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David R. Bush

David R. Bush - Ohio Humanities Council

David R. Bush


While serving as Professor of Anthropology at Heidelberg University, Dr. Bush also directs the Center for Historic and Military Archaeology, and has been a national lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America.  For over twenty years he has been immersed in the investigation of the Johnson’s Island Prisoner of War Depot—a Union prison confining Confederate Officers—located in Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie.  His work led to it being recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1990.  Dr. Bush has led thousands of students and volunteers of all ages in exploring this Civil War prison site and is an emphatic advocate for diligent awareness and constant evaluation of the overall context in which material culture is found.  His research has included many years and a great deal of energy gathering and reviewing documents from museums, historical societies, and living relatives of the prisoners and guards.  Combining the archaeological and historical records has allowed Dr. Bush to publish several articles on Johnson’s Island, and he currently has a book in review combining the historical and archaeological records.

The Life of the POWs at the Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison
Historical and archaeological evidence from the Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison in Lake Erie allows examination of the life of the POW at Johnson’s Island.  Over 10,000 Confederate Officers were imprisoned at Johnson’s Island throughout the war and they faced a prison system which offered various options for survival.  This well illustrated presentation summarizes the results of twenty plus years of research exploring how prisoners adapted to both guards’ expectations and the influences of previous prisoners.  This presentation explores the role of “prisonization” on those unfortunate enough to being incarcerated at Johnson’s Island.

Maintaining or Mixing Southern Culture at the Johnson’s Island Civil War Confederate Officer Prison

During the course of the war Confederate Officers from all the Southern states were imprisoned at the Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison.  From the historical and archaeological records, there is clear evidence that one of the major concerns of these prisoners was maintaining connection to their Southern culture and family.  This power point presentation explores what opportunities captured Officers had to stay linked with the South, while at the same time adapting to their Northern confinement.  Examples of primary historical documents as well as recovered cultural material will be generously used to exemplify this association.

Medical Treatment of Confederate POWs at the Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison

The Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison, located in Lake Erie, affords an opportunity to examine the medical treatment of POWs captured by the Union during the American Civil War. The site’s well defined Compound, consisting of thirteen barracks (Blocks), included Block 6, the Prison Hospital.  Archaeological exploration of this Block has included excavation of several of the “sinks” or latrines used by its occupants behind the buildings, as well as very  recent exploration of the block location itself.  This well illustrated power point presentation will explore the historical and archaeological evidence for what supplies were provided to the prisoners throughout the war, the diet of sick prisoners, and the ailments they suffered.

An Archaeological View of Prisoner Confinement during the American Civil War:  Experiences at the Johnson’s Island Civil War Prison

The archaeological evidence from the Johnson’s Island Civil War Military Prison in Lake Erie allows examination of the changing policy for POWs during the American Civil War. Over 10,000 Confederate Officers were imprisoned at Johnson’s Island throughout the war.  Newly confined Confederate officers had to cope with thoughts about survival, escape, or assimilation.  This well illustrated presentation summarizes the results of twenty-two years of archaeological research exploring prisoners attempts to cope with these choices.  Emphasis is placed on the excavation of the latrines, which can be dated to specific months and years of use.

David Bush
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