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Little known Civil War prison just up the road
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Associated press

MILLEN — Unlike the notorious Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, the stockade at Camp Lawton in east Georgia is little more than a footnote to history.
Now, at Magnolia Springs State Park, archeologists have found what may be traces of the prison built in 1864 to replace the one at Andersonville.
At Andersonville, in southwest Georgia, almost 13,000 Union prisoners died in a disease-ridden, overcrowded prison. It has become a symbol of the horrors of the Civil War and is home to the National Prisoner of War Museum.
The location of the 42-acre Camp Lawton has never been a secret. But few of the 150,000 people who visit the state park each year realize that in the waning days of the Civil War it was briefly the world’s largest prison camp — twice the size of Andersonville.
“I’ve always been interested in the Civil War, but when I came to the park in 1999, I had never heard of Camp Lawton,” Magnolia Springs manager Bill Giles said. “I suspect that 90 percent of the people who come here haven’t either.”
According to historical markers at the park, in the autumn of 1864, 10,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned here. At least 685 and maybe as many as 1,300 died within months.
After the war, the camp was scavenged. As land was farmed, timbered and later “improved” for the state park, visible traces of the camp disappeared.
Georgia DOT archeologists using radar have located two subterranean features that may pinpoint the location of the stockade.
“We can’t say for sure what it is yet, but the size and shape of the feature resemble sketches of the camp’s main gate that were made while it was still standing,” said Debbie Wallsmith, supervisor for Georgia parks and historic sites.
An excavation in a field next to the parking lot also exposed what appear to be traces of the pointed wooden pikes that formed a defensive barrier for gun emplacements.
“We aren’t sure what we have yet, but the features seem to correspond with the sketches made in the 1860s, and that’s really all we have to go on,” said Giles, who has spent the last several years compiling the first detailed history of Camp Lawton, one of seven Confederate prisons in Georgia.
The camp, designed to hold 40,000 prisoners, was built in September 1864 with prison and slave labor. Millen was a strategic rail crossing. The spring that now draws picnickers to the park discharged 9 million gallons of fresh water a day, leading to expectations of more sanitary conditions for prisoners.
By November 1864, the Union advance prompted Confederate forces to move the prisoners again.
By the time Sherman’s cavalry reached Millen on Nov. 27, Camp Lawton’s prisoners had been evacuated to Savannah and South Carolina.

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