Johnson's Island

Key role in a variety of noteworthy events

Johnson’s Island is a 300-acre island in Sandusky Bay, located on the coast of Lake Erie, 3 miles from the city of Sandusky, Ohio. It was the site of a prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate officers captured during the American Civil War. In late 1861, Federal officials selected Johnson’s Island as the site for a prisoner of war camp to hold up to 2,500 captured Confederate officers. The island offered easy access by ship for supplies to construct and maintain a prison and its population. Sandusky Bay offered more protection from the elements than on other nearby islands, which were also closer to Canada in the event of a prison break. Woods of hickory and oak trees could provide lumber and fuel. The U.S. government leased half the island from private owner Leonard B. Johnson for $500 a year, and for the duration of the war carefully controlled access to the island.

After the war, the prison camp was abandoned. Most of the buildings were auctioned off by the Army, and some were razed after falling into disrepair. The last antebellum house burned down by accident in 1901. The land was used for farming and rock quarrying. Many lakeside homes have since been built, and the island is now quite developed with two subdivisions. As a result of this development, most of the Civil War-related sites have been razed. In 1990 Johnson’s Island was designated a National Historic Landmark. A causeway was built to connect it with the mainland.

The location

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