Civil War POW camp offers a glimpse from Georgia's past

Confederate treasures

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MILLEN, Ga. --- After months of secrecy, archaeologists Wednesday unveiled a stunning set of artifacts from the site of Camp Lawton, a Confederate stockade that housed thousands of Union prisoners in the closing months of the Civil War.

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In an undated photo, then-graduate student Kevin Chapman surveys the site at Camp Lawton while students dig in a trench in search of artifacts.  Associated Press/Georgia Southern University
Associated Press/Georgia Southern University
In an undated photo, then-graduate student Kevin Chapman surveys the site at Camp Lawton while students dig in a trench in search of artifacts.

"I don't think I realized at first how important this site was," said Kevin Chapman, who as a Georgia Southern University graduate student helped launch a series of digs that is yielding new insight into the lives of prisoners who lived and died at the 42-acre camp in 1864.

During a well-attended ceremony and news conference at Magnolia Springs State Park -- which occupies the site of the former prison camp -- Chapman and officials from Georgia's Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service showed off case after case of tools, buttons, utensils and other items left behind by soldiers who occupied the stockade that autumn.

"We're here to talk about a great discovery -- one of the most pristine archaeological sites of the Civil War has been found here," said Mark Musaus, the Fish & Wildlife Service's deputy regional director. Much of the site, he added, lies within the federally owned Bo Ginn Fish Hatchery within Magnolia Springs State Park.

Georgia natural resources Commissioner Chris Clark said there had been months of speculation about the findings -- much of which was fueled by extensive security measures taken to protect the site.

"I've heard every possible rumor," he said. Talk of undiscovered graves, munitions -- even the legendary missing Confederate gold -- preceded Wednesday's announcement.

The presence of such a rich site, he added, will help educate future generations about the Civil War and attract new visitors to middle Georgia.

Chapman, who is now a Fish & Wildlife Service employee, said relatively little has been done to explore the few Civil War prison camps that existed on both sides.

"This may be our only chance -- the one last site to tell this story," he said. "It's not a story of great generals and charging cavalry. It's little stories. It's the story of men trying to survive."

Among the array of artifacts is a tourniquet buckle -- manufactured by a famous New York medical equipment maker. When Chapman and his colleagues pulled it from the sandy soil, it still had shreds of fabric clinging to the metal band.

Tourniquets were critical during the war and used most frequently for amputations -- a common treatment for battle wounds.

"This would have been wrapped around the arms and legs of many servicemen as they lost their arms or legs," Chapman said. "It spoke to me."

Another important find is an improvised pipe, fashioned from a broken clay stem. Its creative maker melted lead from bullets and cast the metal into a bowl.

"There was a soldier here who had a need," Chapman said. "He actually wore grooves into that white clay pipe. He grasped it in his teeth with such tenacity that it left little grooves behind. His name has been lost, but his story has not. You can see him, 150 years ago, during that cold November back in 1864, and he sat next to his fire, with a little tobacco perhaps he bartered from a guard."

Dr. John Derden, professor emeritus at East Georgia College and the author of an upcoming book about Camp Lawton, said the discoveries unearthed so far will help humanize the history behind the ugly confrontation in which Americans were holding other Americans as prisoners.

"Virtually all the issues related to the POW existence, both North and South, are encapsulated here," he said. "There is so much more here that we can learn."

Today's state park, established in 1939, offers lush forests and landscaped picnic grounds and shelters.

"A hundred and 46 years ago, things were very different," he said, describing a stark, treeless horizon with thousands of prisoners packed into the hastily constructed compound. There were ovens for bread, a slaughterhouse, leatherworks -- even a burial pit for the dead.

Although some might be disappointed that the discoveries did not include the bodies of prisoners or gold, those rumors are still true in a way, Derden said.

"What about the bodies and the gold? They're here," he said. "This site contains a body of evidence -- of the past."

The gold, he said, is here, too -- in the form of the rich archaeological treasures that will shed new light on an important part of our past.

Sue Moore, a Georgia Southern professor who coordinated much of the archaeological work, said that digs will continue at the site and that the artifacts will be curated for display to allow the public to enjoy and learn from them.

Shortly after its construction in 1864 to alleviate the horrendous crowding at Andersonville, Camp Lawton was hastily abandoned and the prisoners evacuated when threatened by Gen. William Sherman's march on Savannah. For nearly 150 years, the site has been relatively undisturbed, and the exact location of the camp's stockade was lost to time. Archaeologists had long ago dismissed the possibility of significant findings mainly because of the short time it was used.

The Fish & Wildlife Service, Georgia Southern University and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources are discussing long-term plans for making the artifacts available for public viewing. The Georgia Southern Museum (www.georgiasouthern.edu/museum) in Statesboro, will hold a public display in the fall; details will be announced soon.

Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery -- on the park premises -- is not operating, but is expected to be back in operation in the spring. The 127-acre hatchery will serve as a refuge for endangered species.

Magnolia Springs State Park is open daily and is known for its crystal-clear springs, boardwalk and 28-acre lake available for boating and fishing. The earthen breastworks, which guarded Camp Lawton, can still be seen at the park.

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OhWell
326
Points
OhWell 08/18/10 - 12:09 pm
0
0
I grew up playing on this

I grew up playing on this deserted piece of history. My brother, cousins and I rode our 4-wheelers over this property. My father and uncle owned property that adjoined Camp Lawton and Magnolia Springs. Millen has not always been the county seat of Jenkins County, one time Lawton was the county seat. Lawton is directly behind Magnolia Springs divided by the railroad tracks. This is a prime chance to enhance tourism and help Jenkins County with their high employment rates.

stillamazed
1488
Points
stillamazed 08/18/10 - 12:14 pm
0
0
This is a very interesting

This is a very interesting story, my stepmother was from Millen and we often went to Magnolia springs camping and swimming as kids. This is a wonderful find.

fish2
0
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fish2 08/18/10 - 01:40 pm
0
0
Another great archeological

Another great archeological find along with the Hunley.

speeding
0
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speeding 08/18/10 - 01:46 pm
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This morning I listened to 6

This morning I listened to 6 people give a talk about the so called Camp Lawton. One of them commented that this camp was a slaughterhouse. Being there was no questions allowed I wish he would clear up that statement. And congressman broun or whatever you need to get rid of that $500.00 haircut and ask for a $495.00 refund.

Dixieman
14900
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Dixieman 08/18/10 - 01:52 pm
0
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More photos, please.

More photos, please.

walrus4ever
354
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walrus4ever 08/18/10 - 03:11 pm
0
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All civil war prisons were

All civil war prisons were death traps, as were the military camps where more died from disease than combat. The difference was that the southern prisons were short of food for staff and prisoners alike while starvation of confederate prisoners was totally unnecessary.since food was always plentiful in the north.

ciymon
0
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ciymon 08/18/10 - 04:56 pm
0
0
War is a fact of life and as

War is a fact of life and as a result, prisons or prison camps are as well. Rarely are prisoners treated as equals to the guards, to do so would negate the war itself. Camp Lawton, I am certain provided the best that it could for those held there, using the resources that were available. By and large, no one wants to treat others inhumanely.

I hope that many items continue to be found in the remains of Camp Lawton. I am eager to see that more light is shed on the reasons for the war of Northern Aggression.

As for Jenkins County, and the hopes that it will bring economic growth, I doubt it. Unfortunately, Jenkins County is in such tremendous need there does not seem to be much hope. Until the current citizens eliminate the good 'ole boy network and stand up for true justice, Millen/Jenkins County is destined to wither away. There are few people in any position of importance in the county that intend to make changes. Most of them simply want to have the position listed in their obituary so that others might think of them as important. It is a SAD state of affairs!

scott-hudson
10
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scott-hudson 08/18/10 - 05:20 pm
0
0
Speeding, that was Rep. John

Speeding, that was Rep. John Barrow.

GaPatriot
0
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GaPatriot 08/18/10 - 06:26 pm
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Obamacrat John Barrow

Obamacrat John Barrow couldn't miss the photo op. I'm sure he called Pelosi to get permission to be there.

my2cents
19
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my2cents 08/18/10 - 09:03 pm
0
0
Barrow was trying to act

Barrow was trying to act Republican and quoted Lincoln during his speech. How dumb! Did he not realize he was still in southeast Georgia where Lincoln is still disliked to this day.

MajorPaul
0
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MajorPaul 08/19/10 - 03:12 am
0
0
If Marse Lincoln did what he

If Marse Lincoln did what he did when he was dictator today, no one in America would hesitate to call him a terrorist.
He is the reason we have many of the issues we have today.

speeding
0
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speeding 08/19/10 - 06:53 am
0
0
This is a scam. Camp Lawton

This is a scam.
Camp Lawton Millen Georgia Vacation
New Civil War Archeological Find In Southeast Georgia
Flat Creek Lodge is located just 20 miles from the most significant Civil War discoveries in decades!

Come stay with us during your visit to Camp Lawton. We're so pleased to welcome guests from across the globe to experience everything Southeast Georgia has to offer!

As one of the jewels of Georgia, not only will your time in Southeast Georgia leave you in awe of the history of days gone by, but you'll be able to explore the splendor of Flat Creek Lodge. Known for hunting and fishing, fine dining, our farm, an award winning dairy with artisan cheeses, and so much more, there's something for the whole family down at the Lodge!

Read the entire CNN Article: "Major archaeological find at site of Civil War prison," Aug. 17, 2010.

Civil War Buffs Package
one night of lodging in our unique lodge rooms
hearty country breakfast
A variety of activities including:

biking on the nature trails
leisure time at the beach
rejuvenating in the whirlpools

Package starts at $199 (plus tax) for two people
Additional nights can be added for $99, and additional activities can be added.
Call ahead for reservations available in the Dining Room.
Subject to availability and reservations.

Call 877-352-8273 for reservations or fill out the form below and we'll contact you via your preferred method of contact.

Nativeson1
2
Points
Nativeson1 08/19/10 - 07:13 am
0
0
May I suggest you people

May I suggest you people focus on the historic find and stop arguing the Civil War. In case some of you don't know the Civil War is over and has been for many, many years....And in case you don't know the south lost...Arguing about it and your opinions aren't going to change the facts about something that blood was spilled to fix. So your opinion about whether Abraham Lincoln was a terrorist or whether Camp Lawton was a slaughterhouse is nothing more than that: AN OPINION.

Nativeson1
2
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Nativeson1 08/19/10 - 07:20 am
0
0
speeding: A scam is when you

speeding: A scam is when you pay for something and get nothing...What you described above is not a scam but a promotional package spurred by hype over this find...It is no different than most vaction spots that already exist...At least you will get something (nice stay at a lodge, trails, nature to obesrve and explore)...A scam would be someone answering to an email about them being the sole heir to an inheritance of a distant relative who lives in the British Virgin Islands...Believe it or not people do send money to these email scammers...That's what a scam is, not what you described...What do you have against Millen or Jenkins County making money and possibly employing people if this find yeilds a spike in visitors to the area?

Nativeson1
2
Points
Nativeson1 08/19/10 - 07:26 am
0
0
Speeding: Okay I read the

Speeding: Okay I read the CNN article from August 17th (link to the article: http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/08/14/georgia.civil.war.camp/index.html?iref=...)... Funny I didn't see anything you described in the article about a hunting lodge...A lie don't care who tells it right, as long as it gets told....

jboy
0
Points
jboy 08/19/10 - 08:24 am
0
0
Flat Creek Lodge is in

Flat Creek Lodge is in Emanuel County and Millen has been the county seat of Jenkins County since it was formed in 1905. Until 1905 what is now
Magnolia and Camp lawton was in Burke County.

confederate american
0
Points
confederate american 08/19/10 - 09:24 am
0
0
If GENERAL GRANT had agreed

If GENERAL GRANT had agreed to the prisoner exchange with the south,not so many would have died,DANG YANKEES

Gary Ross
3346
Points
Gary Ross 08/19/10 - 09:50 am
0
0
Great subject! However, as

Great subject! However, as usual, too much text is given over to high official names and big titles. How many these folks actually got any dirt under their fingernails? (Praise and honors for the non-participants - Murphy's Law) I want to hear more about the actual finds and historic links, as well as quotes from those historians and archiologists who are down in the trenches! Who made this great discovery which got turned over to these officials for credit? There are thousands of historic sites (many still largely undiscovered) that warent just as much attention. I know of one such find where 1864 railroad tracks are still in the ground. The real value of this find seems to be overshadowed by politics and advertising. Business as usual.

speeding
0
Points
speeding 08/19/10 - 12:06 pm
0
0
I got that add off of ebay. I

I got that add off of ebay. I still say it is a scam. Everything about this was kept from the public,Why? Can't the people of Jenkins county be trusted? Why all the securiety?

overaugusta
0
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overaugusta 08/19/10 - 12:38 pm
0
0
yawn

yawn

overaugusta
0
Points
overaugusta 08/19/10 - 12:41 pm
0
0
I can look around if I cared

I can look around if I cared enough about GA's history. Hell, not much has changed.

jboy
0
Points
jboy 08/19/10 - 01:02 pm
0
0
well what are reading this

well what are reading this article for

love it
0
Points
love it 08/19/10 - 03:21 pm
0
0
This is so amazing! I have

This is so amazing! I have been keeping up with it since July. I find it very interesting. Cant wait to go down and see everything they have found!

Sgt Maj 2nd Corps
0
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Sgt Maj 2nd Corps 08/26/10 - 09:17 am
0
0
Another great find,it wont be

Another great find,it wont be long before walmart or a housing development starts to build on the site,remember he who has the biggest checkbook wins.Just look what walmart did to the wilderness another supercenter.

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