From the front porch swing
Being on Meddle Bass Island, with Put in Bay in the distance, was a unique once in a lifetime experience of being able to stay where so much history had taken place.
We arrived at the dock for our return trip and said goodbye to the place where we had made some great memories and headed across Lake Erie to return to the dock at Catawba Island where we had left our car a few days before.Looking out from out ferry, we saw Put in Bay, Rattlesnake Island and Gibraltar Island. Gibraltar Island is home to Ohio State’s Stone Laboratory where students and researchers go to study the ecology in a massive stone laboratory. The island is also the site of the former castle and summer residence of Jay Cooke, the Civil War financier when Abraham Lincoln was president. The Laboratory boats a campus of dorms, dining room, research labs, etc. Limited tours of the island, the castle and the laboratory are by appointment only. One day I would like to tour it.
After picking up our car, we drove back to Johnson’s Island to take pictures of the cemetery of the Johnson’s Island Confederate Prison located near Marblehead. The historical marker is nearly obscured by a tree and the road turns into a housing development before you cross a small causeway to reach the island cemetery. Come prepared with $2.00 to put in the automated machine that will then raise the bar allowing you to cross the causeway. For some reason, the bar was stuck in the up position and we, as well as many other cars, crossed over without charge!
Row upon row of crosses of Confederate officers extends from the road to the water. At first, wooden crosses were placed over the graves, but, in 1890, citizens of Georgia paid to have marble crosses replace the old ones and the name of each man was carved onto a stone. The prison was home to 9,000 captured Confederate officers. More than 200 are buried there. Most of them died from disease or the harsh winters, which, as Southerners, they were unaccustomed to.
In addition, there are three large monuments within the iron fenced cemetery. The largest was dedicated in 1910 and honors all the soldiers who were imprisoned there. The cemetery is on an island now inhabited by private residences and many of the roads are marked private property, but you have complete access year round to the grounds of the cemetery. During the Civil War, the island held the entire campus of barracks and other buildings, but they were all torn down shortly after the war ended. Archeological digs are underway and the items uncovered are on display in the Johnson’s Island Exhibit room at the Ohio Veterans’ Home Museum and Cemetery in Sandusky, our next stop.
The admission is free and the exhibits are open year round to the public Saturday through Wednesday, 10-4 or by special appointment and/or group tours.
To reach the museum from the cemetery, take Route 2 east to Sandusky and exit at US 250, the Cedar Point exit. Go north toward Sandusky on Columbus Avenue about 2 miles. The former Ohio Veterans Home is on the left. Enter the gate and go to the large building in the center across from the flag pole and known as the I.F Mack Building. You will see the Veterans’ Hospital on your right.
Enter the large, ornate sandstone building and you will see many rooms dedicated to all wars. What an impressive display of memorabilia from the Civil War, WWl, WWll, Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The exhibits include clothing, artifacts, personal stories, flags, medals, news coverage and just about anything one could bring back from the wars.
The exhibit for the artifacts dug from Johnson’s Island Prison Camp is on the second floor. There is an elevator if needed. We walked through the entire first floor and never saw another visitor or attendant. But we finally found an attendant who informed us where the Camp exhibit was.
In addition to the other displays, check out the Veterans Hall of Fame where the outstanding public accomplishments of veterans is recognized.
We left the museum and headed home for Jefferson with a lot of new information and history to share.
If you are interested in more information or would like to plan a trip to any of the places we visited and mentioned in the last five columns, you can pick up a packet at the Jefferson Historical Society, Thursday through Saturday, 12-4. You can also pick up a packet at the Jefferson Gazette office at the table in the front office. There is Lake Erie Shores and Island Welcome Center East on Milan Road in Sandusky which would be a great first stop if taking this tour. All the booklets mentioned can be picked up there also.
Pamphlets on all the places are included as well as a large Lake Erie Islands book with plenty of unique sites. Be sure and pick up the “Civil War Destinations” booklet which lists other Ohio war sites which we did not have time to visit on this trip. Several pamphlets are on special Civil War commemorative celebrations in the next two years as we continue to remember the four years of the Civil War.