This listing expired on June 9, 2017. Please contact for any updated information.
Johnson's Island Civil War Military Prison Excavations

Location: Marblehead, Ohio, United States

June 5, 2017 to July 7, 2017

Application Deadline: 
Monday, May 29, 2017

Deadline Type: 
Contact for details

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



Heidelberg University

Project Director:

David R. Bush, Ph.D., Heidelberg University

Project Description

Since the spring of 1989, Dr. Bush has been investigating the Johnson's Island Civil War Prison. This summer, 2017, will be his last year to allow students of archaeology to experience this wonderful opportunity in the excavation of this most unique 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 Union prison is it only held Confederate officers. Past research has allowed us to specifically locate many of the special use areas of the prison. We have conducted investigations at Blocks 2, 4, and 8-general housing blocks and Block 6, the prison hospital. In the mid-1990s, preliminary investigations were conducted at Block 8. In 2010 we again explored both a latrine and the building location 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. Last year this latrine was explored, but not finished. Our intent is to excavate the remainder of Feature 14 (the latrine). This latrine was used in the latter part of 1863 by the occupants of Block 8.

We spent several years at Blocks 4 and 6, developing a very comprehensive collection of cultural materials from these blocks. This year we are hoping to complete the entire Block 6, hospital, excavation. In 2015 amd 2016 we excavated the northwest extension of Block 6, which we believe was the prison hospital’s mess area. The area produced many items related to food preparation as well as medical containers. This year we will be excavating a portion of the interior of Block 6 which was not previously explored. With this we should complete the entire block. 

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. Additionally, we will have Mike Woshner visit at the field school and provide an insightful presentation of the use of hard rubber during the US Civil War. 

We have had the pleasure of using our work at Johnson's Island as part of the Archaeology's Interactive Dig web site. You can view years of our work at their web site.


Period(s) of Occupation: American-United States Civil War 1861-1865

Civil War archaeology, POW archaeology, historic archaeology, medical research

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Five Weeks

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Housing is available at Heidelberg University in a house near campus and is $95/week. You will be living with the other field students enrolled in ANT 250/251. Food service is not included in the housing cost and is not available on campus during the summer. The Johnson's Island archaeological site is 45 minutes from campus and transportation is provided to the site.

Contact for details

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Heidelberg University
Number of credits offered 6
$2,970 (6 hrs academic credit)-this is last year's rate. Check with us for an update


Contact Information
Dr. David Bush
310 E. Market Street
Recommended Bibliography: 

David Bush, Doing Time-How Confederate POWs weathered captivity, in The Archaeology of War, Mark Rose ed, 2005.

David Bush, Interpreting the Latrines of the Johnson's Island Civil War Military Prison, Historical Archaeology, 34(1):62:78, 2000,

David R. Bush, I Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island:  Life in a Civil War Prison.  University Press of Florida, 2011

Charles Frohman, Rebels on Lake Erie, 1965, Columbus, Ohio-Ohio Historical Society