Monday, March 9, 2015

Camp Lawton: Search for Confederate artifacts in Georgia turns up two recent items

Rifle percussion cap (top) and the artillery friction primer were manufactured after the Civil War.

(Updated) This past Saturday’s “public day” at the site of Camp Lawton in Georgia focused on archaeological evidence of the Confederate contingent that guarded about 10,000 Union prisoners.

As proof of you never know what you''ll find, two recovered items turned out to be from modern times.

Students thought they have recovered a brass friction primer from one of the artillery pieces inside the fort, said Lance Greene, an assistant professor. They also came across a brass percussion cap from a rifle, but quickly determined it wasn't 150 years old.

“We did notice on the top of the percussion cap a maker's mark, 'CCI', which is a modern ammunition company," said Greene. "Turns out, the percussion cap must have been dropped recently by re-enactors -- one of the problems we face when working on military sites, especially dating to the Civil War.”

After a photo of the two items went up on the project's Facebook page, two commenters pointed out that the friction primer, too, was modern. "We'll definitely have to be careful about identification of these kinds of artifacts inside the park," the GSU page responded.

Dig at the fort area (Photos courtesy of Georgia Southern U.)

A couple times a year, the public is invited to watch Georgia Southern University archaeology students do work at the site, much of it in Magnolia Springs State Park, just north of Millen. About 40 people watched students excavate a 2 meter by 1 meter space inside the fort and sift through soil.

GSU students over the past few years have looked for evidence of Confederate quarters and buildings in the fort. They’ve also recovered numerous legitimate artifacts from inside the stockade, where Federal soldiers were crowded on a hillside for six weeks in late 1864 until they were sent to other Southern prisons as Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s troops marched on Savannah.

Greene said students this spring will continue work on master’s candidate William Brant’s research on the Confederate occupation.

During the summer field school, they will look for evidence of barracks and other buildings.

“We will also finish excavating the remains of the brick oven within the prisoner area,” said Greene. “We removed all the brick rubble last summer, but there are still ash deposits that contain a lot of animal bone, and we are excited about the prospect of being able to talk in detail about prisoner diet.” 

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