Ghosts of Ohio
Lore & Legends

Confederate Stockade Cemetery

In 1861, Federal authorities authorized the construction of a Confederate prisoner of war camp in Northern Ohio. Lieutenant Colonel William Hoffman visited the Sandusky area and began looking for a location for the prison, focusing his attention on the Lake Erie islands. After rejecting several of the islands based on their proximity to Canada and/or their high civilian populations, Hoffman settled on the unpopulated Johnson's Island.

Using lumber from trees on the island, a stockade covering approximately 16 acres was built, complete with a 15-foot fence surrounding it. Inside, there were 13 two-story prisoner barracks and a hospital. Construction was completed within the year and in 1862 the first prisoners arrived from Camp Chase. Over the course of the next four years, over 11,000 Confederate officers and enlisted men would come to be imprisoned on Johnson Island.

By all accounts, life at the prison was better than average for most of the year. However, the frozen winds that blew across Lake Erie made for extremely brutal winters on the island, especially since the vast majority of the Confederate prisoners were used to warmer climates. It didn't help matters when the green lumber used to construct the prison shrank over time, causing holes and gaps to appear in the prison walls. Prisoners tried filling the holes with newspaper, but it did little to hold back the cold. Add to all this the fact that the limestone in the soil made for very poor drainage, causing the privies to overflow with waste, and you are left with some rather horrific living conditions.

After the prison closed down, the island had a brief revival when it became known as Johnson Island's Pleasure Resort in the 1890s. However, the venture was short-lived and ended with Cedar Point buying the property and razing or moving the existing buildings.

Today, while visitors to the island can see an earthen fort, all that remains of the Civil War prison is the cemetery, which houses over 200 graves. The centerpiece of the cemetery is a large bronze statue of a Confederate. This statue faces north as opposed to south, which would have symbolized a retreat. However, legends abound of the statue coming to life at night and moving.

It is this cemetery that is at the center of the ghost stories currently circulating. There are reports that the ghosts of Confederate soldiers have been seen walking amongst the tombstones as well as under the trees surrounding the cemetery. A few people even claim to have heard the disembodied voices of the soldiers.

There is also a strange legend involving a group a Italian immigrants hired to work at the nearby quarry. It is said that while many of the workers did not speak English, for some unknown reason, they began singing "Dixie."

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