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Stockade at Camp Security, possibly according to British Sgt. Lamb

Find out more about Camp Security archaeology and new exhibit

On October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis’s army surrendered his army at Yorktown, Virginia. That American victory effectively ended the Revolutionary War, although it was not official until nearly two years later, when the Treaty of Paris was ratified in September 1783.

Camp Security, York County’s prisoner of war camp, was opened in the summer of 1781 to house British prisoners surrendered in October 1778 at Saratoga by British General John Burgoyne. These prisoners had been relocated several times since then, from Massachusetts to Maryland and Virginia and then to Camp Security. The new British prisoners captured at Yorktown were detained for a short time in Virginia and Maryland, but within a few months after Cornwallis’s surrender, a good of them number joined those from Burgoyne’s army already at Camp Security.

In his memoirs, British officer Samuel Graham, who was captured at Yorktown with his troops, gives us an eye-witness account of Camp Security:

…I went to Fredericktown at Christmas, but had not been many days there when orders were given for the Maryland division of British prisoners to march to Lancaster, a town of Pennsylvania, half mile from the Conestoga Creek, and ten miles to the north of the river Susquehanna, and for the Winchester division to move to Little York, a town of the same State ten miles to the south of the same river, and both on the great road to Philadelphia.


At Lancaster the soldiers were kept in a tolerable barrack, surrounded by a high stockade, and strictly guarded. At York they were kept in huts newly constructed, also surrounded by a high stockade, and were also strictly guarded. At a little distance from, but in sight of, our men’s huts, upon a rising ground were situated a number of huts occupied by soldiers of General Burgoyne’s army, also prisoners of war, but without stockade or guard. Our men named their own camp “Security,” and the other camp “Indulgence.”

The site of “Camp Indulgence” has been pretty well confirmed, especially by the many artifacts found in a 1979 archaeological dig. To properly interpret the whole Camp Security site, which has been saved from development by joint efforts and funding from a mix of governmental, non-profit, foundation and private entities, the stockade needs to be found. Several digs over the past few years have uncovered artifacts such as pottery and coins, but not the stockade trench. The Friends of Camp Security partnered with Shippensburg University earlier this year to use up-to-date remote sensing techniques to ascertain most likely places on the property for further archaeology.

The public is invited to a meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 2 at the Springettsbury Township Building, 1501 Mount Zion Road. The research team will be represented by at least one of the Shippensburg professors who led the exploration, which utilized several geophysical methods. These results will help guide future archaeological digs in the quest to pinpoint the exact location of the secure stockaded area of the camp.

The evening will also mark the opening of an exhibit at the Springettsbury Township Building of artifacts on loan from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. It will feature a variety of objects recovered during a previous extensive archaeological dig at the village of prisoner huts nicknamed “Camp Indulgence” outside the stockade.

Note: For well over 200 years the entire prisoner of war camp, encompassing both the stockade area and the village of huts outside the stockade has been referred to collectively as “Camp Security.” That area encompasses both what Graham refers to as “Camp Indulgence” and “Camp Security.”