Sunday, November 18, 2012


WOW, what a day!  I am beat!

DIV XXII at Beauregard Farm has finally wrapped up, and it was so much fun.  I started out the morning detecting the 69 field with Jim, as most people had gone on to other locations and there was plenty of space to detect.  We got into a patch of 69 caliber bullets and other relics, so we called up Dwight and Glenn and invited them to join us.  We all made some good finds in the area, especially Jim who had a great day overall.  Before lunch I had racked up nine more 69 caliber bullets and one small colt pistol bullet.  I just love finding those massive projectiles, and it's difficult to imagine the destruction that they could inflict.  I also got two eagle buttons, one with significant face damage, and the other in quite good shape.

Then it was off to the DIV sponsored lunch, where we ate BBQ and perused the impromptu museum of recently unearthed relics.  These included buckles, buttons, artillery projectiles, bottles, two ID tags, and more.  After lunch I went back to detecting with Jim, but the finds slowed down considerably.  I found a cool bayonet scabbard tip, but that was about it. 

I was exhausted, and dragging across the field when I got another signal on the side of a hill.  Digging down, I uncovered a piece of camp lead, and immediately recognized the black ash on the outside of the lead - I had found another hut site.  With only 40 minutes until the end of the hunt.  As another digger commented "Congratulations, and I'm sorry."

For the remainder of the 40 minutes, Jim and I dug like mad, trying to recover as much as possible from the rapidly expanding hole.  The ash layer just kept going and going, it seemed without end.  We weren't able to completely explore the hut, but we did as well as possible in the time allowed.  In the end, we didn't end up getting any stellar finds, but the experience was incredible.  It was Jim's first hut dig, and it was awesome getting to share that with him.  We did record the GPS location of the hut, should we ever get a chance to return.  What we did recover from the hut included fragments of broken glass, crockery, dinner plates, and lots and lots of oyster shells.  It's incredible to think that what we were recovering was the remains of a soldier's meal, and even part of the plate he was eating from.  Jim put it best when he said "This is the closest I have ever been to an individual Civil War soldier."

DIV started strong and ended with a bang.  I'm sad to have to go, but anxious to return to my home in Saxapahaw (and get some rest!).  As with the last DIV, I will make a recap post in the next few days highlighting some of the specific finds, with new pictures and information about their use.  Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

DIV Blog: Day 2

Day 2 at DIV XXII started off slowly for me, but ended up being another really great day for Civil War relics.  Once again I spent most of the day detecting with my NC friends Jim, Dwight, and Glenn.  We detected at a new section of the farm, starting at the top of a hill and working down.  The soil here was some of the worst I've ever encountered, and detecting was challenging to say the least.  I managed a few bullets in the morning, and then an iron trigger guard from a musket.  The iron loop on the front of the guard would have been used to attach the rifle sling.

After that find, I hit a dry spell for quite some time.  After checking in with Jim and telling him about my slump, he suggested I head to one small section of the field where electromagnetic interference from nearby electrical lines made some of the high-end detectors unstable.  Since many people will avoid these areas, and my DFX is less affected by the EMI, he thought I might be able to find a bullet over there.  I went exactly where he had pointed, and dug a three ring bullet within just a few minutes.  As it turns out, there was a small pocket of bullets in that area, and within fifteen minutes I had dug three more, including a pulled three ring bullet and two Confederate gardner bullets.  I have only dug one gardner before this, so I was thrilled to find them.

I found two more bullets before the day was out, a three ringer and a colt pistol bullet.  With just a few minutes left to go, I found another musket piece, the trigger assembly!  It's humbling to think of the history contained in that small piece of iron.  When I got a chance to start cleaning my finds at the hotel, I discovered that one of the three ringers I had dug included a star in the base.  This is a maker's mark used by the Washington Arsenal, and is the second such bullet I have dug (the first at DIV XIX at Hansbrough ridge).  It was another great day of digging, and I am having a blast up here in ol' Virginia!  Until next time, thanks for reading!

Friday, November 16, 2012


DIV got off to a great start today!  I hunted with my NC detecting friends most of the day.  The highly mineralized soil of Northern Virginia makes finding targets with a VLF detector (like my White's DFX) rather difficult at times, and I dug a LOT of scrap iron as a result.  The corn stalks made detecting somewhat challenging as well.  But there were plenty of good targets to find, and I’m very happy with the results of my first day out.

In addition to some broken glass and melted camp lead, I recovered a total of twelve bullets.  I found another 69 caliber Minie ball which are massive bullets and always a pleasure to find.  You may recall that I found several 69 Caliber Minies in this same area at DIV XX in March 2011.  The three ring bullet with a post on the base is a Williams Cleaner Type 1, a welcome change from the Type 3 zinc plunger cleaners we typically find at late-war sites in North Carolina.  My favorite bullet for the day is a melted round ball from a type of ammunition known as “buck and ball.”  This round includes a large round ball on the bottom and three smaller buckshot balls on top, firing additional projectiles with each shot for an increased chance of striking the enemy.  This particular buck and ball round appears to have been melted in a fire, and one of the loose buck balls has fused to the larger round bullet.

I also recovered two Union general service eagle buttons.  One has significant damage to the front (likely from a plow), but the other is in excellent condition and has a gorgeous green patina.  I’ll post better pictures of the buttons in my DIV recap post at the end of the hunt.

The best find that I witnessed today was in the form of multiple bullets in one hole – a LOT of bullets!  At the end of the day the count was well over 100 Minie balls, and there were clearly more in the hole.  We can only speculate why so many were either lost, forgotten, or discarded all at once.

Well, I’m incredibly sore from 10 hours of non-stop digging, so it’s back to bed so I can do it all again tomorrow!  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DIV Blog: Day 0

Well, it's that time again.....


I was fortunate enough to have been selected once again for DIV, and invitational group relic hunt held twice yearly.  This year's hunt (DIV XXII) is being held at the Beauregard Farm near Brandy Station, VA.  The farm was home to part of the Battle of Brandy Station as well as both US and CS winter camps.

It has been a long day getting up to Virginia and preparing for the dig, including attending the pre-hunt meeting earlier this evening.  It was great fun seeing a number of friends who I haven't been around since the last DIV event in March of this year.  For now, though, I need to try and get some sleep.  The three day hunt starts tomorrow, and I will need all the rest I can get.  I will update the blog again tomorrow night with the results from Day 1.  Wish us luck!!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bullets and buttons on a gorgeous November day

My good friend Jim has been doing some research to find a particular spot where part of the Union army camped in 1865, and invited me along to check it out with him. I'm really impressed with the thoroughness of his work in tracking down some of these places, and the history of the people who were there. His attention to detail is incredible and his passion for history is contagious.  It really has been a pleasure getting to know Jim and working with him to recover some history.  We've made several unsuccessful attempts to locate this camp lately, but yesterday we finally found it!  Congratulations, Jim - you did it!  And to top it off, the landowner was among the most accommodating that I've had the pleasure of working with.  He even went so far as to bring us cold drinks after a few hours!

Here are the period relics I was able to recover. The top row are all three ring Minie ball bullets, three 58 calibers and one 54 caliber on the right.  The two bullets in the center row are a fired 44 caliber colt pistol bullet on the left and an unfired Sharps carbine bullet on the right.  On the bottom row are fired Spencer carbine bullets.  Unlike many other Civil War bullets, which used a paper or skin cartridge, the Spencer bullets used a brass rimfire cartridge.  I recovered one Spencer cartridge casing, shown between the two bullets.  I'm quite happy with the condition on this casing, as they are fragile and often heavily damaged when recovered from the ground.

The button in the center is a Federal Staff Officer's button.  It's shown above with a similar non-dug example from the Ridgeway reference archive. Unfortunately the back is missing entirely, and only the front was recovered.  This is a first for me, and I'm very happy to have recovered it.  The condition is lacking, due to corrosion from its time underground, once again stressing the importance of recovering these relics before they are destroyed by time and the elements.

I also found two other buttons that predate the war.  The button on the left is known as a tombac button, which I have discussed previously after digging one right here in Saxapahaw.  The tombac alloy resists corrosion, and is still shiny despite being lost in the late 1700's to early 1800's.  They are somewhat brittle, however, as you can see by the fragmentation of part of this one.  On the right is a civilian flat button, with some of the original gold gilt remaining on the back.  This type of button probably dates to the 1830's to 1850's.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite sites to see - the bright white patina of a Civil War bullet seeing the light of day for the first time in nearly 150 years...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Civil War relics, and a 19th Century Nickel

Hey everyone!  Here are the results from my last two trips out with my good friend Jim.  We managed to get into another pocket of relics, dropped by Union troops under General Sherman as they made their way through central North Carolina.  The first day was all about lead for me, and I recovered six 58 caliber three-ring Minie balls.  I also found the top half of another bullet, which had been cut off by a soldier, either out of boredom or to create some form of "camp art."  Jim found an ornate carved bullet nearby that was almost certainly a chess piece (perhaps a bishop or queen), and it's possible that this cut-off bullet may have been a pawn, though this is of course speculation.  It may well have been cut in half simply out of boredom, for some other purpose, or for no reason at all - we'll never know for sure.  In any case, these modified bullets have a much more personal connection to the individual soldier, and are among my favorite relics to find.

Though the number of relics was fewer on the second trip out, I'm very happy with what I was able to find.  I added one more 58 caliber bullet this time out.  The other bullet is the top half of a Williams cleaner, missing the zinc base, but is a bit more special than a typical dropped bullet.  The markings dug into the top of the bullet indicate that it was loaded into a rifle, and then subsequently pulled out again.  A corkscrew device known as a puller or worm was used to grab onto the bullet in the bottom of the barrel and pull it back out to safely unload the weapon.

The rusty iron object is actually a four-hole underwear button, as excavated.  I have also included a picture of the button after removing much of the rust buildup  Unfortunately this is as far as I could go with cleaning it before starting to lose base metal, so I went ahead and applied a protective coat, and hopefully it won't degrade too much more.

The brass piece shown above the pulled cleaner bullet is referred to as a "J hook."  This is the first complete J hook that I have ever found, so I was very excited to recover it.  The button end was used to affix the hook to a leather strap on a knapsack, while the hook end was used as a fastener or hanger.  Below is a picture of a complete knapsack, with two brass J hooks attached.

I was very excited to dig a coin back there, hoping it was from the Civil War. Unfortunately it turns out it's post war, an 189? Liberty Head or V Nickel. While unrelated to the Civil War activity of the area, it's still a neat 100+ year old find. It must have been dropped by one of the hunters who left behind all the shotgun shell heads I keep finding out there!