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A history class spends the day working at the Johnson's Island Prison site. A collage shows three prison artifacts unearthed by workers.
Archaeology adds to prison's history

Northwest Ohio is home to the only Union Army Civil War prison specifically designed to house captured Confederate officers. Johnson's Island Civil War Prison near Marblehead continues to reveal tantalizing details about the war and the men who served on both sides. The Hayes Presidential Center’s latest exhibit - Privy to History: Civil War Prison Life Unearthed – shares information learned from archaeological exploration of the prison site.

Officers housed at the prison were educated and cultured - the elite of Southern gentry. This influenced prison life and the amazing array of artifacts that survive - like this violin.The exhibit, funded by the Sidney Frohman Foundation and the Friends & Descendants of Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison, opens May 1, 2014 and continues through Jan. 4, 2015. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $7.50/adult, $6.50/seniors age 60+, and $3/children ages 6-12.

Dr. David R. Bush (in red) and students from Heidelberg University prepare the exhibit.Privy to History: Civil War Prison Life Unearthed advances the history of Johnson’s Island with facts uncovered since the 1965 publication of “Rebels on Lake Erie” - the seminal history of the prison written by Charles E. Frohman. Collaboration with David R. Bush, Ph.D. of Heidelberg University’s Center for Historic & Military Archaeology, makes possible the display of numerous artifacts recovered from the site during excavations of the prison latrines. Personal stories of prisoners and guards gleaned from diaries and letters enhance the understanding of prison life, the war, and how the two were inter-related. A visual timeline chronicles the prison’s creation, arrival and treatment of prisoners, and diversions POWs employed during their imprisonment, including jewelry making, theatrical productions, and photography. An episode of the History Channel’s History Detectives is included in the exhibit. It explores the amazing story of a particular Confederate officer who fashioned a camera a plank of wood and a small oyster tin to produce photographs of his fellow prisoners.