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Archaeologists Discover Civil War Artifacts In Georgia

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Archaeologists Discover Civil War Artifacts In Georgia


Archaeologists Discover Civil War Artifacts In Georgia

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

In Georgia today, archaeologists announced a major Civil War discovery -buttons, coins and other, everyday objects left behind by Union prisoners. They and their Confederate captors were fleeing Camp Lawton as General Sherman marched toward the sea. The old prison camp is in Millen, about four hours southeast of Atlanta. And it's now under tight security.

But today, Rickey Bevington of Georgia Public Broadcasting got a look.

RICKEY BEVINGTON: Walking through tall grass by one of the fish ponds at the Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery, there are some administrative buildings and a few uniformed rangers. But running right through the middle, here, of a driveway is a brand-new, 8-foot-high, chain-link fence topped by barbed wire. It's protecting one of the most important Civil War finds in decades.

Mr. KEVIN CHAPMAN (Georgia Southern University): We are most likely standing just inside the stockade wall. And I have found artifacts within about 20 feet of where we're standing.

BEVINGTON: Kevin Chapman oversees a team of student archaeologists from Georgia Southern University.

Several months ago, they were on an exploratory dig, and discovered this ground is where 10,000 Union prisoners lived over six weeks in late 1864. There are buttons, buckles, a tourniquet, jewelry and coins likely left by members of an Ohio regiment.

At least one of the items is unique among Civil War artifacts - a modified, white-clay pipe.

Mr. CHAPMAN: And a soldier having the stem, that didn't have a bowl on it to smoke his tobacco, improvised a bowl onto the end of the pipe stem by melting down lead bullets, minie balls or musket balls.

BEVINGTON: A Civil War pipe can go for hundreds of dollars on eBay.

But historian John Derden says these artifacts are priceless because they paint an unbiased, firsthand picture of Civil War prison life. Written accounts tend to focus on Georgia's other, more notorious camp, where 13,000 Union men died, at Andersonville.

Mr. JOHN DERDEN (Historian): Most sources deal with Andersonville. Even POWs who were here, most of them had been at Andersonville. But when they wrote their books, what the people wanted to hear about was Andersonville, so there's not as many written sources for this camp.

BEVINGTON: Historians now hope to find new sources of information from Camp Lawton. So far, less than 1 percent of the site is excavated, leaving many stories still to be taken from the earth.

For NPR News, I'm Rickey Bevington in Waynesboro, Georgia.

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