Dig finds evidence of Revolutionary War prison camp location

Oct 27, 2022, 10:37 PM | Updated: 10:49 pm

Researchers say they solved a decades-old riddle this week by finding remnants of the stockade and therefore the site of a prison camp in York, Pennsylvania, that housed British soldiers for nearly two years during the American Revolutionary War.

The location of Camp Security was thought to have been on land acquired by the local government nearly a decade ago. On Monday, an archaeological team working there located what they believe to be the prison camp’s exterior security fence.

The camp housed more than 1,000 English, Scottish and Canadian privates and noncommissioned officers for 22 months during war, starting with a group of prisoners who arrived in 1781, four years after their surrender at Saratoga, New York. By the next year, there were some 1,200 men at the camp, along with hundreds of women and children.

Fieldwork at the site, which also includes the lower-security Camp Indulgence, has gone on for decades, but the exact spot of Camp Security — where prisoners from the 1781 Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, were kept — had been unknown until a telltale pattern of post holes in a foot-deep trench was uncovered.

“This has been a long project, and to finally see it come to fruition, or at least know you’re not nuts, that’s wonderful,” said Carol Tanzola, who as president of Friends of Camp Security led fundraising for the project.

Lead archaeologist John Crawmer said the location site had been narrowed down after about 28 acres (11 hectares) were plowed for metal detection and surface collection of artifacts in 2020. That further reduced the search area to about 8 acres (3 hectares), where long exploratory trenches were dug last year.

Those trenches helped the team identify post holes that in turn led to the pattern of holes and a stockade trench that matched stockades at other 18th-century military sites, Crawmer said.

Next spring, Crawmer and other researchers hope to determine the full size of the stockade and perform a focused search for artifacts within and around it.

“Was it circular or square, what’s inside, what’s outside?” Crawmer said. “As we do that, we’re going to start finding those 18th-century artifacts, the trash pits. We’ll be able to start answering questions about where people were sleeping, where they were living, where they were throwing things away, where the privies are.”

Crawmer said there is evidence the vertical posts that formed the security stockade were not in the ground for very long and that they may have been dug up and reused after the camp was closed in 1783.

A contemporaneous account of camp life by a British surgeon’s mate said there was a “camp fever” that might have killed some of the prisoners, and a list of Camp Security inmates was located in the British National Archives. No human remains have been found at the site.

Historians confirmed local lore about the general location of Camp Security and Camp Indulgence after a 1979 archaeological study of a small portion of the property produced buckles, buttons and other items associated with British soldiers of the period. That survey also found 20 coins and 605 straight pins that may have been used by prisoners to make lace.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

4 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

5 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

12 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

13 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

15 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

15 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.


Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Dig finds evidence of Revolutionary War prison camp location