MICHELE NORRIS, host:

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

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.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.