Saturday, April 14, 2012

Confederate Button? Yankee Knife? Not so fast...

Hey everyone!  I haven't found anything amazing lately that would warrant it's own blog post, but I thought I'd post a few things I have found lately over several hunts.  In the process, I'll make a short commentary about a subject few relic hunters want to discuss, but which is important for us all to be aware of.  Namely, the temptation to identify an item the way you want it to be, even if the evidence is lacking to make that claim.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last weekend I took a trip down to the Battle of Bentonville, NC with a few guys from the Raleigh detecting club.  The heavy rains in the area preceding our visit made for a wet, soggy, and cold day of detecting.  It was also comparatively slow in terms of finds for all of us, but I did manage two 58 caliber three ring minie balls and one Williams cleaner bullet.  The find of the day was made by John, who recovered a US bridle rosette, although the plow had beaten him to it and bent the brass piece nearly in half.

Wednesday after work I had a bit of time, and decided to do some more detecting right here in Saxapahaw.  I was working a Confederate site on a farm near town, which I believe may have been a small picket post.  It sits on a low hill with a view of Saxapahaw Bethlehem Church Rd. and the old White Cross Road (NC 54), and would have provided a safe but effective watch post to cover the Confederate crossing of the Haw River further North.  I have previously recovered several military related items which date to the Civil War, including coat size buttons from both Virginia and North Carolina.  I only found one period item in my short hunt on Wednesday, which turned out to be this tiny (very tiny!) two piece brass cuff button.  The brass back has no backmark, and the shank is broken off.  The device (design on the front) of the button shows a star pattern, with rings of dots at each point.  This would fall under the collector's classification as a "flower button."

And here is where the temptation comes in.  The Confederate army was very poorly equipped compared to the Union, and this included uniforms and uniform buttons.  It is well established than many Confederates wore makeshift uniforms, often consisting of civilian-use gilted flower buttons or flat buttons. It is easy to find similar civilian buttons online listed as "Confederate."  So did I find another Confederate button in that field near home?  It's tempting to say yes.  It was found very close to (actually, in between) the two Confederate buttons previously recovered in the field.  It is fitting in both design and construction for the period, although the size is a bit unique.  I have not found any distinctly non-military period finds in that area.  As tempting as it is to declare this a "Confederate button," I will stop short of making that claim.  Although it MAY have been used by a Confederate, it was designed as a civilian button, and the field in which it was found has been farmed by civilians for some 200+ years.  This is why responsible relic hunters stress the importance of good record keeping.  The best I can do is record the provenance of the item for the future, and to ascribe any more significance to it would simply be disingenuous.

I also took a trip yesterday down to a Union Camp that I have been searching with my buddy Jim.  We haven't located the main camp exactly, but have been working the outlying areas trying to hone in on a central location.  The result of yesterday's scouting trip was three bullets - two 58 cal minie's for me and a fired Williams cleaner for Jim.  This is an interesting bullet, as the vast majority of cleaners that I have seen dug have been dropped rather than fired.  They were considered by the troops to be less accurate or harder to load, and were often discarded without firing.  I also recovered a pocket knife, made of iron with a brass end.  Since it was found near the camp site, it clearly belonged to a soldier, right?  No?  Good, you passed the test.  Pocket knives like this were made during the period, but their design has changed very little since then.  I will have to do some more research to find out if this is a period knife, although it's likely that I will never really be sure.

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for any comments you may have.  God Bless!

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