04 October 2016

Relic Hunting Post #145 - Learning From Relics

Non-ferrous items recovered, including a Union soldier's Eagle I button.
Some interesting iron items also recovered from the site.

There is a site that I've been relic hunting on here in the Shenandoah Valley for several years now. The site has an interesting, but little known history. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that I'm likely the only person alive who knows the location's complete (well, mostly complete) history.

I stumbled on the site quite by accident. I have a business relationship with the farmer who owns the land and he was kind enough to give me unlimited access to explore the property. My initial interest came about because there was a large Confederate winter camp across the road from this location. I do not (yet) have permission to access that property. However, there is a very bold spring located on the property I do have permission to be on so I surmised that this was possibly a source of water for the camp or, at a minimum, a picket post where horses and soldiers would water.

Also on this site was, for certain, one colonial home. The current owner razed it a number of years ago. However, due to the relics I've found there, I believe there was likely one other home that pre-dated the one razed.

My initial exploration of the spring area yielded nothing. I was both surprised and disappointed. Next, I explored the old home site which was closer to the road and above the spring. The only thing of interest I found there was a colonial era brass key used to lock ale and wine kegs. But I began to consider a piece of high ground behind the spring that included a grove of locust trees. High ground + water source typically equals human activity for those interested in relic hunting and/or archeology.

My assumptions were correct. From that high ground I've dug a number of Tombac buttons, a couple of colonial coins and some colonial era broken buckle frames. Nothing of any real monetary value, but a treasure trove to someone who's interested in history.

In the 1800's, this piece of property came to be owned by a Confederate veteran who had been a Captain in a Virginia unit. After the war, he started a small manufacturing facility there, as well as continuing to farm the property. This information came from an old map of the area, as well as some online research. (I'm being a bit vague as I need to keep the location of this property secret for the property owner's sake.)

The location of the manufacturing facility was on another piece of high ground a few hundred yards from the well. At that location, I've recovered a Civil War era coin, part of an iron bell, iron tools and several pieces of 19th century costume jewelry and pottery. It was this area that I recently returned to so I could try out a new metal detector. 

I dug a piece of harmonica reed right off, but then the finds went dry. As I was about to give up and call it a day, I decided to try an area next to the fence. I immediately recovered a small, Tombac button. Then, within a couple of minutes and just two feet away, I found the Eagle I button also shown in the first image above. That find is interesting for several reasons. First, as already mentioned, this property was owned by a Confederate officer at the time that button was most likely lost. One would think a CSA button would be more likely to turn up. But Federal uniform buttons are not uncommon to find on Confederate related sites either. There are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, Confederate soldiers often used Union buttons when necessary, given the realities of supply issues in the Southern army.

Was the button a souvenir or, perhaps, an improvisation used during the WBTS and later lost by the Confederate Captain? Perhaps it was it lost by a former Union soldier who was a customer of the business or, maybe an employee? 

Of course, it is impossible to know for sure, but the discovery does make for interesting contemplation. I will continue to research and explore this site as long as I can. The complete history is quite interesting and, perhaps, one day, I'll write something providing more detail. For now, the history is between me, the farmer and the Captain.


Phill Aston said...

What type of archeological methodology do you use to record these finds?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Good question Phil. That depends. On sites like this one, I typically record the date, soil and weather conditions, depth of find, photos in situ and a map. Occasionally I'll use GPS coordinates as well. It also depends on the types of finds I'm recovering. Common finds on existing homesites will not receive as much detail, yet all finds of interest are recorded with location, etc.

Does that adequately address your question?

Mark Snell said...

Me thinks Phil was trying to "set you up."

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, so do I. He failed. Speaking of failing, I have a post coming up that discusses the fact some archeologists are now preaching the leftist agenda, i.e. "global warming", "white privilege" and other social justice memes.

Phill Aston said...

While you may think I was asking my question for a set up, I was not. However that being said, your recording process does need some improvement. I would offer suggestions, but I believe they would fall of deaf ears as they do with most relic hunters.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Phil - I sincerely apologize if your intent was misjudged. I'd be very interested in any suggestions you might have for improvement in regards to record keeping. Thanks for taking the time to comment.