Saturday, August 20, 2011

Archaeologists bring story of Civil War prison camp to life

Archaeological Excavation at Camp Lawton
A second season of research by archaeologists from Georgia Southern University is adding a great deal to our understanding of life at Camp Lawton, a Civil War prison camp near Millen, Georgia.
Millen is about an hour south of Augusta and was along the route of Sherman's March to the Sea. Camp Lawton had only been in use for about six weeks when the approach of Sherman's army forced its evacuation. During that short time of operation, however, more than 10,000 Union prisoners of war were confined in the 42-acre stockade and over 700 died.

Stream and Prison Site
The site has long been preserved as part of Magnolia Springs State Park and the adjacent Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery. Because of this preservation, the site of the stockade and its related components has been protected for years and the artifacts associated with the prison and its inmates have been left in the ground where they fell nearly 150 years ago.

Interpretive Kiosk at Camp Lawton Site
As archaeologists uncover these artifacts, they are pushing away the fog of time to learn much about what life was like in the prison. Not only has their work revealed traces of the stockade and other structures, it has located places where prisoners lived. Artifacts found so far include a unique ring, traces of huts lived in by prisoners and even buckles and other items bearing regimental insignia. The latter items help pinpoint where men from various units lived in the prison.

In addition to the prison site itself, Magnolia Springs State Park features the well-preserved earthworks of the Confederate fortifications that surrounded the stockade. In addition, there are interpretive panels and signs to help visitors learn about the prison and its history.

To learn more about Camp Lawton, please visit

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park - Kennesaw, Georgia

Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield
A park that commemorates the Atlanta Campaign and preserves the scene of some of its heaviest fighting, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is a rare Civil War landscape in the rapidly spreading Atlanta metropolitan area.
Fought on July 27, 1864, the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was one of the few direct Union assaults of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's campaign to take Atlanta. The Federal troops tried to storm heavily fortified position along the slopes of the mountain but were hurled back with severe losses. More than 4,000 men were reported killed, wounded or missing in just a few short hours.

Cannon on top of Kennesaw Mountain
The battle developed as Sherman pushed the last few miles to the Chattahoochee River, beyond which no natural barriers separated him from the vital rail junction of Atlanta. To reach the river, however, there was one more great natural barrier to pass - Kennesaw Mountain and its connected ridges.

The high ground, however, was held by the outnumbered but still determined Confederate Army of Tennessee led by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. His Southern forces had entrenched themselves heavily on the mountain and connected slopes and his cannon were firing from the summit of the mountain on the trains that brought Sherman's supplies down from Tennessee.

Monument at the Dead Angle
Recent rains had made a flanking maneuver too difficult to undertake, so on the morning of July 27, 1864, Sherman hurled his forces at the mountain.  The attack went wrong almost immediately. The Confederate positions were just too strong and the Union attacking columns were swept by Southern cannon and musket fire.

The Confederate victory at Kennesaw Mountain would be the last Southern triumph of the Atlanta Campaign. Five days later Sherman was able to move his army around one of Johnston's flanks and Southern troops were forced to give up the mountain and fall back first on the line of the Chattahoochee and soon into the defenses of Atlanta itself.  Johnston was replaced by Gen. John Bell Hood who launched poorly coordinated and futile attacks on Sherman's forces, decimating his army and losing Atlanta in the process. The fall of the city drove a bayonet into the heart of the Confederacy.

To learn more about this beautifully preserved battlefield, please visit