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The World's Largest Prison: The Story of Camp Lawton

ISBN: 9780881464153 | 0881464155
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Mercer Univ Pr
Pub. Date: 4/30/2013

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When it opened in October of 1864, Camp Lawton was called "the world's largest prison." Yet, within only six weeks the stockade near Millen, Georgia, was evacuated in the face of advancing Federal troops under General Sherman. In that brief span of time, the prison served for as headquarters of the Confederate military prison system, witnessed hundreds of deaths, held a mock election for president, was involved in a sick exchange, hosted attempts to recruit Union POWs for Confederate service, and withstood escape attempts. Burned by Sherman's troops following its evacuation in late November of 1864, the prison was never reoccupied. Over the next century and a half the memory of Camp Lawton almost completely disappeared. In 2010, the Confederate military prison was resurrected, so to speak, as a result of a media event showcasing to the public the results of recent archeological investigations. This book not only summarizes the initial archeological findings but also is the first full-length, documented history of Camp Lawton. The author draws from material in the National Archives and other repositories and libraries across the nation, published and unpublished accounts of ex-POWs, family stories, and relevant secondary sources to produce a narrative that examines the experience of all those involved in the history of the prisonadministrators, guards, POWs, and the local populaceand places the history of the prison in the broader context of the Civil War. Camp Lawton is significant because its history represents a microcosm of the POW issue during the Civil War, and it illuminates the treatment of Union POWs, the abilities and the disabilities of the Confederacy in the last stages of the war, the impact of Sherman's March, divisions among the Confederate populace and leadership, the human toll of the conflict, and the amazing ability of the past to surprise the present.


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