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!


  1. Replies
    1. Monetarily, they're really not worth very much at all.

      But to me, they're absolutely priceless! I have never sold a single recovered relic, nor do I ever intend to. Each piece of history I recover reflects a time, a place, a cause, and an individual who touched it nearly 150 years ago. And each piece is a memory for me, of where and when I recovered it, the countless hours spent looking for them, and the good friends I have made along the way. My finds are all proudly displayed in cases, and I love showing them off at local events as well as here on the blog. To me, they are each beyond any dollar value!