03 December 2014

Metal Detecting Post #122 - Civil War Battlefield Archeology

I was recently told about a book that I'm really looking forward to reading. From These Honored Dead - Historical Archeology of the American Civil War is right up my alley of interest regarding the War Between the States, archeology and artifact and relic recovery using a metal detector. I just received my copy and quickly turned to the index to see if there were any references to metal detectors in the book. A quick glance revealed there appear to be several dozen. I find that quite fascinating as the book is authored by two academics and there is still a chasm of distrust between relic hunters (aka, "amateur" archeologists) and professional archeologists; though some progress in bridging that chasm has been made in recent years thanks to the efforts of individuals like Dr. Matt Reeves of James Madison's Montpelier. There's actually a chapter in the book discussing Matt's efforts at Montpelier and the tremendous success he's had working with avocational detectorists in recovering and saving Civil War artifacts there. Good stuff.

The publisher of the book (University Press of Florida), has this to say about the book:
Separating myth from fact, From These Honored Dead uses historical archaeology to uncover the truth in the many conflicting memories of the American Civil War that have been passed down through generations.

By incorporating the results of archaeological investigations, the essays in this volume shed new light on many aspects of the Civil War. Topics include soldier life in camp and on the battlefield, defense mechanisms such as earthworks construction, the role of animals during military operations, and a refreshing focus on the conflict in the Trans-Mississippi West. Supplying a range of methods and exciting conclusions, this book displays the power of archaeology in interpreting this devastating period in U.S. history.
There's even a chart comparing the performance of various detectors/detectorists:

Interestingly enough though, is the fact that just about all of the reference books published to date which identify Civil War artifacts recovered from battlefields, have been written by relic hunters who used metal detectors in the recovery of those items. (I hope to write one myself one day which will feature not just WBTS artifacts, but 18th & 19th century artifacts recovered here in Virginia.)

In skimming the pages of the book, I see that it will likely provide quite a bit of fodder for posts. For example, just on the first page of the introduction, one reads:
. . . the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor for what was to become differentially known as the American Civil War, the War of the Rebellion, the War of Northern Aggression, the War for Southern Independence, and so forth.
Wow, that will really come as a shock to some folks. And there's this:
In Union, Yankees, Southerners, and immigrants to the society that their contest spawned have literally gone to the moon and have established a framework for human freedom that is the envy of the world. [Emphasis mine.]
Can anyone say, American Exceptionalism? More heartburn for the bubble dwellers.

I'm sure I'll be posting a lot of comments about this book and, possibly, a full review at some point. 

(Also, I hope to post a full review of Kent Masterson Brown's new documentary on Daniel Boone very soon. Sorry for the delay Kent!)

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