Topic ID #31486 - posted 2/27/2014 6:13 PM

Johnson's Island Civil War Military Prison Archaeology Field School - Heidelberg University


Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison
Field School in Historical Archaeology

Heidelberg University, Tiffin, OH

 June 30th to August 1st, 2014


From April of 1862 until September of 1865, over 10,000 Confederates passed through Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison leaving behind an extensive historical and archaeological record.  One of the unique aspects of the prison is it only held officers.  The 16.5 acre Johnson’s Island Prison Compound contained 13 Blocks (12 prisoner housing units and one as a hospital), latrines, Sutler stand, 3 wells, pest house, 2 large mess halls and more. There were more than 40 buildings outside the stockade (barns, stables, a lime kiln, forts, barracks for officers, a powder magazine, etc.) used by the 128th Ohio Volunteer Infantry to guard the prison. Two major fortifications (Forts Johnson and Hill) were constructed over the 1864/65 winter, and were operational by March of 1865.  The prisoners on Johnson’s Island endured harsh winters, food and fuel shortages, disease, along with the mental anguish of uncertainty about their families and their own futures. Current research suggests that close to 250 prisoners died on Johnson’s Island during the war.


Since the spring of 1989, Dr. David R. Bush has been investigating the Johnson's Island Civil War Prison. The site is located on a small island in Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie (just north of Cedar Point Amusement Park).  Past research has allowed us to specifically locate many of the special use areas of the prison. During the summer of 2014 we will be continuing our investigations of Block 8 of the Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison Compound.  Block 8 was a general housing block with a number of fairly notorious individuals incarcerated there.  One of the unique features of Block 8 was its use for theatrical performances of the “Rebellonians”.  Also in Block 8 was William Peel, one of a handful of prisoners that became expert in the production of hard rubber jewelry.  The summer’s search will include items related to these activities as well as general materials required by the POWs for survival, in the status they were accustomed to.

We will continue working on Feature 124, a sink (latrine) associated with the early occupation of Block 8.  The southern half of the latrine was excavated in 2010, and the northern half was started in 2011.  About one-quarter of the southern half of this latrine remains to be excavated.  We expect to continue to find items related to their maintaining their Southern lifestyle and also a large amount of animal remains.  The 1862 latrines have produced unusual amounts of beef bones in the past.  Finally, the research will continue in the Heidelberg University Archaeology Laboratory two nights a week with the field school students conducting preliminary analyses of materials excavated.

Field School Information:

Heidelberg University is offering a five week field school for undergraduate college students, graduating high school seniors (2014 grads), incoming first year college students, non-traditional adult students, and degree holding students for either 6 hours of academic credit or for the experience only (Audit) where no academic credit hours are earned.  This is an excellent opportunity to gain archaeological experience as well as learn about the American Civil War and the prison system. In addition to the field experience, there will be laboratory sessions in the archaeological laboratory on the Heidelberg University campus. Participants in the field school will gain experience in basic excavation techniques, on-site photography, the recording of archaeological data, and the identification and conservation of historic cultural materials.  Students will work at the site Monday through Friday (8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.) for five weeks.

Application Deadline is June 20, 2014

You can enroll in the field school courses to earn 6 hours of academic credit  ($3020.00) or for the field experience only (no academic credit hours are earned) for $1595.00.  Housing is additional and is $450.00 for a 5-week stay.

For more detailed information, please contact:

David R. Bush, Ph.D., Director
Center for Historic & Military Archaeology
Heidelberg University
310 E. Market Street
Tiffin, Ohio 44883


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