Dr. John K. Derden, Professor Emeritus of History at East Georgia State College, has had a chapter on the history of Camp Lawton included in the newly published book, Crossing the Deadlines: Civil War Prisons Reconsidered (Kent State University Press). Dr. Derden’s earlier book, The Largest Prison in the World: The Story of Camp Lawton (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2012), was a detailed and comprehensive history of the Confederate prison located near Millen, Georgia, and once called “the largest prison in the world.”
His chapter, “Lost and Found on the Southern Side: The Resurrection of Camp Lawton,” in the Kent State University publication treats the post-Civil War history of the Confederate prison located near Millen, Georgia, once called “the largest prison in the world” and explains how the memory of the prison was nearly lost in the post-Civil War era and then recovered in recent years. Dr. Derden’s article details the origins of local interest in preserving the site of the former prison as a public park which resulted in the establishment of Magnolia Springs State Park and the “resurrection” of Camp Lawton as a result of a series of excavations of the site beginning in 2010.
According to Dr. Derden, “As a result of all the post-2010 efforts—the archaeological exploration of Magnolia Springs, the publication of the first full-length history of the prison, the reopening of the remodeled park museum, and the resulting media attention—that which was little known has become better known.”
In addition to Dr. Derden’s contribution, Crossing the Deadlines contains essays written by eight other historians surveying the current state of Civil War prison research.
Volume editor Dr. Michael P. Gray commented, “The subject of Civil War prisons, or more precisely, the suffering experienced by captives in Civil War prisons, has troubled Americans from the war itself down to the present … The unique memory of Civil War prisons fueled the racial, political, and sectional battles that lasted from Reconstruction well into the early twentieth …”
Reviewer and Civil War historian Glenn Robins added, “Crossing the Deadlines is an important contribution to Civil War prisons and prisoner of war studies that moves beyond the traditional debates over government policies and institutional practices to explore captivity from a variety of perspectives.”