Nearly 150 years after it was left behind at a Civil War prison camp, the 3-inch clay pipestem still shows a Union soldier’s teeth marks.
The pipe, whose stem features the name of its manufacturer, proves the resourcefulness of a prisoner who really wanted his tobacco. He fashioned the bowl from lead, possibly by melting rifle bullets.
No one knows what became of the unknown soldier at Camp Lawton, which during its short existence in south Georgia was the Confederacy’s largest prison camp.
“His name his been lost to history but his story has not,” said Kevin Chapman, who led a group of college students that found the exact location of the camp’s slave-built stockade and, in the soil beneath tall pine trees, nearly 200 artifacts.
Those are the first of what is expected to be a treasure of artifacts that will bear witness to the lives of prisoners and the horrors they endured.
The find was detailed Wednesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia Southern University.
The artifacts were found this spring on federal property, the currently closed Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery. The camp’s location also extends into state property, the adjoining Magnolia Springs State Park.
Visitors got a chance to learn more about the dig in Wednesday’s open house at the state park. Only archaeologists and other officials are allowed on the actual dig site.
This discovery of everyday Civil War-era items — including the smoking pipe, uniform buttons, a picture frame, coins, utensils, bullets and objects fashioned by Union prisoners — is unparalleled for many reasons, archaeologists said.