Confederate Stockade Cemetery is located on Johnson's Island in Sandusky Bay, Ohio, approximately four miles from the city of Sandusky. The rectangular plot is enclosed with an iron fence, highlighted by an iron archway at the entrance closest to the water's edge.
In 1862, a prisoner-of-war camp opened on Johnson's Island, the first facility to be constructed by the Union solely for the purpose of imprisoning Confederates. Almost exclusively used for the confinement of Confederate officers, the prison also held a small number of enlisted men, some of whom are buried in the cemetery. A majority of the interments on Johnson's Island are Confederate officers.
From the early summer of 1862 until the end of the Civil War, Johnson's Island served as the primary stockade for Confederate Officers. Separating captured officers from enlisted men was based upon the view that officers were gentlemen, worthy of more humane conditions, and to prevent officers from organizing enlisted men to escape or to create disturbances.
The Confederacy continued to lose officers as the war progressed, contributing to the importance the officers imprisoned in the Confederate Stockade. In 1864, Confederate agents in Canada planned to liberate the prisoners on Johnson's Island by hijacking the U.S.S. Michigan from Sandusky Bay, and using the gunboat to overwhelm the prison guards. The plan was thwarted when word of the scheme was leaked to Union authorities. Afterward, federal forces constructed two additional fortifications on the island, Fort Hill and Fort Johnson, in case of another attempt. In addition, all generals and field-grade officers held at Johnson's Island were transferred to eastern prisons.
In the initial years following the Civil War, the federal government did not administer Confederate cemeteries. This policy changed in 1878, when Congress appropriated $1,500 for “care and protection of the Confederate cemetery on Johnson's Island, Ohio…provided that before any expenditure is made, the title of the land upon which the cemetery is located shall be transferred to the United States.” This marked the first time that the federal government appropriated funds to maintain a Confederate cemetery. Despite this act, the owner of the island, Mr. L.B. Johnson, refused to sell the land. In 1904, the United Daughters of the Confederacy purchased the cemetery from Mr. Johnson, eventually donating it to the U.S. government in 1931.
Johnson's Island Civil War Prison site, including Confederate Stockade Cemetery, was designated as a National Historic Landmark in June 1990.