Saturday, May 12, 2012

Broken Buttons and Melted Lead

Hey everyone!  I'm back, with the results of another hunt at a central North Carolina Civil War camp.  I had a promising lead on a good spot, and spent the first half of the day tromping around in the woods to no avail.  They can't all be winners.  So I headed back to a local Union camp hoping to pick up some things that were missed in the past.  I was surprised to find as many targets left there as I did, as it has been pretty well detected in the past.

Here are the results for the day (excluding quite a few modern shotgun shells and buckshot pellets).  The button backs were exciting to find, although the cuff button was particularly heartbreaking.  It was recovered as a complete button, but while removing it from the dirt I watched the face of the button literally crumble away to nothing.  Late-war production general service buttons were of poor quality, and haven't survived well after nearly a century and half underground.  The backs tend to hold up better, but the button fronts are incredibly fragile.  While it is sad to see a complete button like that fall apart, it also underscores the importance of responsible relic hunting to recover the remaining pieces of our history before they all crumble away like this one.

In contrast to the thin brass button fronts, the harsh ground environment in which these artifacts were found creates a very pleasing white patina on recovered lead bullets.  The first bullet I found was a 44 caliber round pistol ball.  It is a fairly small bullet compared to the 58 caliber three ring minie balls, the cone shaped bullets used as the standard Union rifle round.  I recovered two "dropped" or unfired three ring minies.  My favorite find for the day I initially thought was simply a chunk of melted lead, which relic hunters refer to as "camp lead."  I discussed camp lead in my previous post.  Upon further cleaning, though, you can clearly see a conical base cavity and three side rings, identifying this as another three ring bullet which has obviously been melted in a fire.  I love finding the unique items like this one, that really add a personal feeling to the relics we find!

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