead by Virginian John Yeats Beall to seize the warship U.S.S Michigan, which was anchored in Sandusky Bay, turn its guns on the guard at Johnson’s Island, and then free the prisoners who could escape to Canada. The attempt failed when U.S. forces were made aware of the plot in advance. After the escape attempt, artillery batteries were added to Johnson’s Island and Cedar Point to guard the entrance to Sandusky Bay.
While summers were pleasant, winters were difficult for Southerners unused to a Great Lakes climate. Although conditions were hard, Johnson’s Island was one the best run Civil War prisons (North or South) and had one of the lowest death rates of any Civil War prison. Approximately 250 prisoners died there during captivity. Some were eventually returned to their homes after the war; however, 212 are buried at Johnson’s Island. The cemetery is maintained by the Federal government and open to the public.
In 1910, a monument to the deceased soldiers was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Cincinnati Chapter.
For the past two decades, the prison site has been the object of a significant archeological investigation directed by Heidelberg University.