2017-09-28 / Front Page

Derden to speak on Camp Lawton as part of ‘History in Park’ series

Historian Dr. John K. Derden will speak on Camp Lawton – the largest military prison operated by the Confederacy – at the October edition of the Lincoln County His­torical Society’s “History in the Park” lecture series on Thursday, October 5, beginning at 7 p.m.

Camp Lawton’s size, which spanned 42 acres, dwarfed Ander­sonville (Camp Sumter), the best- known Confederate prison. Located five miles north of Millen Junction, it was for a brief time the headquar­ters of Confederate military prisons east of the Mississippi.

The story of Camp Lawton illus­trates in microcosm virtually every POW issue that arose during the war. Of the soldiers who enlisted in the Civil War, one in seven became a POW, and one in seven of those died in the prisons. Camp Lawton was little known until 2010, when archaeological investigation re­vealed numerous artifacts left in situ, and Dr. Derden’s 2012 book on Camp Lawton further broadcasts its history.

Derden earned his PhD in history from the University of Georgia and was a member of the initial fac­ulty cadre when East Georgia State College, then Emanuel County Junior College, opened in the fall of 1973.

Initially appointed as an instruc­tor in history, he has held the ranks of assistant, associate, and pro­fessor of history. He chaired the social science division for many years, and from 1999-2000 he also served as interim vice president for academic affairs. His institutional service has been extensive, ranging from teaching to committee work, grant writing to continuing educa­tion involvement, and leadership in the Post-Secondary Readiness Enrichment Program.

He retired from full-time service in July 2004, but has continued to work at the college on a part-time basis. Currently, Derden is Profes­sor Emeritus of History; chairs the Vision Series; is responsible for Heritage Center development; and teaches history.

For the academic year 2006- 2007, he served as interim chair of the humanities division at the col­lege. He has taught for Georgia Re­gents University in a study abroad program in Greece and during Fall Semester 201l taught a graduate course for the history department at Georgia Southern University, of which he is an affiliate member of the graduate faculty.

His most recent professional ac­complishment is the publication of “The World’s Largest Prison: The Story of Camp Lawton.”

Dr. Derden has been active in the community, serving as president of the Emanuel County Historic Pres­ervation Society; a member of the board of grantors of the Mill Creek Foundation; a member of the Ex­change Club; a founding member of the Emanuel Arts Center; and in numerous capacities at Swainsboro First United Methodist Church.

On the state level, he served a term on the Georgia National Register Review Board and was elected to three terms as the trea­surer of the Georgia Association of Historians.

He currently serves on the marker review board for Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, Inc., which was responsible for the two historical markers recently installed in north­ern Lincoln County.

In a collaborative effort with Georgia Southern University, Dr. Derden also serves as the project historian for the archeological team that has been excavating the site of Camp Lawton, the Confederate military prison located on the site of Magnolia Springs State Park.

He has also served as a histori­cal consultant for Oregon Public Broadcasting.

He is married to the former Carolyn Graves, and they have two children, Mark and Melanie, along with one grandson.

“I met Dr. Derden in 2016 as an offshoot of my work for East Geor­gia State College when I went on his annual Sherman’s March tour. The Camp Lawton story is a com­pelling one that hasn’t received the attention it deserves. I had always wondered about Camp Lawton since seeing Sneden’s depiction of it in the book ‘Images from the Storm.’ I think the forgotten nature of the story has helped to preserve the historical record and it prob­ably didn’t hurt that it was a state park,” Historical Society President Gary Edwards said. “It’s worth a trip to Magnolia Springs State Park to take this all in, and there’s also a well-preserved Civil War fort on the site.

“This is an important Georgia story and we’re fortunate to have the expert to talk to us about it. This is another great example of a story not often told – it will be a great talk and you won’t want to miss it!” Edwards added.

The Historical Park is located at 147 Lumber Street, and the History in the Park lectures are held on the first Thursday of each month from March through November, with the exception of July.

Desserts, water, coffee, and tea will be served after the presentation, allowing plenty of time to speak in­dividually with the speaker.

There is no admission fee, how­ever donations to the Historical Society will be accepted, as the Society is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

For more information, contact Edwards at 757-831-9556.

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