Originally called Bull's Island (prisoners would later refer to the
prison as the Bull Pen), Johnson's Island 330 acres on Sandusky Bay.
Prison Regiment at Johnson's Island Confederate Officer's Prison
consisted of an early morning call and a day of inactivity until the evening's
call. Prisoners spent their days writing studying, writing letters and playing
From April of 1862 until September of 1865, over 9000 Confederates passed through
Johnsonís Island Civil War Military Prison leaving behind an extensive historical and
Many of these officers recorded in journals or diaries the day to
day happenings, emotions, and conditions they were enduring. They also spent many hours
writing letters, collecting autographs from prisoners, and sketching maps. These documents
give vast insight into what prison life was like, as well as the personal conflicts and hardships
encountered among families and friends during the Civil War.
The 16.5 acre Johnsonís Island Prison Compound contained 13 Blocks (12 as prisoner
housing units and one as a hospital), latrines, sutlerís stand, 3 wells, pest house, 2 large mess
halls (added in August, 1864) and more. The Blocks were two stories high and approximately
130 by 24 feet. There were more than 40 buildings outside the stockade (barns, stables, a lime
kiln, forts, barracks for officers, a powder magazine, etc.) used by the 128th Ohio Volunteer
Infantry to guard the prison. The two major fortifications (Forts Johnson and Hill) protecting
Johnson's Island were constructed over the 1864/65 winter, and were operational by March of 1865.
Horace H. Lurton, confined as a private, began his law studies while
imprisoned. He became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 1910. The Rebel
Thespians, a troop of prisoners, wrote and produced many shows. ..."Goober
Peas," which hit the National Hit Parade in the 1950s vocalized by Doc Wilson,
originated as a Johnson's Island marching song.
Of the 9,000 men held captive, 206 remain forever---their headstones
carved in white Georgian marble. A bronze Confederate private keeps guard
over the cemetery as he looks south toward Cedar Point, Sandusky and beyond.