18 November 2015

Relic Hunting Post #136 - Lots of Lead & a Discovery

I relic hunted on a battlefield on private property here in the Shenandoah Valley last Friday and had a great day. I recovered 40 Civil War bullets/musket balls and 2 shell fragments. All but 3 or 4 of the Minie balls were recovered on a hillside. As the battle was raging, the Confederate line broke and many of the Confederates tried to escape by running up the hill. As they did, the Union infantry poured lead into their backs. The bullets pictured here either missed or passed through Confederate soldiers and lodged in the ground. Most of them were 4-8 inches deep.

What's interesting about finding the bullets where I did is the fact I've been able to determine, with great accuracy, the exact path/route the Confederate soldiers took in their attempt to flee. Moreover, it's in a different location than what one history of this battle describes. The author was off by several hundred yards. Though this historian wrote an excellent study of this battle, my experience illustrates how amateurs can shed light on history through their own independent research and study. I personally know another relic hunter who made a similar discovery at the Battle of Port Republic.

I was in the field from 8:30 am until dark. It was an exhausting day but I had a great time. I recorded quite a bit of video as well which I'll put together over Thanksgiving and post.

8 comments:

Ralph Steel said...

Now that all of those balls are out of the ground and I am guessing no GPS positioning was taken of their position, your theory will remain just that...right?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

And, as usual, you would be guessing wrong. Try thinking Ralph. I make extensive notes on finds, including video and, yes, GPS coordinates. I even note the weather conditions. Also, I'm a member of the Archaeological Society of Virginia and have made some of my collection available to museums. Moreover, I've discussed some of my discoveries and research with the author mentioned in the post.

Take your blinders off Ralph.

Ralph Steel said...

Well you do more than the average relic hunter...kudos for you.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Ralph, but most of the ones I know keep similarly detailed records. The image portrayed in the media and by some professional archaeologists is largely a myth. Thank God for relic hunters:

Without amateur souvenir collectors and relic hunters, the Smithsonian Institution might never have become the renowned network of museums that it is today. “You really can’t have a national museum,” says Bird, “until you have a nation of people collecting things, people who at least have that concept in their head—the collecting ideal. As low-tech and modest as some of these objects may be, they’re stand-ins for this larger purpose of national memory.” So what makes a good souvenir? According to Bird, each one is a “little bit of memory” that’s physically transportable. “Once you have it,” Bird says, “you can figuratively transport yourself back to that moment in time.” ~ (Smithsonian curator William L. Bird)

Mark Snell said...

About 20 years ago I volunteered as a "laborer" for a NPS dig on the Gettysburg Battlefield. The archaeologists used standard techniques (no metal detectors) in their work. Although we did find a few bona fide Civil War relics, the archaeologists showed no interest in them, since their search was focused on locating architectural features (foundations) for some long-razed buildings. I am not saying that what they were doing wasn't important, but it did demonstrate their apathy towards commonplace relics, since the new Visitors Center/Museum has tens of thousands of relics in their storage facility. The most important use of battlefield archaeology is when we have little understanding of what actually happened, such as The Battle of Little Big Horn or Agincourt.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

All great points Mark. More archeologists are beginning to recognize the value of detectorists. The folks at Montpelier for example. Much of the negativity comes from stereotyping and ignorance about how most of us conduct ourselves.

Bob Miller said...

Regarding the fact that your findings are not in line with current thinking: I live near where affirmed history tells us the Battle of the Brandywine occurred during the Revolutionary War. About ten years ago, while a contractor was excavating for some new construction, the digging uncovered mass graves, which, although only a mile or two from where thinking has the battle occurring, has resulted in a re-think on things. History moves forward on this sort of thing. Regards, Bob

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Bob. History does indeed move forward with these types of new discoveries.