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  Field School-2014-

2009 Field School Excavating a latrine at Block 6-Prison Hospital

The Center for Historic and Military Archaeology at Heidelberg University is sponsoring a summer field school at the historic Johnson's Island Civil War Prison site.  The program will run from Monday June 30th to Friday August 1st, 2014.  Students will receive 6 semester hours of credit in ANT 250/251 (Archaeological Field Methods/Experience).

Brief overview of Johnson's Island Civil War Prison:

From April 1862 until the end of the war, Johnson's Island Civil War Military Prison functioned as the main Union depot for Confederate Officers.  Designed to hold approximately 2500 prisoners of war,  Johnson's Island eventually held up to 3200 at any one time.  The overcrowding resulted in the construction of new latrines and to an expansion of the prison compound.  Expansion of the prison facilities provides archaeologists with an opportunity to study changes in the physical structure of the prison as well as in the lifestyles of it's occupants.   In comparison to the thirty-one Union prisons, Johnson's Island is unique in its purpose (housing Confederate Officers), in its military garrison (recruited specifically for guard duties) and in its condition (as an archaeological site). (For more on the history of Johnson's Island, click here.
















2014 Field School:

Since the spring of 1989, Dr. Bush has been investigating the Johnson's Island Civil War Prison. This site, located on a small island in Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie (just north of Cedar Point) held over 10,000 Confederate officers captured at hundreds of battles during the Civil War. One of the unique aspects of this site is it only held officers. Past research has allowed us to specifically locate many of the special use areas of the prison. We have completed our investigations at present at Block 4, a general housing block and Block 6, the prison hospital. In the mid-1990s, preliminary investigations were conducted at Block 8, another general housing block. In 2010 we again explored both a latrine and the outside portion of Block 8.  In 2011 we opened up the excavation of the northern half of Feature 124, a latrine associated with the 1862-1863 occupation of Block 8, and continued this excavation in the 2012 season. We will finish the excavation of this latrine in 2014 as well as excavated a portion of Block 8. 


During the Summer of 2014 we will be continuing our investigations of Block 8 of the Johnsonís 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 ďRebelloniansĒ.  Also in Block 8 was William Peel, one of the handful of prisoners that became expert in the production of hard rubber jewelry.  The summerís 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-fourth of the 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 laboratory with the field school conducting preliminary analyses of materials excavated.  There will be two nights of laboratory work each week.


We are offering a five week field school (six credit hours) for undergraduate college students, graduating high school seniors, incoming first year college students,  and non-traditional adult students for academic credit, and for degree holding students who wish to gain field experience or expand their knowledge.  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 (8:30-3:30) for five weeks. Johnsonís Island is connected to the mainland through a causeway built from Marblehead to the island in 1972.  Housing is available through the university with transportation provided to the site.


Participation Requirements:

No previous experience is required. The program is designed for undergraduate college students, graduating high school seniors, or adults interesting in gaining intensive field experience.  All enrollments must be for the full 6 hours and for the full five weeks.   Enrollment in the program is limited to 12 and admission to the course is based on the order in which applications are received.  Two texts are required for the course.



Dr. David R. Bush
Professor of Anthropology
Site Director and Principal Investigator for the Johnson's Island site

Students digging for artifactsSeason dates:  June 30th through August 1st, 2014
Application Deadline-
June 20th, 2014

Students should enroll in Ant 250 and Ant 251 for a total of 6 semester credit hours. 

-6 credit hours (If you audit the course, the tuition is $1425.00)

$85.00 Lab Fee per course=$170.00
Housing at the college costs $90.00 per week ($450.00 for the five weeks). Food is not included.

For Further information contact Krista Kanter at kkantner@heidelberg.edu or:
Dr. David Bush
Director, Heidelberg University
Tiffin, OH 44883
(419) 448-2327 (office)




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Friends of Johnson's Island | Last Update: 03/28/2014DRB