Camp Lawton Archaeological Site
Southeast Region
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The Historic Discovery

 

A man wearing a gray polo stands in the woods holding two wooden markers in his hands

Kevin Chapman stands near the location of the camp’s stockade on the Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery property. Credit: Phil Kloer/USFWS

 

A brownish bullet

An Enfield rifle bullet. Photo by Amanda L. Morrow, Georgia Southern University.

When Kevin Chapman, an archaeology graduate student at Georgia Southern University, began work at Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery and Magnolia Springs State Park at the beginning of 2010, his goal was simple: Find the footprint of the stockade at Camp Lawton.

Instead, Chapman began finding artifacts. First, a couple of nails. Then some buttons from Union uniforms. Then a coin: an 1834 U.S. large cent.

“I held it in my hand and I realized we had a pretty undisturbed site,” Chapman recalls.

Working with his advisor at Georgia Southern, Dr. Sue Moore, and others at the university, Chapman and the team began finding more and more artifacts from Camp Lawton, unearthed and held by people for the first time in almost 150 years: bullets, coins, eating utensils, a tourniquet buckle, a small brass picture frame, a pocket knife, a hatchet head, a small clay pipe that still showed a soldier’s teethmarks on the stem.

“The artifacts are not only visually impressive; they also tell their own stories,” says Chapman. “The pipe tells of the ingenuity of the soldiers in the face of adversity. The keepsake items such as picture frames speak to their feelings of separation. The tourniquet buckle and bullets are testaments to the horrors of war.”

“Through them, the past comes to life for today’s students of history.”

During the Civil War, there were many prison stockades in the South. But most sites have been disrupted or disturbed by years of plowing, landscaping or construction, and in some cases by looting.

Camp Lawton, however, is relatively pristine – a unique piece of history. Because the site and the artifacts belong to the American people, they are being protected so that archaeologists can carefully extract, study and preserve them
Last updated: August 20, 2010