New book sheds light on dark history of Civil War site in Millen

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, March 6, 2013

MILLEN, Ga. (WRDW) -- The dark history of the Civil War is being brought into the light as a team from Georgia Southern continues to dig up artifacts from an old prison camp in Millen.

But finding the site of Camp Lawton back in 2010 was just the first chapter to the story. Now, the project historian has written the rest.

His new book marks the first full-length, fully-documented history of the prison.

"I started doing research, and I realized there was a story to tell, but it really had never been told," author John Derden said.

Years of history between these pages tells the story of Camp Lawton, an old Union prison camp from the Civil War.

"The reason I think this is attracting attention -- the Camp Lawton story is attracting attention -- it's new! How many books have been written about the Battle at Gettysburg, Antietam?" Derden asked.

The site was discovered back in 2010, and hundreds of new artifacts have been unearthed since.

Derden isn't the only one glad the book is attracting attention.

"I hope it will boost our tourism and bring more interest and development into our area, which would, in turn, bring jobs," said Millen City Manager Lamar Faircloth.

Jobs are something the small town of Millen desperately needs.

"We have been very high on unemployment list throughout the state for the last several years. We're number three right now, I think," he said.

Faircloth says he hopes the book will pique some interest in traveling to the town and renovating this building into a museum to display the artifacts will give them a place to visit.

"This summer, I've been told in June, they hope to open the museum and that collection will be on display," Derden said.

Derden says his book is already bringing people in.

"I had a person visit my class once who was a descendant of one of the POWs at Camp Lawton, and he had come out of state to find to see the exhibit. We're in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The Civil War is the eternally fascinating subject in America," Derden explained.

The book may be finished, but the story continues as crews keep digging up the past.

Derden says digging at the site at Magnolia Springs outside Millen will probably continue for years. After two years of discovery, they've only looked at about 1 percent of what could be found.

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