Saturday, August 21, 2010

Confederate Prison Camp Unearthed

By the end of its completion, in late 1864, Camp Lawton was considered by some to be the largest prison camp in the world. Located in Southeastern Georgia it was built to relieve the overcrowding going on at the most famous Confederate prison camp, Andersonville. Conditions there were no better however because of the Confederates lack of funds and supplies, prisoners barely ate and lived in completely unsanitary and deplorable conditions. The prison was actually only open for two months before Sherman's march started to barrel down upon the it and was abandoned. In Sherman's frustration he burned and leveled the prison, then buried it before moving on. Over time the location and boundaries of the prison faded so the relic and memories were gone.

Recently Kevin Chapman, a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, discovered the site of the original Camp Lawton that at one time housed 10,000 Union soldiers. Aided by a painting of the area from that era it was believed to have been located in Magnolia Springs State Park. Many historians for years believed that finding Camp Lawton would not unearth any major discoveries or artifacts. Chapman proved them wrong. In just a short period of time Chapman uncovered numerous artifacts that had archaeologists stunned and excited for one of the biggest Civil War finds in a long time. 

"What makes Camp Lawton so unique is it's one of those little frozen moments in time, and you don't get those very often," said Dave Crass, Georgia's state archaeologist. "Most professional archaeologists who ever thought about Camp Lawton came to the implicit conclusion that, because people weren't there very long, there wouldn't be much to find."
They are not completely sure at this time what part of the prison camp they are looking at however one thing they do know is that this is probably only one percent of the entire area that Camp Lawton's mysteries have to offer. It will be exciting to see over the next few years what this dig will uncover and what we will be able to learn about this prison and its short life, as well as what we can learn about the Civil War. 

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