I Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island
Life in a Civil War Prison

David R. Bush

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"An intimate view of both a Confederate prisoner and his wife. Bush works from their letters but provides insight based on archaeological investigations at Johnson's Island and some additional letters from other prisoners."--Lawrence E. Babits, author of Long, Obstinate, and Bloody: The Battle of Guildford Courthouse

"A fascinating study that will appeal to a variety of audiences. The author literally uncovers the prisoner of war experience at Johnson's Island by sifting through the material culture record."--Michael P. Gray, author of The Business of Captivity: Elmira and Its Civil War Prison

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 jewelry, 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.

David R. Bush (1951-2022) was professor of anthropology at Heidelberg University in Ohio and chairman of the Friends and Descendants of Johnson's Island Civil War Prison.

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"A fascinating work that allows the reader access to the private lives of the Makelys and the trials and tribulations they faced over the course of Wesley's imprisonment. The book covers not only the productino of prisoner-made jewelry and discussions on exchange and sickness, but also delves into how prisoners dealt with the day-to-day boredom of imprisonment. Well worth the read and a must for researchers of both Civil War prisoners of war and the Southern home front."
--H-Net Reviews: H-CivWar

"Skillfully infuses personal letters, vast examples of archeological evidence, and government records to produce an informative and fascinating window into the experiences of Civil War POWs."
--Southern Historian

“In the extensive use of archaeological evidence, the study breaks new ground... it takes the study of Civil War military prisons in a direction that no other scholar has.”
--Northwest Ohio History

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