Johnson's Island, in Sandusky, Ohio, was not the largest Civil War prison in the North, but it was the only one to house Confederate officers almost exclusively. As a result, a distinctive prison culture developed, in part because of the educational background and access to money enjoyed by these prisoners.
David Bush has spent more than two decades leading archaeological investigations at the prison site. In I Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island he pairs the expertise gained there with a deep reading of extant letters between one officer and his wife in Alexandria, Virginia, providing unique insights into the trials and tribulations of captivity as actually experienced by the men imprisoned at Johnson's Island. Together, these letters and the material culture unearthed at the site capture in compelling detail the physical challenges and emotional toll of prison life for POWs and their families. They also offer fascinating insights into the daily lives of the prisoners by revealing the very active manufacture of POW craft jewellery, especially rings.
No other collection of Civil War letters offers such a rich context; no other archaeological investigation of Civil War prisons provides such a human story. 49 b&w photos, map