As seen in the January 2001 edition of W&ET Magazine
The Relics Of Artillery Hill
By: Ed Fedory
Photos By: Mark Swann
We bivouac on the cold, hard-frozen ground, and when we walk about, the echo of our footsteps sounds like the echo of a tombstone. The earth is crusted with snow, and the wind from the northwest is piercing our very bones. We see our soldiers with sunken cheeks and famine glistening eyes.
Numerous buttons from cavalry, infantry, navy, and engineer corps were found on the site, dating from the Battle of Nashville in December of 1864.
Such were the words of a Confederate soldier of General John Bell Hood's force as they awaited attack along the thinly stretched line outside the city of Nashville in December of 1864.
Mark recovered a wide variety of Civil War relics during the Nashville searches, including cannonballs, grape and canister shot, fuses, and a wealth of soldiers' personal items from both Union and Confederate forces.
Hood was determined to recapture Nashville, which had been occupied by Union forces since 1862, and cut the Union supply lines to the South. In this way, he not only hoped to retake Tennessee, but to also starve the Union forces in Georgia into surrendering. There were only a few difficulties... primarily, General George Thomas and an effective Union army of about 70,000 soldiers.
In 1977, Mark's father, Hal Swann, was able to recover 13 unfired balls from the same hole... a relic hunter's dream come true! Decades later, on the same site, Mark would make his own dramatic discoveries.
By the end of the first day of fighting, Hood's left flank could not hold against the Union assault, and a new left flank position, atop Shy's Hill, had to be established.
Handfuls of stacked and unfired friction primers were found beside positions once occupied by the Confederate artillery battery.
Over the years, plows would continue to bring relics of the Battle of Nashville to the surface, and while walking the dried creek beds one could find spent Minie balls and pieces of ordnance which had been dislodged from the banks with the spring rains. It was in such a world, and in such a place, that relic hunter Mark Swann grew up.
Relic hunter, Mark Swann holds a recently recovered and partially exploded Borman cannonball. On the ground (lower right) are a Selma/Brooke and a Reed projectile, also recovered from the surrounding lawns.
As he pulled into the driveway of one particular house and surveyed the surrounding grounds, a flood of vivid memories returned. It had been on those same lawns that Mark's father, Hal Swann, had recovered 13 unexploded Confederate projectiles in one hole... and a place where Mark had "cut" his relic hunting teeth, with a vast array of recovered artifacts, decades before.
With some of the soil removed by heavy equipment, relic hunter, Cliff Holmes, searches along a path laden with Civil War relics.
Later, while taking a short break in his hunt, Mark reflected on the part the top of that hill played during the Battle of Nashville. It had been used by Confederate artillery during the second day of the battle, and the stone wall which ran across the land had been used by rebel infantry to repel several Union frontal assaults.