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Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 2015 Finds To Date


Going by my blog, you might conclude that I hadn't been relic hunting at all for the past several months.  That's actually not the case, I've just been dedicating my (very!) limited free time to researching and detecting instead of blogging.  Hopefully, I can catch up and reduce the backlog of planned articles.

January has actually been a productive month, especially for Confederate buttons.  Last weekend, I had the pleasure of finding three CS buttons in one day.

The first of these buttons was found in the middle of quite a bit of "trash" signals.  I call them that because I'm only interested in Civil War material and a lot of the other bits of brass, iron, silver, and (shudder) aluminum were unrelated to the War.

In any case, I found what appeared to be a brass or bronze coin bent in half amidst other targets representing over 200 years of history.  I put the object in my plastic finds box and kept detecting.

It wasn't until I got home that evening and began cleaning things that I realized what I'd found was a North Carolina Sunburst button.

January finds (three hunts) including CS buttons
My efforts to straighten the button weren't very successful but at least it's recognizable for what it is —part of the uniform of a North Carolinian who fought the Northern invaders right up until the very end of the war.

That same day, I found another NC Sunburst in a spot I'd hunted several times before.  The odd thing about it was that the signal was so blatantly obvious.  I wondered how I had missed it while detecting in that area before.  In my defense, the grass in this area grows and is cut back throughout the season and sometimes it's thicker in one place than another and the areas of thickness vary from one month to the next.  So it's possible it was nestled under a tall clump of grass during my previous visits to the site.

Another possible explanation could be that the pervasive EMI from a nearby electrical fence simply masked the target before.  Whatever the case, my takeaway was that it never hurts to to hunt known productive spots even after they may appear to be hunted out.  Due to vicissitudes of weather, external factors such as EMI, your level of concentration, or simply poor coil discipline, it's quite possible to miss targets even when you think you're being diligent.

In fact, I think that most of the stories we come across where a detectorist gets a fancy new machine, promptly takes it to his "hunted out site" and scores major finds are simply the result of the increased percent likelihood of making finds that statistically results from repeated visits.  If you really believe that you're covering an entire multi-acre site with that 10" chisel of double D detection field in one visit, then I have a virgin CS campground on the outskirts of Raleigh for you.  Actually, I'm about to test this theory real soon by taking a new machine out to my main site.  Stay tuned for the results ...

The third CS button I found was another one that I completely misidentified in the field.  Finding a deeply buried, small, corroded brass button, I put it in my finds box thinking it was probably a general service or infantry Eagle cuff button.  I'd found several of the latter in the vicinity so I had some basis for that conclusion.  In any case, at home I proceeded to gently brush the face of the button with a toothbrush and was dumbfounded to see a large letter "I" appear with nothing else.

This was truly unexpected.  It turned out to be a 19" diameter Confederate Lined "I" button, most likely from a vest but possibly also from a kepi.  The button itself is a tad toasty from ground action (probably compounded by lime and fertilizer), but this brings my total CS buttons from this site to 14.

19mm Diameter, Confederate Lined "I" vest button. 

Other notable finds are two Spencer cartridge casings and (my favorite) a Richmond Labs Sharps bullet.

Richmond Labs Sharps is second bullet on the left, bottom row
Most of these relics wouldn't have been found by the majority of detectorists out there.  I'm not saying that boastfully because I had missed many of these targets myself on previous visits to the site.  But unless someone knew this camp existed, and was determined to find additional relics and slowed way down to hear them, they would never apply themselves to the extent needed to discern targets.  I find that very encouraging as it's increasingly difficult to locate sites that haven't been repeatedly hunted over the past 50 or so years.

The other good news about these relics is that they came from two distinct locations.  So that means I've been fortunate enough to locate another CS camp.  I'm hoping that continued efforts will pay off in the form of additional historically significant relics coming to light.

And Now for Something Completely Different
I metal detect for one reason —to locate relics of the Civil War that confirm my research.  For that reason, whenever I find something of merely numismatic value, I pretty much don't care.  For sure, there are lots of detectorists out there who specialize in coins—they can tell you anything about them—and who covet them above all else.  I'd rather find a bullet any day.

Any day, that is, unless the coin is part of a Civil War site and was dropped by a soldier.  Then and only then does it become valuable to me.  Now let me add that I've never found a gold coin so this declaration probably hasn't been put to the ultimate test.

In any case, all this preamble is my way of of apologizing for what I'm about to do which is post a coin find.  So, without further ado, here it is.

1831 Capped Bust Half Dime Obverse
1831 Capped Bust Half Dime Reverse
This half dime is amazingly immaculate given its age.  Even for me, a non-coin guy, the crispness is pretty impressive.  All I did was brush it lightly with a damp toothbrush.  This coin, together with a few 3 Ringers and Type III Williams bullets, were found while searching for a large camp.  These came from an associated picket post.

Into the Woods ...
All of the above finds were made in fields that have been farmed for hundreds of years and which continue to be farmed or serve as pasture.  My finds from yesterday came out of what used to be farmland but is now deep, tangled, briar-infested woods.

I invited my friend Lanny to come along and shared the research with him that justified our visiting this particular location.  I'll confess I also did it so he didn't think I'd completely lost my mind as we hiked back into the wilderness.

We weren't able to get to the center of the area of interest as I'd noted it on my handheld Garmin GPS.  But we made our way around the perimeter in an attempt to find a spot where we could actually swing our detectors.  Taking advantage of a hunter trail, we enjoyed a brief respite from briars.  And while we walked, I casually swung my coil over the path waiting for the inevitable shotgun shell to appear.

And suddenly, I did get a signal but it read in the 70's on my T2 —that's brass and lead territory.  I remarked to Lanny almost apologetically, "Well, I have to dig it ..." and out popped a piece of camp lead.  Four feet away, I got another piece.

This didn't seem like much to Lanny and his facial expression indicated good natured skepticism.  But for me, after staring at this map for months, it was confirmatory evidence that I was "there."

"There," of course, is where "They" were.  "They" being the soldiers who fought in the Civil War in North Carolina.  I pursue their ghosts wherever I can find them and finding evidence of their existence and presence is one of my greatest pleasures.

So, while Lanny was being an incredibly polite and tolerant friend, I was trying desperately now to penetrate the briars and get to a place to hunt.  I will gloss over the details of this but let me just say that the briars in that particular neck of the woods ate well that day.

Finally, I got to a place where briars were few and far between and the original topography could be discerned.  I turned on the T2 and started detecting at the bottom of a slope about 400 yards from where I'd found the camp lead.

Within 10 minutes of starting to search, I got a good signal at the base of a tree.  Digging was difficult in the wet soil and with the abundance of roots but in short order, I was holding a .58 caliber "3 ringer."


I called Lanny to let him know the good news and learned that Lanny had momentarily lost his prescription lenses in the dense woods.  Thankfully, he'd found them and started making his way to my position.  I started detecting again, and 3 feet from the bullet I'd just found I got another good signal.


Yep, another bullet.  Then another, and another.  They were densely packed in this spot—both standard .58 miniés and Type III Williams Bullets.  Evidence of the US soldiers who had camped here in April, 1865 and who I had tracked down to this very spot.

Yours truly in front of the area where soldiers dumped bullets in April 1865
It occurred to me that I hadn't heard from Lanny for a while so I phoned him.  He answered, and in between muttered curses he told me he was making his way through the dense undergrowth to where I was.  Eventually, he emerged, looking like someone who had survived a truly harrowing experience.  He pointed to his prescription lenses and said, "Find of the day!"

But five minutes later, after I'd shown him where I was finding the bullets and as he prepared to do some detecting, he looked stunned and said, "Oh man, where's my shovel?"  Sure enough, in his mortal combat with the briars, vines, and pines he'd somehow let go of it.

Now this was no ordinary shovel but a Predator Tools Piranha, a fine $100 digging instrument, the Cadillac of shovels.  Now it was literally a needle in a haystack.  We looked back at the mass of briars Lanny had emerged from and realized we would have to go back in there to find that shovel.

Well, long story short Lanny despaired of seeing his blue-handled friend ever again.  We retraced what we thought were his steps but didn't see anything but mud and hostile limbs and vines.  We both stopped to assess the situation, Lanny about 8 feet away from me.  He was just about to say something I probably couldn't put on my blog when I said, "LANNY!" and pointed.  Three feet away from both of us was his shovel standing upright in the ground where he'd planted it, probably to take my phone call.  "Second best find of the day!" Lanny said with a grin.

This hunt was truly special because it confirmed my research methodology to myself and my sanity to a friend.  We marched into the woods, guided only by coordinates I'd put into my GPS months ago, and came out with relics of the Civil War.  And a shovel.


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