Sunday, March 31, 2013

DIV Recoveries Part 1: Getting the lead out

Hey everyone!  I’m back from Diggin’ in Virginia XXIII, a bi-annual Civil War relic hunt.  As always, it was a blast!  I really enjoy connecting with detectorists from all over the country, seeing old friends, and making new ones.  I’d like to take a moment to give thanks to John and Rose along with the DIV committee for putting on a very professional event, John from American Digger Magazine for rooming with me, and Jeff, Dana, and Joey for the carpool and excellent company in the field.  We were blessed with great weather (excepting a few snow flurries at the end) for three full days of digging.  I saw some amazing recoveries during that time, including both Union and Confederate buckles, bullets, uniform buttons, complete artillery shells, and much more.

I’m quite pleased with my own recoveries over the course of the weekend.  I will begin with this blog post discussing my lead finds, and move on to brass, pewter, and iron in a follow-up post.  Detecting near the road I found a nice variety of different bullet types.  The most iconic and widespread bullet of the war is the three-ring minie ball.  Despite their prevalence, I only found one of these the entire weekend! I didn't photograph it for this post, but you can see numerous examples previously on the blog.


I dug two kinds of cavalry bullet, Sharps carbine and Spencer carbine.  The Sharps carbine breech-loader rifle would have originally used a paper or linen gunpowder cartridge attached to the bullet, but this has long ago deteriorated.  The Spencer repeating rifle loaded seven cartridges at a time through the buttstock of the weapon.  These cartridges were composed of a lead bullet and brass casing, although it is uncommon to recover them intact.  Shown here is a Spencer bullet with a small part of the brass casing remaining, fresh from the dirt.  I liked the look of it so much that I intent to preserve it in the original dirt as shown for future display.

Round lead bullets were in use long before the Civil War in smooth bore muskets and pistols.  Although they were eclipsed in accuracy and range by the conical Minie-ball style bullet, roundballs still saw extensive use during the war.  I found quite a few roundballs on this particular trip, from 44 to 69 caliber.

I recovered four gardner bullets which I’m particularly happy with, as I don’t tend to find many of them here in North Carolina.  These Confederate made bullets held the paper cartridge in a groove in the base of the bullet, which can be seen here.

Most of the bullets I found at DIV would be called "drops" or "dropped bullets", meaning that they have never been fired.  But I also dug these two fired bullets.  The bullet on the left obviously hit something quite hard, and is mushroomed out beyond recognition.  The bullet on the right is an Enfield bullet.  Note the ramrod mark on the nose of the bullet from where it was pushed hard into the barrel of the gun, along with the lines along the length of the bullet from where the bullet caught the rifling grooves inside the barrel as it was fired.

My favorite lead find was this highly carved Bartholow pattern pistol bullet.  The bullet was originally meant to be fired by a Colt Army revolver or similar 44 caliber pistol.  In addition to the obvious alteration around the nose of the bullet, there is also carving on the lower ring including a series of vertical lines shown here.  We may never know why a soldier took the time to create this intricately carved bullet, but many were carved as chess pieces, works of art, or simply to relieve the boredom of camp life.

That’s it for now.  Stay tuned for the next installment – my brass and pewter finds from DIV XXIII.  Thanks for reading!

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