In 2009, Georgia Southern University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology began a project to investigate the archaeology at Camp Lawton, a Civil War prisoner of war camp situated in Jenkins County, Georgia. Working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, archaeologists used the drawings of Private Robert Knox Sneden, a prisoner at the camp, to designate several initial survey areas and to identify the likely location of the camp stockade. About that same time, we learned that Dr. John Derden of East Georgia College was completing a history of Camp Lawton. His knowledge and expertise provided valuable guidance to the archaeological project.In December 2009, the LAMAR Institute (a private archaeological research group) did ground penetrating radar (GPR) in an area where we believed the stockade walls crossed. GPR allows archaeologists to “see” beneath the ground surface using sound waves, allowing us to dig more efficiently. GPR showed a distinct disturbance in this area and this is where we dug our first test trenches. Work has continued in this area in an effort to gather enough information to reconstruct a partial replica of the stockade wall.
Work in one of the survey areas began in January 2010. We began by digging inside the stockade enclosure north of Magnolia Springs Creek to determine if anything remained of the place where prisoners lived and worked. We did not expect to find much. The archaeological team assumed that over the years most of the artifacts had been removed, much like at Andersonville Prison. If the artifacts had not been taken, then it was assumed that surely years of cultivation and landscaping would have destroyed almost all evidence of the occupation! Much to our surprise – and delight – this was not the case.
The archaeology has slowly begun to yield critical new information about life in this Civil War prison. It adds a new dimension to the history of Camp Lawton and, more importantly, provides insight into the experiences of prisoners who were held there — those who survived and those who did not. Even though the camp was occupied for only six weeks, we have found a complex story of loss and hardship along with survival and ingenuity, a story that is vital to our understanding of the experiences of Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate, during the tumultuous March to the Sea.
-Dr. Sue Moore
Georgia Southern Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Georgia Southern University
P.O. Box 8051
Statesboro, GA 30460-8142
P: (912) 478-2587
F: (912) 478-0703