As most readers of this blog know, 2011 marks the first year in the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War or, the War Between the States - America's epic and defining moment as a nation. 150 years ago this year, plow boys and seminary students from Virginia's storied Shenandoah Valley began to join the ranks for the Southern cause. Most of the battles in which these young men would fight occurred right in their very own and beloved Valley of Virginia - the area which lies between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Alleghanies to the west, and is bordered at the Northern and Southern points (depending on who you ask), by Harper's Ferry and Natural Bridge.
The Valley still holds on to - both literally and figuratively - much of the history which immortalized many of these young men. Many of their homes still stand - some still owned by their descendants. Each year, farmers turn over the same soil that was being farmed when great battles and bloodshed took place over them those many years ago. Each year, these farmers alternately turn over, and then bury again, Civil War mini-balls, buttons, buckles, breastplates, shell fragments, brass rivets, rifle parts, knapsack hooks and scores of other items left by the soldiers and armies of that horrible war.
The picture above was taken 29 January 2011 near one of these sites here in the Valley - a Confederate winter camp. My partner, Douglas Hill, and I were scouting out a new site here in the Valley to metal detect. Attempting to metal detect in the snow is quite a challenge, to say the least. But while I was digging in the frozen, snow covered ground, with civilization and all the conveniences of home right behind me, I could not help but think of the men who made this area their "home" almost 150 years ago. Here they wintered in crude cabins, warmed only by a small fire. Bone-chilling cold, hunger, boredom, and anxiety were their constant companions. When would they fight again? Would they be wounded, killed? How were their families faring? When would this war end?
In the coming months, and throughout the Sesquicentennial, I hope to bring you more stories, pictures, and videos of my relic hunting "adventures." And I hope to share with you the passion of pulling one of these relics from the ground that has held it for 150 years - a piece of history recovered and saved for future generations; a piece of history that has a story behind it. Stay tuned.