Posts tagged ‘Historic Preservation’

Archaeologists comb newly-found Civil War POW camp

By RUSS BYNUM Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — When word reached Camp Lawton that the enemy army of Gen. William T. Sherman was approaching, the prison camp’s Confederate officers rounded up their thousands of Union army POWs for a swift evacuation — leaving behind rings, buckles, coins and other keepsakes that would remain undisturbed for nearly 150 years.

Archaeologists are still discovering unusual, and sometimes stunningly personal, artifacts a year after state officials revealed that a graduate student had pinpointed the location of the massive but short-lived Civil War camp in southeast Georgia.

In this undated photo provided by Georgia Southern University, an 1863 Grocer’s Token made of bronze is shown at Camp Lawton a Civil War-era POW facility, near Millen, Ga. This token was issued in Niles, Michigan by C.A. Colby & Co. Wholesale Groceries and Bakery. It circulated for the value of a cent. Camp Lawton was built by the Confederacy to house about 10,000 prisoners of war. But it abandoned after being used for only about six weeks in 1864 before Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s army arrived and burned the camp. Archaeologists say they’re still discovering unusual, and sometimes stunningly personal, artifacts abandoned by prisoners of war at the massive but short-lived Civil War camp a year after state officials revealed a Georgia Southern University graduate student had pinpointed its location in southeast Georgia. (AP Photo/Georgia Southern University, Amanda L. Morrow)

Discoveries made as recently as a few weeks ago were being displayed Thursday at the Statesboro campus of Georgia Southern University. They include a soldier’s copper ring bearing the insignia of the Union army’s 3rd Corps, which fought bloody battles at Gettysburg and Manassas, and a payment token stamped with the still-legible name of a grocery store in Michigan.

“These guys were rousted out in the middle of the night and loaded onto trains, so they didn’t have time to load all this stuff up,” said David Crass, an archaeologist who serves as director of Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division. “Pretty much all they had got left behind. You don’t see these sites often in archaeology.”

Camp Lawton’s obscurity helped it remain undisturbed all these years. Built about 50 miles south of Augusta, the Confederate camp imprisoned about 10,000 Union soldiers after it opened in October 1864 to replace the infamous Andersonville prison. But it lasted barely six weeks before Sherman’s army arrived and burned it during his march from Atlanta to Savannah.

Barely a footnote in the war’s history, Camp Lawton was a low priority among scholars. Its exact location was never verified. While known to be near Magnolia Springs State Park, archaeologists figured the camp was too short-lived to yield real historical treasures.

That changed last year when Georgia Southern archaeology student Kevin Chapman seized on an offer by the state Department of Natural Resources to pursue his master’s thesis by looking for evidence of Camp Lawton’s stockade walls on the park grounds.

Chapman ended up stunning the pros, uncovering much more than the remains of the stockade’s 15-foot pine posts. On neighboring land owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he dug up remnants of the prisoners themselves — a corroded tourniquet buckle, a tobacco pipe with teeth marks in the stem and a folded frame that once held a daguerreotype.

“They’re not just buttons and bullets,” Chapman said. “They’re little pieces of the story, and this is not the story of battles and generals. This is the story of little people whose names have been forgotten by history that we’re starting to piece together and be able to tell.”

A year later, Chapman says he and fellow archaeology students working at Camp Lawton have still barely scratched the surface. In July, they used a metal detector to sweep two narrow strips about 240 yards long in the area where they believe prisoners lived.

They found a diamond-shaped 3rd Corps badge that came from a Union soldier’s uniform. Nearby was the ring with the same insignia soldered onto it.

The artifacts also yield clues to what parts of the country the POWs came from, including the token issued by a grocery store in Niles, Mich., that customers could use like cash to buy food. Stamped on its face was the merchant’s name: G.A. Colbey and Co. Wholesale Groceries and Bakery.

Similarly, there’s a buckle that likely clasped a pair of suspenders bearing the name of Nanawanuck Manufacturing Company in Massachusetts.

Hooks and buckles that appear to have come off a Union knapsack also hint that, despite harsh living conditions, captors probably allowed their Union prisoners to keep essentials like canteens and bedrolls.

The Georgia Southern University Museum plans to add the new artifacts to its public collection from Camp Lawton in October along with a related acquisition — a letter written by one of the camp’s prisoners on Nov. 14, 1864, just eight days before Lawton was abandoned and prisoners were taken back to Andersonville and other POW camps.

The letter written by Charles H. Knox of Schroon Lake, N.Y., a Union corporal in the 1st Connecticut Cavalry, was purchased from a Civil War collector in Tennessee. Unaware that Camp Lawton will soon be evacuated, Knox writes to his wife that he hopes to soon be freed in a prisoner exchange between the warring armies.

He doesn’t write much about conditions at the prison camp, but rather worries about his family. He tells his wife that if she and their young son need money for food or clothing, there’s a man who owes him $9. Knox also gives his wife permission to sell the family’s cow.

Brent Tharp, director of the campus museum, said his growing collection from Camp Lawton has definitely drawn Civil War buffs to visit from far beyond southeast Georgia.

“The people who are real Civil War buffs and fanatics, those are definitely coming,” Tharp said. “But I think we’ve also created a whole new group of Civil War buffs here because it’s right here in their own backyard.”

Civil War Trust provides history lovers with ‘Essential To-Do List’ for 150th Anniversary

(Washington, D.C.) – Whether it’s standing atop Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain or inside Antietam’s Dunker Church, or viewing the remains of the ironclad USS Monitor or the Confederate submarine HL Hunley, some experiences have the power to bring history alive like nothing else can.  Believing there is no substitute for experiencing the places and situations that made history, the Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest battlefield preservation organization, is marking the sesquicentennial anniversary of the American Civil War with the release of an exciting new book designed to bring the past alive for students of history in dynamic new ways.

The Civil War 150: An Essential To-Do List for the 150th Anniversary features top suggestions for the tours, museums, books, movies and other activities that every true Civil War aficionado should seek out during the four-year sesquicentennial commemoration.  Featured sites span the nation from Boston Common to metro Los Angeles, while some activities can be done anywhere with the assistance of a computer or television.

“The Civil War is such a dynamic part of American history that it was nearly impossible to distill its substance to only 150 experiences,” said Trust president James Lighthizer.  “Certainly there are hundreds of additional sites and activities that we could have included.  But we are confident that once you begin using this guide in to experience history in a whole new way, physically walking in the footsteps of heroes — be they famous generals or common soldiers and civilians — you’ll be hooked and eager to find your own adventures.”

The book is available for $14.95 from publisher Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, beginning today.  The 272-page paperback book includes numerous illustrations and maps, as well as checklists to track your progress through the challenging list.  For more information on Civil War 150, visit the Civil War Trust website

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States.  Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds.  To date, the Trust has preserved nearly 30,000 acres of battlefield in 20 states.  Learn more at, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.

To purchase a copy, click here.

Civil War Trust Lauds Transfer of Gettysburg Country Club Site to National Park Service

(Gettysburg, Pa., March 25, 2011) – After years spent with its fate hanging in the balance, the Department of the Interior today announced that the 95-acre site of the former Gettysburg Country Club has officially become part of Gettysburg National Military Park.  In celebrating the permanent protection of the second-largest privately held property inside the boundaries of park, Civil War Trust president James Lighthizer issued the following statement:

“This is a day that many in Gettysburg and the larger preservation community have long dreamt of.  Here at the Country Club, we have been presented with the incredible opportunity to set aside some of the most blood-soaked ground still unprotected at Gettysburg, and we owe our partners at The Conservation Fund a debt of gratitude for helping us ensure that this happy conclusion was reached.  In acquiring this land, known historically as the Emanuel Harman Farm, we have largely completed the protection of the first day’s battlefield.

“As we approach the beginning of the period commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I can imagine no better legacy than setting aside hallowed grounds like the Gettysburg Country Club for future generations.  I am confident that with the commitment of Secretary Salazar and the Department of the Interior, today’s achievement is but the first of the tremendous successes for historic preservation we will celebrate during the Sesquicentennial.

“Even as we celebrate this great success, we must remember that other vital pieces of the Gettysburg story are still vulnerable.  In addition to our participation in this transaction, the Civil War Trust is independently pursuing the purchase of three other pieces of the Gettysburg battlefield.  These properties — two on the Baltimore Pike near the park visitor center, and the historic Josiah Benner House and Farm, used as a field hospital in the wake of the battle — will eventually join the Country Club as the newest parts of Gettysburg National Military Park.”

The former Country Club property, located along the Chambersburg Pike between McPherson Ridge and Herr’s Ridge, was the scene of intense fighting on July 1, 1863.  Eight Confederate brigades totaling more than 15,000 soldiers — more than 20 percent of Lee’s entire army was positioned upon or fought from this land.  Two units involved in the bloody fighting around Willoughby Run, the 26th North Carolina and 24th Michigan, each lost more men than any of the regiments in their respective armies at Gettysburg.

More information on the Trust’s current acquisition efforts, including the three at Gettysburg and others at Perryville, Ky., Bentonville, N.C., Franklin, Tenn., and Second Manassas, Va., is available

The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States.  Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds.  To date, the Trust has preserved more than 30,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states— including 800 at Gettysburg.  Learn more at

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