“What is a Confederate Cemetery doing in the state of Ohio?” This question motivated us to hop on our bikes and head toward Johnson’s Island Confederate Cemetery. All sorts of answers rambled around in my mind as we traveled down the road. Maybe a naval battle between the north and south fought on the shores of Lake Erie would explain its existence. I knew for certain that the Confederacy had a navy. Maybe it was for southern sympathizers who lost their lives fighting. The Civil War became a war of brother against brother. The country’s mindset was divided much in the same way as it is today. We wouldn’t get answers to this burning question until we managed to pay the toll and cross the causeway That would take us to Johnson’s Island.
Drama at the toll booth leading to Johnson’s Island Confederate Cemetery
The first issue we encountered at the toll gate involved the two-dollar fee required to enter the causeway. None of us had dollar bills. Rooster reached into his pocket and pulled out a five. He stuck it in the machine and climbed back onto the bike.
The gate closed before he could put the motorcycle in gear. Unfortunately, the Road dogs didn’t notice the arm drop again. They traveled across the causeway without looking back. Thus, Rooster and I found ourselves stuck behind a red and white striped mechanical arm. My husband refused to pay again because we all know Rooster is cheap, cheap, cheap. Plus, neither of is had dollar bills. This situation left us with a dilemma. How would we manage to get the gate to open once more?
A guy driving an expensive-looking BMW walked over to the box and put in a code. It turned out that Johnson’s Island is now an exclusive high-class neighborhood where the wealthy hang out away from the rest of the world. They’ve found a unique way to have a gated community and have outsiders pay for the causeway maintenance.
Rooster and I finally made it onto the causeway and had to ride fast to catch up with the other Road Dogs.
The next issue we encountered involved finding the Johnson’s Island Confederate Cemetery. We didn’t see any signage pointing the way, and our GPS took us into a residential part of the island. That wasn’t hard to do since most of the Island is filled with expensive homes. The Johnson’s Island Confederate Cemetery would be the only reason for a group of bikers to cross the causeway. The neighborhood we entered looked like the sort of place where the residents wouldn’t think twice about calling the police if they feared an invasion from a biker gang. I expected to see a patrol car any second. We turned around.
Arriving at the Johnson’s Island Confederate Cemetery
We decided to return to where we started. We went back to the road we rode in from the causeway and found the cemetery without any trouble. Sometimes the GPS doesn’t know everything. We viewed row after row of white tombstones through the fence.
An information plaque at the Johnson’s Island Confederate Cemetery gave us the answer to all our questions. Johnson’s Island became the site of a prison for Confederate officers in 1862. More than 15,000 men passed through this prison, and 406 of them died while there. Union prisons had a better track record than Andersonville, down in Georgia. This Confederate prison was famous for starving Union soldiers. Of course, food was scarce in the south during the end of the war.
Rumors exist that Johnson’s Island Confederate Cemetery is haunted. The only trace of the odd or unusual we witnessed consisted of unusual amounts of deer poop.
We also could view Cedar Point off in the distance. This amusement park traveled with us the entire day as we rode around the Sandusky area.
Coins left on the graves at the Johnson’s Island Confederate Cemetery
While walking around the cemetery, I noticed coins deposited on the top of every tombstone. Someone walked the cemetery placing the coins there to let the families know they had visited. They honored the deceased person’s service and family. Apparently, this practice aligns with military tradition. The men who served in the Confederacy fought on the wrong side of history. The preservation of slavery would be a horrible consequence if they’d won the war. Still, they fought for a cause they believed in. I don’t agree with the reason they fought, but I respect their willingness to die for it.
The irony is these Confederate officers are buried in close proximity to where freedom seekers crossed Lake Erie to escape slavery. The Sandusky areas happened to be one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad.
We sat down to rest before we got back on the road. The big mystery of the day solved for us. The sun came out, and the clouds started to move away. We planned to stop at the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky next. The afternoon had the potential to turn into the perfect Road Dog adventure.
We’ll see everyone somewhere down the road.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.
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