Yesterday I met up with my friend Dwight from the Triangle Relic Recovery club, who had invited me to detect a site he obtained permission to search near the Battle of Averasboro, NC. On March 15-16th, 1865, Confederates under command of General Hardee engaged Union forces, attempting to slow down the advance of General Slocum and the left wing of the Union Army. The battle involved roughly 25,000 Union troops, and 6,000 Confederates. After an intense battle, Hardee withdrew his troops under cover of darkness. They retreated to the Bentonville area where they would once again participate in a major engagement on March 19th-21st. Casualties were heavy on both sides, with over 600 Union and 800 Confederate men killed or wounded. While the Union advance had been slowed somewhat, it was not stopped as much as anticipated, and the casualties were much more damaging to the already smaller Confederate army.
We detected most of the day in a cotton field where part of the engagement had taken place. The stubble from the cotton plants made swinging the detector challenging, but not impossible. My results for the day were five bullets, all fired. The first two shown here are slightly deformed round balls. The next two are three ring bullets, both highly deformed by impact.
The final bullet shown here (actually, the first I recovered yesterday) is a very nice Enfield bullet, used mainly by the Confederates. Although it doesn't show any impact damage, this is also a fired bullet. Close inspection shows faint rifling marks along the side of the round, formed as the bullet passed through the barrel. This rifling creates a spin on the bullet, allowing for much greater range and accuracy than previous smooth-bore muskets.
The other obvious sign that this has been fired is the unique circular impression on the nose of the bullet. As multiple rounds were fired, carbon residue would build up inside the barrel. To fire properly, the bullet must be fully seated at the base of the barrel, and carbon residue could make loading quite difficult. To force a stuck bullet down the length of the barrel, a great deal of force was sometimes required on the ramrod. In this case, the force of the ramrod left a visible mark on the nose of this bullet.
After recovering relics from the fight, Dwight and I stopped to reflect at the nearby Confederate cemetery. A monument to the battle stands between eight headstones. Rather than names on the stones, it was simply the number of men in each mass grave. Some were identified by state - "4 GA. Men", for example. This one was simply labeled "9 DEAD". While I always have a good time out relic hunting, and yesterday was no exception, it is important to stop and think, from time to time, about the gravity of the relics being recovered. I recovered five bullets from a North Carolina cotton field. Nearly 150 years ago, these same bullets were being fired with the intent to end the life of another human being. There I was, standing over the graves of men killed by similar bullets to those still in my pocket. Men who died fighting for their cause. It's enough to give you chills.