Saturday, November 26, 2011

Trigger Guards: The Civil War in Bentonville and the Revolution in Saxapahaw

Yesterday was Black Friday, but instead of going out shopping, I took a trip down to Bentonville, NC with some friends to go detecting.  We tried a new field today that we just recently received permission to search.  It was the site of a Union artillery position during the three day Battle of Bentonville, March 19-21st, 1865.  You can see the results of my previous trips to Bentonville here and here.

We had hoped this field would produce, and we certainly weren't disappointed!  We recovered a lot of great history in a day, including knapsack pieces, horse tack, cartridge box finials, and of course, a number of bullets.  The find of the day was made by my good friend Jim, who recovered a great brass fuse adapter from a Union Hotchkiss artillery shell, shown above.  It's a great find, and locating at a Union artillery position during the battle made it even that much better.  Congrats, Jim!

Here are my finds for the day.  Some are the standard finds from most Civil War sites - brass grommets and rivets, unidentified period brass, and melted lead.  The two mushroomed bullets are particularly interesting, and were found in very close proximity to one another.  I also recovered my first Williams Cleaner bullet that has the base still attached.

One of the 58 caliber three-ring bullets is particularly interesting, and the first such bullet I have personally recovered.  It shows a bore hole from an "extracting worm", a corkscrew device used for pulling bullets out of the barrel of a gun.  This would have been done to remove a bullet stuck in the barrel, or to unload a loaded firearm to make it safe to handle without firing the bullet.

My best find of the day was the front half of a rifle trigger guard.  I believe it to be from a pattern 1853 Enfield rifle, based on the location of the hole used for a rifle sling attachment.  The Enfield was used by both sides during the war, and was the second most widely used infantry weapon.  An Enfield rifle from the Charelston Museum is shown below

Coincidentally, I just recovered another interesting trigger guard near Saxapahaw about a week ago.  I found it during one of my shorter hunts on Saxapahaw Bethlehem Church Rd.  It was the only good find that day, and at the time I hadn't yet identified it, so I held off on posting.  Since then I have identified it as an acorn finial from the front of a much earlier trigger guard.  Such finials were common on English fowler guns in the mid-late 1700's.  Several colonial era flat buttons have previously been found in the area, which also date to the same time period.

English fowlers were a type of smooth-bore flintlock musket.  They had very long barrels, and were designed for hunting game birds.  Now of course I can't say for certain that this particular gun was used in the American Revolution.  English fowler guns were, however, used during the war.  The British were typically issued Brown Bess flintlock muskets, though officers were meant to supply their own firearms, which have used such an acorn trigger guard as seen on English fowlers.  The Americans, on the other hand, pressed whatever weapons available into service.  A hunting rifle of this sort would certainly have been used by "citizen soldiers" going into battle.  Below is an original example of a 1770's-1780's musket, believed to have been used during the American Revolution, which bears a similar acorn motif trigger guard finial.  I can't say whether or not my trigger guard piece came from a musket used in the Revolution, but it is of the time period, and was found on muskets that were used during the war.

1 comment:

  1. We have walked past this stop sign too many times to count. We haven’t seen it. In fact, we’re running it as part of our challenged signage feature because, well, it might escape your notice unless you’re sitting in the cab of a tractor trailer or about ten feet tall.