We have started another field season at the Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison site and are hopeful to gather quite a bit of information about the hospital. Our goals this year are two-fold. First, we want to continue our exploration of the actual building site for the hospital. Second, we want to open up one of the latrines (called sinks) associated with the hospital block.
In 2006, we explored 16 two-meter squares (64 m2) of the hospital, discovering at least five of the post molds for the building, along with thousands of pieces of cultural materials. Many of the artifacts were items directly related to medical treatment. Others were more personal items. A preliminary analysis of our findings showed a vast difference between what is found within the hospital block compared to what was found in Block 4, a general housing block. For instance, when comparing 36 m2 of each block from the same location within the block, we found 33 buttons in the Block 4 area and only 7 within the hospital.
However, we found only 13 pieces of embossed glass from the Block 4 area and 22 pieces from the hospital. So, as we would expect, we recovered more evidence of medicine bottles from the hospital and fewer personal clothing items.
This year, we intend to continue our recovery of the interior of the hospital block with the hope of exploring another 64 m2 of site.
In 1996, we opened up a second latrine, feature 41, along the 1862-1864 prison wall. As can be seen in the plan of the excavation, we only dug about one-third of that latrine (the area hatched in purple was excavated). Comparison of finds from the latrines from Blocks 4 and 6 (the hospital block) reveals a very different pattern than excavation within the blocks. The number of buttons found from comparable (same dates) sinks (latrines) for each block provides almost equal numbers. The only differences are for metal buttons, where the hospital block had significantly more occurrences.
The hospital latrine we designated Feature 41 was very shallow, but contained many examples of pharmaceutical and patent medicine bottles. It will be necessary for us to remove the backfilled soils on the unexcavated portions of this latrine first, excavate one two-meter square that had not been excavated earlier, then we will be ready to explore this latrine. I suspect we will need until the end of next week before we will be ready to begin the excavations.