In this Jan. 30, 2014 photo, In this Jan. 30, 2014 photo, crews excavate the site of “Camp Asylum,” the Civil War-era prison that once held 1,500 Union officers on the grounds of the state mental hospital in Columbia, S.C., in the waning days of the Civil War. Racing against time, South Carolina archeologists are digging to uncover the remnants of a Civil War-era prisoner-of-war camp before the site in downtown Columbia is cleared to make room for a mixed-use development. (AP Photo/Susanne Schafer)
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Racing against time, South Carolina archeologists are digging to uncover the remnants of a Civil War-era prisoner-of-war camp before the site in downtown Columbia is cleared to make room for a mixed-use development.
The researchers have been given four months to excavate a small portion of the 165-acre grounds of the former South Carolina State Hospital to find the remnants of what was once known as "Camp Asylum." Conditions at the camp, which held 1,500 Union Army officers during the winter of 1864-65, were so dire that soldiers dug and lived in holes in the ground, which provided shelter against the cold.
The site was sold to a developer for $15 million last summer, amid hopes it becomes an urban campus of shops and apartments and possibly a minor league baseball field.
Chief archaeologist Chester DePratter said researchers are digging through soil to locate the holes — the largest being 7 feet long, 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep — as well as whatever possessions the officers may 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 DePratter, a research archaeologist with the University of South Carolina's Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.