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  Field School-2015-

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

Dr. Bush discusses the features exposed within Block 8 to the 2014 Field School.


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 1st to Friday July3rd, 2015.  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 mess halls 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.




2015 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 building locatoin of Block 8.  In the past few years, we have excavated half of the location of Block 8 as well as completing the excavation of Feature 124, the later 1862 latrine.  In 1994 we opened up Feature 14, an 1863 latrine from Block 8.  We are going to continue the excavation of Feature 14 this coming field season.  


During the Summer of 2015 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.  To see a listing of some of the occupants of Block 8 from December, 1864 click here.


Block 8 was also one of the blocks that only had six large rooms for prisoners to be housed in, unlike blocks 1 through 4 which had 22 rooms per block, housing up to 6 per room.  Therefore, we are interested in how different housing is reflected in the archaeological record. 


We will be excavating one of the latrines from Block 8 this coming summer.  The latrine was originally opened up in 1994 where only a small portion of the northern half was excavated.  Our intent is to expose the remainder of Feature 14 (the latrine) and continue its excavation.  This latrine was used in the latter part of 1863 by the occupants of Block 8. 


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 graduate students, 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 U.S. 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

Season dates:  June 1st through July 3rd ,2015
Application Deadline-
May 27, 2015

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 $1485.00)

$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, dbush@heidelberg.edu
Director, Heidelberg University
Tiffin, OH 44883
(419) 448-2327 (office)




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Friends of Johnson's Island | Last Update: 04/11/2015DRB