Thursday, December 22, 2011

My First Yankee Plate

Hey everyone!!  I had a great afternoon detecting today, and can't wait to share it with you!

I was recently asked by a friend to help him locate something with my metal detector.  He had been practicing with throwing stars, and lost one in the tall grass at his home.  I was meant to go look for it yesterday, but we were rained out.  With no rain this morning, I headed over only to find that he wasn't in.  "Oh well" I thought, "I have some time.  I may as well go detecting somewhere!"

I have been researching the route used by a portion of the Confederate army to retreat in 1865 (after a draw at the Battle of Averasboro and a loss at the Battle of Bentonville) and the Union troops pursuing them.  I found myself out that way, and headed over to a section of the old road where I had permission to detect.  I was hoping to be lucky enough to find a spot where soldiers had stopped to rest, or failing that, perhaps the odd dropped item from the men marching through.

There were two things I found a lot of - shotgun shells, and aluminum cans.  The cans produce a really loud, strong, high tone on my detector.  You can tell it's a larger object, and 99 times out of one hundred it is, in fact, an aluminum can.  But every once in a while it isn't... so despite finding can after can, I continued recovering them.  I even recall thinking to myself "Yep, another can" as I was digging a plug of clay on a loud, shallow, high tone.  "But every once in a while..."

This is what I saw stuck to the bottom of the plug, although the front hook was still buried in the clay.  I didn't know what it was, and assumed just more junk.  That is, until I took it out of the dirt and flipped it over.  Then I knew exactly what I had, and I was ecstatic.  This is my very first Union belt plate from the Civil War.  The brass hooks embedded in the lead solder back attached the buckle to a leather belt.  An example of this buckle, originally oval in shape, can be seen in the image of a Federal infantry soldier above.

It's obviously quite damaged from nearly 150 years exposed to the elements.  One of the "puppy paw" style attachments is missing, but the hook and one paw remain.  I'm not at all concerned with the condition - this is a great find in any shape.  I feel incredibly blessed to have recovered both a Confederate and Union buckle this year.  I'm still in shock about both finds!

Oh yea, and about my friend.  After I finished up at the old road, I went back to his house.  In about 15 minutes his throwing star was recovered.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you all have a happy and blessed holiday season!!  Merry Christmas from Detecting Saxapahaw!!


  1. Exciting find! With so much history around your part of the country, I would never pass up any signal! Good job.
    Are planning on doing any restoration work on it? Electrolysis? Is that even recommended or smart on a relic like this?

  2. Even here, I can't just pick any fields or woods and expect to find good things amongst the trash. I was digging everything at that site for a good reason - I had done my homework and knew it was a potential spot. It's certainly possible to find a lot of great Civil War relics here in Alamance County, but you do have to know where to look (or just be really lucky). Location is much more than half the battle.

    Great question about restoration!!

    I won't be trying any restoration work on this one, I'm pretty much done with it as it is in these pictures. I find often when I try to do "just a bit more" cleaning, I'm dissatisfied with the results. So I'm a minimalist in my cleaning these days. As far as restoration, there's not much I can do with so much missing material.

    That said, here's a great video showing just how far you *can* go with restoration work. My buckle is is terrible shape compared to this seriously impressive collection - please don't judge, HAHA.

    You'll notice how he goes to town with the toothbrush in this video. The patina on my buckle is considerably less thick, so I would lose the green color (which I prefer) down to a base red/brown if I were to try that. I simply used a soft-bristle paintbrush and water to remove the bulk of the dirt and make the letters stand out more, air dried, and put it in a display. Perhaps my next one will come out a bit more intact!

  3. Congratulations on the Plate! You didn't tell me...
    It's toasty, but it'll look good on display with some other relics.

  4. I predict that it won't be your last yankee plate.