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

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