Friday, May 11, 2018

Camp Lawton: Dig will continue efforts to learn more about stockade, Confederate captors

Possible Confederate shelter (Georgia Southern University photos)
3D scans of painted and unpainted bullets

Saturday’s (May 12) archaeological dig at the site of a Confederate prison near Millen, Ga., will be an opportunity for visitors to help excavate and screen soil at the southwest corner of the stockade.

The “public day” at Magnolia Springs State Park will include a 2 by 2 meter unit that has not been excavated, said Ryan McNutt, who oversees Georgia Southern University’s Camp Lawton project.

McNutt said he’d like to get a better sense of the construction method for anchoring corners of the wooden stockade.

Is it similar to Andersonville? A different method?” he told the Picket. “Are they reinforced via joints and carpentry or were brackets and nails used?”

Cut nail and piece of horse tack (Courtesy of GSU)

Camp Lawton operated for about six weeks in autumn 1864 before the guards took Federal soldiers to other prisons as the Union army approached Savannah. Many of the POWs were transferred to the site from Camp Sumter, also known as Andersonville.

Saturday’s event, set for 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will include artifacts previously excavated and 3D printed replicas.

“Since this is part of Georgia archaeology month, we're going to have a range of objects, both from Camp Lawton and from Georgia archaeology in general, ranging from zooarchaeological collections to 3D prints of artifacts including Union buttons, the modified tobacco pipe, as well as Minnie balls, nails, and projectile points from Georgia collections” McNutt said.

He said the project in 2017 located the potential remains of two Confederate structures. One may have been a builder’s trench with posts. ”The second, however, is a basin-shaped pit with two angled postholes on one side, which clearly looks like the remains of an ad hoc Confederate structure.”

3D scan of button
McNutt describes it as an “A” frame made of two angled posts, with potentially an eaves pole resting in the center, and a tarp, blanket or canvas thrown over it to make a lean-to.

The feature includes a subterranean pit dug not that different from a prisoner shebang (shelter) uncovered on the north side of the prison site.

Recovered artifacts include part of a frying pan, a cone cleaner for a percussion firearm, and various cut nails, brick fragments and some horse harness parts.

“These are all located in our search area close to the existing earthworks of Camp Lawton,” said McNutt.

More 3D replicas (GSU)
Previous excavations on the prisoner side of the relatively undisturbed site have yielded hundreds of Civil War artifacts that help illustrate daily life. Officials have a good idea of where the stockade walls were erected, having found some post remains. The project’s work in the past couple years has concentrated on improving knowledge of the Confederate side of the prison, which falls within the state park boundary.

The 10,000 Federal prisoners were to the west and across a creek, on a hillside that later became a federal fish hatchery. That side of Camp Lawton is on property managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“I think with successive field seasons, especially the coming 2019 one, we'll find more and more evidence of the Confederate occupation, and be able to generate a dataset of artifacts and structural information that we can compare to the already rich record for the POW occupation,” McNutt said.

McNutt, like Lance Greene, his predecessor wants to know more about what life was like for both guards and prisoners “in that extremely turbulent year of 1864.”

The event is free, but entrance into Magnolia Springs State Park is $5, or free with a Park Pass.

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