Depicted above is one of the many artifacts uncovered at the site of what was once a Civil War POW camp in Camp Lawton, Georgia. The man’s brass ring bearing the insignia of the Union Army’s 3rd Corps, which fought bloody battles at Gettysburg and Manassas, as well as many buckles, coins and other personal items recently uncovered, had remained undisturbed for almost 150 years.
Camp Lawton was evacuated quickly as Sherman’s army approached on his march to the sea, and the Union Army POWs were forced to leave behind many cherished mementos.
It’s been a year since a graduate student pinpointed the exact location of the large encampment in southeast Georgia, and the artifacts keep coming, each more interesting than the one before. An 1863 grocer’s token stamped with the still-legible name of a grocery store in Michigan, G.A. Colbey and Co. Wholesale Groceries and Bakery, and an old pocketknife were also recovered.
The site represents a most unusual archaeological find as the soldiers were rushed out of the camp and left all their belongings behind.
Due to the fact that Camp Lawton was a brief footnote in Civil War history, replacing the notorious Andersonville in 1864, the campgrounds remained undisturbed. About 10,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned there but it was of no interest to scholars and historians because they believed its six-week existence was too short to yield many artifacts.
But they were wrong. Last year, Kevin Chapman, an archaeological student from Georgia Southern University, was given the opportunity to pursue his master’s thesis by looking for evidence of Camp Lawton’s stockade and much to the surprise of his superiors, he succeeded.
Chapman found much more than just the remains of the stockade; he found little pieces of history about the prisoners themselves. Some of these precious keepsakes included: a corroded tourniquet buckle, a tobacco pipe with teeth marks in the stem and a folded frame that once held a daguerreotype.
And there’s more to come as Chapman and his fellow students have barely scratched the surface of Camp Lawton.
Who knows what further secrets they may discover?
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