2006-08-02 / Front Page

Archaeologists look for "World's Largest Prison" at state park

By Michael Griffin Millen News Intern

Georgia Department of Transportation archaeologists search for remains of the prison stockade at Magnolia Springs State Park. (Photo contributed) Georgia Department of Transportation archaeologists search for remains of the prison stockade at Magnolia Springs State Park. (Photo contributed) Archaeologists from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), along with Georgia State Park staff came to Magnolia Springs State Park July 17 to look for the boundaries of Camp Lawton, the largest prison camp constructed during the Civil War.

The recent survey was meant to extend the size of the original survey grids established at last year's study by Shawn Patch, former GDOT archaeologist.

Ground-penetrating radar was used to gather data about the location of the remains of the perimeter walls of Camp Lawton; however, the results were inconclusive.

GDOT and Georgia State Park officials remain optimistic that they will find the boundaries of the stockade, and plan to return in the fall to conduct more tests.

The study is, in part, the result of a recently uncovered memoir by Robert K. Sneden. During the Civil War, Sneden was a topographical engineer in the Union's army of the Potomac. Captured by Confederate forces in 1863, he spent much of the war in prison camps at Andersonville and Camp Lawton.

Sneden was an artist and left detailed drawings and sketches of Camp Lawton. While at Camp Lawton, Sneden worked at the Confederate hospital as a paroled prisoner. He claims to have kept the death records and notes 1,300 prisoners died and placed in two burial trenches.

Sparse surviving records show one burial trench and 685 bodies removed from Camp Lawton to Beaufort National Cemetery in Beaufort, S.C.

Return to top