Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bullets, Brass, and BEES

Hey everyone!  I got off for not one - but TWO days in a row, so naturally I grabbed the detector and was out the door as quickly as possible!!

Saturday I went back to the little camp I've been searching, but instead of returning to the same field, I decided to branch out to neighboring fields to see if the camp area extended out any further.  Unfortunately I was detecting in a veritable sea of shredded aluminum cans, the bane of most every detectorist.  I was only able to detect for a few hours, and the aluminum was driving me crazy, but I did manage one solitary keeper.  This three ring Minie ball bullet has a star inside the base cavity, identifying it as a product of the Washington DC arsenal (now Fort McNair).

Today I met up with my friend Dustin to look for a new camp.  As we pulled into the drive to ask permission to detect, a bearded gentleman emerged from the workshop behind the house.  Explaining that we were looking to search the nearby field for a Civil War camp he told us that we had missed the mark.  The camp wasn't in the field we suspected, but in the woods behind it, which he also owned and was happy to let us search.  He also cautioned that we might not find much, explaining that it had been heavily hunted in the past and the grown up vegetation might scare us off.

Like two dauntless warriors, Dustin and I geared up and headed back into the woods.  Sure enough, the area was quite overgrown, and completely undetectable in many places.  So we did the best we could, hoping to eek out some finds in the "hunted out" camp.  Overall we did quite well in the several hours we were there, and I look forward to returning in the winter once the undergrowth has frozen and died back.

I found a total of eight bullets, including four broken Spencer cartridges, three 44 caliber pistol bullets, and my very first Smith carbine.  Unfortunately the gunpowder filled cartridges and lead bullets tend to corrode one another, and they are quite rare to find intact after 150 years underground.  I only found one other piece of brass, a slightly mangled turnkey from a shoulder scale.  I have previously found another turnkey right here in Saxapahaw, and more information about it can be found in that post.  Dustin got the only button for the day, a beat up general service eagle, as well as a saddle fitting from a McClellan saddle.

We will certainly make a return trip, as I know there is at least one more relic to be found.  I was digging up a good sounding target (I KNOW it had to be a bullet, at the very least) when the ground opened up with a deluge of bees!  I had dug right into their nest, and luckily high-tailed it out of there with only one sting.  MAN did that hurt!  Between that, the multitude of ticks I found upon returning home, the briars, and the sunburn, it's a wonder I still want to go out at all...

But I can't wait to go back!  Until next time, be safe out there everyone!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Finally got my coil to the soil again!

Hey everyone!  Well, my schedule's been pretty tight this year, and I've been working like a dog. No offense to dogs. BUT I did finally managed to get away last weekend and do some real digging for the first time since DIV.  Even better still, I managed to find a few Civil War relics to show for it.  The artifacts were all quite shallow in a gently sloping pasture, but EMI from nearby electrical lines still made it a bit of a challenge.

The bullets are all standard three ring Minie balls.  The lead glob shows just enough of the rings to know it had been a bullet as well, before it melted.  The large brass object is a bayonet scabbard tip.  I have found both the tube and finial portions of a scabbard tip in the past, but this was my first time finding them both still attached. 

The smaller button is just a back, the front having been previously destroyed.  Miraculously though, it still has some thread on the shank.  this is only the second period button I have found with thread intact, the first being a Virginia coat button found right here in Saxapahaw.

The large, highly gilded button is a civilian "flower button" featuring a grape and leaves motif.  The button backmark is "Benedict and Burnham Extra."  Aaron Benedict and Gordon Burnham manufactured buttons with this mark from 1834 to 1849, before the company was reorganized as the Waterbury Button Company, which still exists to the present day.  Benedict and Burnham buttons are well known to collectors as having excellent gold gilding, and many dug examples retain a significant amount of gold.  Although not a military button and designed exclusively for civilian clothing, similar buttons (and even this exact style) are often found in and around Civil War campsites.  It is very likely, given the lack of other period household items, that this button was soldier-worn.  Of course, we will never know for certain, as the nearby road predates the War by many decades.