Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wow, it's been a while!

I can't believe it's been so long since my last update!  Trust me, it's not because I haven't wanted to.  For those curious, I took on a second job to help pay off my student loans, and the schedule has been a bit intense.  Between all the work and the crazy weather we've had this winter, I've barely had time to stop and take a breath, let alone a day of detecting.

I did get out last month, though - first for a day of detecting in Fredericksburg, VA followed by the "Diggin' in Virginia" Spring 2014 invitational hunts.  Fredericksburg is the home of Mary Washington College, my alma mater, so detecting nearby was something of a homecoming.  I had the pleasure of meeting two new friends, Dustin and Rod, in the search for relics.  Dustin is not new to detecting, but recently returned to the hobby after a hiatus.  Rod graciously allowed us to detect his historic property, and came along for his first time using a detector.

General William Averell

The property was associated with the camps of General Averell's Federal Cavalry in the winter of 1862 - 1863.  The Army of the Potomac was still reeling from a crushing defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and harsh weather made campaigning impossible.  Captain William Hyndman of the 4th PA Cavalry described the winter in haunting fashion.  He writes:
All the long, cold winter of 1862 and '63, we did picket duty, almost continually, in the vicinity of Hartwood Church, a distance of eight miles from camp.  We were generally three days out and three in, in the meantime making scouts and reconnaissances.  Each was seldom in camp more than a day at a time.  We had a long and exposed line to guard, and had to scout the country in the vicinity of our forces, in order to guard against raids and surprises by any large body of the enemy.

While performing this duty on the picket line, which was in many respects a perilous one, we were exposed to the inclemencies of a long, dreary, and bitterly cold winter, in a country which displayed only far stretches of dense pine forests, and bleak, open glades and fields, almost uninhabited and unclaimed.  Here lonely and alone, we paced the frozen ground with no companionship but that of our carbine, sabre, and pipe - the latter being require to yield its utmost of comfort and delight.  How often then, as the sombre, leaden pall of clouds would move up the skies, darkening the chill though pleasant sunlight from the scene, and letting fall the first light sprinkles of the snow, to be thickened and whirled in icy mists about the face and over the whitening woods and meadows, have our thoughts reverted to the happy hearth at home, at which the loved ones were gathered and, perhaps, reflecting in turn upon our own trials and perils on the field of battle.

Fortunately the weather for our hunt was not nearly so unpleasant.  The rain showers held off, and we were able to recover a few cavalry relics along the bank of a shallow creek.  Dustin recovered a coat button back, several pack grommets, and a massive piece of melted "camp lead".  Rod recovered a dropped Sharps carbine bullet, his first CW relic with a detector.  Congrats, Rod - once you've found that first bullet, you're hooked! 

Dustin examines his button back fresh from the ground.

My finds included two cavalry bullets, a Sharps carbine and a Barthalow pattern pistol bullet.  I found part of a third bullet as well - a small carved sliver of a three ring Minie ball.  For brass, I recovered a knapsack J hook and a coat button, and large brass ring (not pictured) which was probably horse tack related.  The J hook has a longer, thinner, and more pointed wire than I am used to seeing on most typical J hooks.  Any thoughts or opinions on that piece are welcomed. 

My finds for the day.

The button is my favorite find of the day, even though it's in quite rough shape.  I incorrectly identified it in the field as a General Service eagle coat button.  I got a surprise when I was cleaning it up at home, though - inside the shield on the eagle's chest is a letter "C", denoting it as a cavalry button.  It's my first "eagle-C", and I'm thrilled to have found it at a site so conclusively tied to Averell's cavalry in the winter of 1862-63.

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