There is a story behind every Civil War relic. The items pictured here are some I recently recovered on private property (with permission) near the Battle of Piedmont here in the Shenandoah Valley. The large, twisted piece of lead is a sabot from an artillery shell. The smaller fragment is most likely from an exploded Hotchkiss shell. They are both related to what the third item likely represents.
That item is a bullet fragment with what appears to be a human tooth imprint. (Click images twice to enlarge for greater detail.) While there is some disagreement as to how often (and for what reasons) Civil War soldiers actually chewed on bullets, I could not help but make the connection - at least in my mind - that the exploded artillery pieces I recovered very likely caused pain, suffering, and death some 150 years ago. In reading some of Scott Patchan's excellent book on the Battle of Piedmont last night, a couple of passages brought all this home. One Union officer observed that:
And . . .
"One poor fellow had been completely skinned the whole length of his back. It must have been done by a piece of rail, as he lay on the ground on his stomach. He was conscious, and would talk to us, but one of the doctors said he would not live a minute if we turned him over."
This kind of knowledge adds an almost surreal element when I pull one of these relics from the ground, having been hidden there almost 150 years. Adding to the experience is the knowledge that one of my ancestors was wounded here and taken prisoner. This is so much a part of that "sense of place" which has been discussed on this blog before.
Stay tuned. Another post about an exciting find coming soon.