The mud of a south-central Pennsylvania cornfield may soon produce answers about the fate of British prisoners of war—and the newly independent Americans who guarded them—during the waning years of the American Revolution. A few miles east of York, the city that briefly served as the fledgling nation's capital after the Continental Congress fled Philadelphia, more than a thousand English, Scottish, and Canadian soldiers were imprisoned at what was then known as Camp Security. The fight to preserve the plot where those soldiers and their captors worked and lived has lasted almost twice as long as the Revolutionary War itself. And the end is in sight ... if its backers can raise the last few hundred thousand dollars needed to pay for it.
A 1979 archaeological study found numerous artifacts that confirmed local lore about the prison camp's location. Two years ago, the local government, Springettsbury Township, took possession of an adjacent, 115-acre property and last year The Conservation Fund paid a developer nearly $1 million for a 47-acre parcel. Now the Friends of Camp Security faces an August deadline to pay off the fund so it can turn the smaller plot over to the township as well. Assuming that occurs, they'll need to figure out what to do next. The Friends of Camp Security leaders seem to agree the first step should be an archaeological survey to pinpoint the location of major features and any human remains, and recover whatever artifacts they can. Click for more on the prisoners who were kept there. (Read more Revolutionary War stories.)