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Former GSC student among team excavating Civil War POW camp site
0822Campparolestar
A small bronze star, possibly a "parole star," which would have been worn on the cap of a prisoner with special privileges.

Coins, bullets, eating utensils, a small brass picture frame, a pocket knife, a hatchet head and a small clay pipe with a soldier's teethmarks on the stem - these are just a few of the artifacts revealed to the public Wednesday at Magnolia Springs State Park.

Camp Lawton, a prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War near Millen in southeastern Georgia, was built in 1864, and until recently, its location was a mystery.

But students at Georgia Southern University, including Mary Craft from Commerce who received her associate's degree at Gainesville State College, discovered the camp's location late last year, then began finding artifacts a few months ago.

"We are started this project in the spring," said Craft, is heading up the team's educational outreach programs. "We began working on the trenches ... we got lucky and we started finding artifacts. And we've also found a large portion of the stockade wall."

Craft will get the chance to be in charge of the exhibit of the Camp Lawton artifacts this fall at Georgia Southern in Statesboro. She hopes visitors will learn a little more about their lives from the exhibit.

"Historically, it gives us a little more insight into their lives, the things they had to do to save their lives. For example, the pipe that was made from lead, that shows you the desperation," she said. "There is so much of it that we just don't know about. It gives some people pride and a little better sense of family history."

Craft received her degree in anthropology from Gainesville State College, discovered the camps location late last year, then began finding artifacts a few months ago.

"We started this project in the spring," said Craft, who is heading up the teams educational outreach programs. "We began working on the trenches ... we got lucky and we started finding artifacts. And weve also found a large portion of the stockade wall."

Craft will get the chance to be in charge of the exhibit of the Camp Lawton artifacts this fall at Georgia Southern in Statesboro. She hopes visitors will learn a little more about their lives from the exhibit.

"Historically, it gives us a little more insight into their lives, the things they had to do to save their lives. For example, the pipe that was made from lead, that shows you the desperation," she said. "There is so much of it that we just dont know about. It gives some people pride and a little better sense of family history."

Craft received her degree in anthropology from Gainesville State, and a bachelor of arts in anthropology from Georgia Southern. She now is enrolled in the anthropology masters program at Georgia Southern.

Together, Georgia Southern, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources announced the discovery of the camp on the property of Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery, which the service administers.

"What we are announcing today is what has actually been discovered at Camp Lawton," said Phil Kloer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, public information officer. "Because this find was so unique and of such great historic value, and because these artifacts belong to the American people, it was very important to secure the site. The site was unsecured and anyone could walk in, and we did not want word to get out."

The artifacts found so far at Camp Lawton, one of the most intact and undisturbed Civil War archaeological sites found in decades, are just a small portion of what archeologists expect to find in the future.

"The archeologists estimate that possibly only about 1 percent of the artifacts have been discovered at this point," Kloer said. "The total area of the stockade was 42 acres. They dont necessarily believe that the 42 acres will be rich in artifacts."

Georgia Southern students used remote-sensing systems, such as ground-penetrating radar and light detection and ranging, which helps to study sites without disturbing the archeological features on the surface and below the ground, according to the universitys website.

Glen Kyle, director of the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville, said the find is of great historical importance for all Georgians.

"It is certainly part of Georgias story in the Civil War," Kyle said. "What is so significant about it, what makes it the biggest find in a long time, it because its pristine."

Kyle added that Camp Lawton was created out of necessity as an expansion from the infamous Andersonville POW camp.

"Andersonville was the big Confederate prisoner-of-war camp," he said. "As the federal forces began advancing South toward the end of the war, of course they had to abandon that camp and evacuate further away from the encroaching Union forces. So they set up a camp farther south, near Millen, and that was called Camp Lawton. Conditions there were actually a little bit better than they were in Andersonville because there was fresh water available on the site.

"But you are still talking about taking unhealthy, badly emaciated sick people over to Camp Lawton. Then once the federals came, they had to get them out of there, too. Right around then, theres where most of them were freed."

Kloer said that the artifacts will go on display at Georgia Southern beginning Oct. 10.

"They will be open to the public there; that will be a short-term solution," he said. "We are still working on a permanent display place and we are committed that it will be in the area."

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