Archaeologists in Columbia, South Carolina are racing against time to unearth the remains of a Civil War POW camp. Their goal is to discover as much as they can about the area before it is cleared for development. Researchers have a window of four months to excavate a small portion of the 165-acre area before their time is up.
The site of the South Carolina State Hospital, known as “Camp Asylum,” is the area that the archaeologists are concentrating on. The camp held 1,500 Union officers during the winter of 1864-65. Last summer, the site was sold to a developer for $15 million, who plans to build an urban campus of shops and apartments, and maybe even a minor league baseball field. Researchers are digging to locate the holes that the officers were living in, as well as any personal possessions they might have left behind.
“Almost everybody lived in holes, although the Confederacy did try to procure tents along the way, as they could obtain them,” said chief archaeologist Chester DePratter of the University of South Carolina’s Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.
DePratter has been able to recover 40 diaries and dozens of letters. The researchers have also uncovered combs, buttons, clothing remnants, and utensils. To bring attention to the project, tours set up by the Historic Columbia Foundation are being offered for $10 each.