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Columbia, SC (WLTX) --It was known as 'Camp Asylum'.

For a little over three months, 150 years ago, it was home to more than 1,200 Union officers and it was located inside the walled enclosure of the State Lunatic Asylum now known as the the Bull Street campus.

Local archaeologists are hoping to uncover artifacts and possibly answer questions not only about the soldiers that were held prisoner there, but their finds could even help people tracking family history.

The head archaeologist in charge of the dig at Camp Asylum is Dr. Chester DePratter, head of the Research Division at the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina.

DePratter said he hoped to find items of identification for some of the Union officers that were held captive there during the later part of the Civil War. He also believes those items may help people find distant relatives.

"The uncovering of personal items of those individuals during excavation is really part of the story that's real important to convey to the citizens of South Carolina," DePratter said.

"You read it in a book, and it doesn't quite have the impact of actually seeing it."

An agreement reached between the City of Columbia and the developer who will see the Bull Street Property re-developed over the next 20-years.

Ahead of that project, DePratter and his team hope to unearth personal items, such as buttons, ink wells and other personal items that belonged to the Union troops imprisoned there.

"When they're in a museum with quotes from the diaries and journals, they complete the story," DePratter said.

DePratter also said he is planning a more in-depth dig for early 2014.

He said that the items that are found will be housed at the State Confederate Relic Room and War Museum for everyone to view.

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