June 2023 Program
Unearthing Camp Security
Presented by John Crawmer
Camp Security is America’s last surviving Revolutionary War prison camp. Its exact location was a mystery until 2022 when archaeologists discovered the camp’s stockade. The presentation will cover the importance of Camp Security, the techniques used by archaeologists to find the site, and recent research.
About the presenter: John Crawmer is an archaeologist who has conducted research in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Israel. He is the Lead Archaeologist of the Camp Security Archaeology Project in York, PA.
Recorded program available here.
Review by Becky Anstine:
The presentation started with a brief history of the Camp, which is located in Springettsbury Twp., York County, PA. The Camp was used between 1781-1783 to hold between 800-1200 British and Hessian soldiers captured at the battles of Saratoga. The Camp included huts surrounded by a stockade. It included a hospital, guard huts, and other buildings. Outside of the stockade, a village called “Camp Indulgence” was also constructed. That camp had huts which were inhabited by soldiers and their families. The rules were less restrictive, and the prisoners were allowed to have cottage industries and travel outside of the camp. In 1783, the camp was abandoned and fell into disarray. Local residents took the structures apart to use for fence rails, firewood, etc. Over the years, evidence of the Camp, its cemetery, and buildings disappeared.
The second part of the presentation included a video clip on “digging a hole” – the steps that are taken and what to look for when doing a “dig”. The goal of the various digs has been to find postholes which would indicate the location of the stockade and its size. In 1979, when the first dig was started, over 15,000 artifacts were found, consisting of buttons, pottery shards, and other relics. 2021 saw the use of remote sensing to look for signs of where the best spots to dig might be. The 2014 dig discovered 20th century bottles and modern discards. Several test holes were dug. In 2015, a large pit was found.
Native American artifacts were also found, indicating that Indians had been present in the area. More artifacts, such a trench and a pipe connecting the Schultz House to a spring were found in 2016. Ground penetrating radar was used in look for anatomies. Some jasper and artifacts were also found. In 2020, large scale collection involved plowing up certain areas to look for clusters. A working sleigh bell, King George coins, and a button associated with the 33rd British battalion were found. 2021 saw a shovel test survey being done and a search for rumored man-made terraces. The team found that the terraces had been built between 1938-1948 – but not as part of the Camp. Some more trenches and a second pit were also found as well as several post holes. In 2022, the holes appeared to form an interior structure, with a shallow pit. A trench with several large and several small holes emerged. In 2023, there was a major discovery when made over 70 post holes and 19th century window glass shards were found in the trenches. The stockade was starting to come together.
The goals for coming digs include figuring out how big the stockade was and what buildings were within the stockade. Guard houses and privies are also on the “to find” list.
During the off season, the areas are covered with plastic and backhoed over for preservation purposes. Before this happens, every find is marked with a numbered flag and recorded. Extensive mapping, drone photos, and 3D models are used to record the finds. The end goal is to have walking paths with signage to outline the Camp for the public to follow.
Camp Security is the only prisoner-of- war camp from the Revolutionary War whose site has not been paved or built over. Very few other sites are available and the preservation of this site for future generations is important.
More information on Camp Security can be found on their website: www.campsecurity.org. The site includes a virtual museum, artifacts gallery, and a more detailed history of the camp and the archaeological dig. Check the York County History Center You Tube channel under SCPGS for a video of this interesting presentation. The Friends of Camp Security are also looking for volunteers to assist with the digs!