Monday, April 15, 2013

RRRHA Mine Run Hunt

Hey everyone!  Last weekend I was invited by my friend Phil to join his detecting club, the Rapidan River Relic Hunters Association or RRRHA, on a group hunt along Mine Run in Orange County, Virginia.  I had so much fun visiting with friends and detecting an incredible property, and even made some nice finds in the process.  I'd like to start by giving a huge "Thank You!" to Relic-Bob the hunt organizer, Phil for inviting me up, Brian and Elizabeth for their incredible hospitality, the two Lanny's for joining us all in the field, and John for the token (which you'll read more about soon).  The camaraderie on this trip, combined with two days of incredible detecting weather, made this one of the most enjoyable outings I've ever had.  Thanks everyone!

Following the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg in July of 1863, General Lee retreated back to the relative safety of Virginia.  The Mine Run Campaign took place in late November to early December of that year as a final attempt by Union General George Meade to destroy the Confederate army before going into winter camp.  Attempting to strike Lee's right flank, Meade's forces were slow in crossing the Rapidan River and lost the element of surprise.  This gave the Confederates time to entrench along Mine Run, and although there was heavy artillery fire and some fighting, the Union generals decided that a full scale assault was no longer practical.  Both sides retreated into winter camps and the Mine Run campaign marked the end of fighting for that year.

The area we were hunting was predominately the Union position during the battle.  As a result, the typical finds from most participants included unfired Union bullets and fired Confederate ones, along with Confederate shell fragments.  There were two full shells found (and most of a third), and one of the highlights for me was watching a complete shell fresh from the ground as it was recovered near me.

Another one of my favorite things about this trip was the location itself, with rolling green grassy fields and a dirt road running through the property which was original to the time of the war.  Places like this really have a way of putting you back in time as you walk the grounds and look for tangible pieces of that history.

I'm very happy with my recoveries for the trip, as well.  Here is a picture of a few miscellaneous finds from the hunt.  On the left are two items which are certainly of the period, but aren't directly military finds.  The first is a brass key-hole cover from a small lock, and the second is a typical civilian flat-button from the early to mid 1800's.  On the right are two more military finds - the large brass stud from a sword belt rig and a fired 44 caliber colt pistol bullet.  Below these are two shell fragments from the battle, and I believe both are from Confederate Reed shells.

One of my favorite finds from the trip is this bayonet scabbard tip.  The tube and finial pieces are often broken apart from one another, and are not always recovered together.  I dug both pieces to this scabbard tip about 6 feet apart, and they are shown here after being reunited once again.  I have also included a picture of an original bayonet and scabbard, showing this piece in use.

I dug three 58 caliber three ring Minie balls, the most commonly used bullet, and each one is slightly different.  One is a beautiful unfired bullet, another fired, and the third was loaded into the musket and subsequently pulled out without firing.  The hole in the nose is from the puller or worm used to remove the round from the barrel, and the screw threads from the puller are even visible inside.

I mentioned in my DIV recap post how much I love digging Confederate Gardner bullets.  The Lord must have heard me, as I recovered six of them on this trip as well.  One in particular is a perfect dropped bullet, and the nicest I have ever found.  Upon cleaning out the base cavity, there is even a fair amount of original black powder still remaining inside!

The next two bullets are still a mystery to me - and to some very knowledgeable detectorists I showed them to at the hunt.  I'll be sure to post an update once I get a positive ID on them.  They are shown here with a standard 58 Minie for reference.  Any guesses?

I dug a total of four Confederate Enfield bullets, all showing evidence of being fired during the battle.  One of them turns out to be a bit different, and a the first such bullet I have found.

You may recall that I have previously dug Minie balls with a star in the base, showing manufacture at the Washington Arsenal.  Many Enfield bullets have base stamps as well, and this one shows a faint stamp of the number "57".  This particular bullet was produced by Eley Brothers in England, loaded onto a ship and smuggled through the Union naval blockade into the South, issued to a Confederate soldier with an Enfield rifle, and finally fired in anger at the Battle of Mine Run.  Here it lay for nearly 150 years until I was able to recover it.  What a piece of history!  Finds like this make me love this hobby even more.

This discussion of base-stamped bullets brings me back to that token RRRHA member John gave to me at the hunt.  The club decided to plant several tokens throughout the property, each stamped with a number, which could be turned in for a corresponding prize.  To keep things fair, RRRHA members were ineligible from winning the prize, and upon digging a token, were to give it to the nearest guest of the hunt.  Well, John happened to find one of these tokens just as I was walking up the same hill.  The prize turned out to be this very rare "US" stamped three ring Minie ball.  What an awesome gift!  Thank you so much to John and to the RRRHA for donating these prizes!

This was by far one of the best times I have had detecting in a long time.  The weather could not have been better, I found some things I never have before, and I even won a door prize.  But the best part was getting to spend time with great friends and making new ones.  Thanks again to everyone at the RRRHA for putting together a fantastic hunt.  Until next time, thanks for reading, and God Bless!

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