Uncovering Camp Asylum

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By Crandall Sims

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- With every pile of shoveled dirt, comes new insight into the lives of 1,500 Union soldiers once held on the old state mental hospital grounds.

For Columbia residents today, the property on Bull Street, is just that, part of the old state mental hospital. Between December 1864 and February 1865 the land was held "Camp Asylum," a Prisoner of War (POW) camp.

"There was a deadline 10 feet out so they couldn't cross that and there were guards and towers all the way around on three sides," says Chester Depratter

Depratter is leading the dig. He says part of the reason the camp was placed on the old hospital campus, was the 10 ft. walls surrounding the property.

"Three sides of the brick walls existed and then a wooden wall was built on the fourth side to close it off," says Depratter

Inside the walls, prisoners dug holes to keep warm.

"They would've shared blankets and slept spoon fashion, just to share heat, " says Depratter

Crandall Sims reporting," Through letters and diaries written by Union officers held here, we know about them living underground, but until now we've never seen the holes first hand."

From the holes, we can now hold a piece of the past including, buttons, pins even bullets.

The time to find the secrets of the past is now. Soon the property will be developed as part of the billion dollar Bull Street Development deal.

"I took this on just because no one else was stepping forward to work on the prison camp," says Depratter

Depratter says it's part of South Carolina's history and it is one he wants to be a part of uncovering.

"It is partially described in diaries and letters and remnants written by the prisoners, but the real story is in the ground," says Depratter
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