Friends of Camp Security still looking for Revolutionary War camp site

Jana Benscoter
York Dispatch
Friends of Camp Security received an update on finding remnants of a Revolutionary War Camp.
  • There are several areas of interest that could either be graves, water wells, pits, or trash piles, as well as remnants of prominent structures.
  • Friends of Camp Security President Carol Tanzola said she’s hopeful the group can start another dig in the Spring.

An archaeologist, a historian and a geologist relayed to Friends of Camp Security volunteers Tuesday, Oct. 2, that they still don't know where a former Revolutionary War camp site is located in Springettsbury Township, but it's OK to be cautiously enthusiastic that the site is within reach. 

Nine anomalies were discovered in a geophysical investigation conducted by Shippensburg University, associate geology professor Sean Cornell said, adding that they should be further investigated.   

The university's Department of Geography-Earth Science was contracted to try to locate Camp Security using modern technology such as ground-penetrating radar. 

The camp, constructed in 1781, was situated on a farm owned by David Brubaker, according to a Shippensburg University report. It consisted of two separate sites: Camp Security, where prisoners from the Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, were housed within a stockade, and Camp Indulgence, a hut village nearby, the report noted. 

Prisoners of war were held at the camp until May 1783, and in total the camp was occupied for less than two years, the report claims. 

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Aerial photographs of Camp Security Park in Springettsbury Township. Sunday, July 29, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

New areas of interest found in the geophysical investigation could be graves, water wells, pits or trash piles, as well as remnants of prominent structures, Cornell explained. He  said he couldn’t discern the era when they were constructed.

“The (anomalies) that made me excited were the ones relatively closely spaced and relatively located at the same depth,” he said.

In addition, he said, there are clues that Indian corn was grown on the farm’s property, which he said is fascinating considering Pennsylvania has “really complicated geology.”

The landscape has changed dramatically since the 1700s, but now the Friends of Camp Security have “some new tantalizing tidbits to look for,” Cornell concluded.

Senior archaeologist Steve Warfel admitted it’s going to be “difficult” to find the site.

“It’s truly a needle in the haystack,” he said. “The people weren’t there very long. It will be very rewarding to find it.”

Carol Tanzola, president of the Friends of Camp Security, said she’s hopeful the group can start another dig in the spring.

Excavation efforts began in 1979 to locate Camps Security and Indulgence. In 2000, a surface survey was conducted just north of the 1979 excavations. Excavations were also conducted in 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

"Although in each of these efforts Revolutionary War-era artifacts were recovered, structural evidence of the location of the stockade camp remains elusive," according to the Shippensburg geophysical report.

Disc golf: Tanzola reported to the two dozen attendees at Tuesday's meeting that the York County Disc Golf Association would like to revisit installing an 18-hole course on the Camp Security site. She said she thinks Friends of Camp Security is going to have to make some "concessions."

“For now, it’s on hold,” she said, adding, “but, we’ve got to produce something. We’ve got to come up with a strategic plan.”  

Springettsbury Township supervisors listened to the association's plan, which included having the course operating in time for next year's Professional Disc Golf Association Amateur Disc Golf World Championships, but they agreed right now is not the time. York County is hosting the competition.

“I think we can keep them at bay for a while,” Tanzola said.