Camp Dick Robinson

Site No: 15Gd87
County: Garrard
Research Focus: Late Nineteenth Century (A.D. 1861-1865)

In advance of the relocation of Highway 27 archaeologists investigated the remains of a Civil War camp that was established on a farm owned by Richard Robinson. The camp, named after the landowner, was established at the onset of the war in 1861 by Union sympathizers and was used to recruit and train troops from Kentucky. It served as a staging area for several Union movements in Kentucky and was briefly occupied by Confederate troops during their retreat after the Battle of Perryville. It was replaced by Camp Nelson in nearby Jessamine County in 1863 and officially decommissioned in 1865. Examination of intact latrine trenches, trash pits, and post holes found at the site indicated that it was associated with a short-term secondary encampment located just outside of the main camp. These remains provide a glimpse at the organization of the encampment and the lives of the soldiers who stayed there.

Based on the location and arrangement of the latrine trenches and trash pits, waste disposal areas were located behind the main living areas of the camp as required by army camp regulations. Archaeologists were able to determine this particular encampment area was occupied on two separate occasions and that officers and enlisted men had separate latrines. Although these latrines were usually open air, post holes found near the trenches indicate that perhaps screens were constructed to provide some privacy for the soldiers. The presence of animal bone, broken dish and bottle fragments, nails, and clothing items in the latrine trenches indicate that they were used to dispose of trash during and after they ceased to be used for their primary function. Although some military artifacts such as bullets and artillery ammunition were found, the lack of military buttons, buckles, and accoutrements found in the latrine trenches and trash pits suggest that the encampment was occupied by new recruits with new uniforms and equipment. The plant remains and animal bones found in these features indicate that the soldiers ate corn, beans, barley, and beef supplied by the army; however they also supplemented their diet with tomatoes, berries, pork, chicken, and eggs from local farms.

Although the trenches found at the site were clearly dug for use as latrines, only small amounts of primary waste deposition was found in these features. They instead were mostly filled with secondary trash, such as food remains, broken dishes and bottles, hearth cleaning, and soil. This type of deposition indicates that the encampment area was only occupied for a short period of time and that perhaps the soldiers had to break camp earlier than anticipated. Given the short occupation and that the encampment is located outside of the main camp area it is possible that it was associated with a documented measles epidemic that struck the camp in September of 1861. According to a newspaper article orders were given to segregate infected soldiers from healthy soldiers, clean-up the camp, and evacuate unaffected regiments. One of the latrine trenches contained hundreds of bones from a horse, which may represent an effort to clean-up the camp and quickly dispose of anything that may promote disease such as a recently deceased horse. The archaeological remains investigated at the site suggest that efforts were made to quickly clean-up and abandon the encampment which may have been associated with one of the unaffected regiments that were ordered to evacuate that camp.