Display reveals prison details
Confederate officers were held at the prison from 1862 to 1865.
TOLEDO (AP) -- For nearly two decades, David Bush has sifted through the ground on a Lake Erie island where more than 10,000 Confederate soldiers were imprisoned during the Civil War.
The Heidelberg College professor is ready to show off nearly 500 of the artifacts he and his students have found on Johnson's Island.
"Civil War POWs: Excavating Johnson's Island Prison" will open Sunday at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont.
"It's unparalleled by any other Civil War site," Bush said while setting up the exhibit. "It's such a wonderful resource."
The items include a pair of yellow chamber pots that were used indoors at night when prisoners of war weren't allowed outside to use the latrine.
Dozens of pieces of jewelry and other crafts the prisoners made from hard rubber also will be in the exhibit, including a black ring inlaid with a white shell in the shape of a diamond.
Making trinkets gave the prisoners a way to cope with boredom and loneliness, Bush said.
"I see it as almost a therapeutic thing for them to do," he said. "When you look at the kind of stuff they were able to carve, it's amazing."
The island about 50 miles east of Toledo had the only Ohio prison of about 30 for Civil War POWs. Confederate officers were held there from 1862 to 1865.
Bush and his students have excavated latrines dug behind camp's blockhouses and found "hundreds of thousands" of artifacts ranging from shards of glass and bits of metal to medicine vials and beer bottles.
Tom Culbertson, acting executive director of the Hayes Center, said many people are unaware of the prison.
"It's the first chance many people will have to see things that were unearthed, and learn what the prisoners did while they were there," he said.
Bush hopes the exhibit, which runs through July 4, will stir interest in the site and encourage donations toward preserving it from possible development.
"There's so much history there," he said. "There's so much more to be learned."