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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (04/2001) Relic Hunter (03/2001) Relic Hunter (05/2001)   Vol. 35 April 2001 
The Relic Hunter
As seen in the April 2001 edition of W&ET Magazine

On Those Unforgiving Grounds

By: Ed Fedory

It had been over two centuries earlier that the valley had known the sounds of cannon fire and the rattle of disciplined musketry. Two centuries since the cadenced march of Britain's Germanic allies' heavy boots... two centuries since the swift and near-soundless tread of deerskin moccasins on the soft valley floor. Still, in the timelessness of this rural and remote valley, little of consequence had changed during all those intervening years.

As I looked up from the valley floor to the heavily wooded surrounding slopes, I could sense that the blanket of leaves and pine needles had become a funeral shroud for some of the fallen during the course of the battle, and that their remains, the unnamed and unfound of both armies, rested in the soil's embrace for eternity. Despite the distant whine of passing traffic and the lowing of the pasture-bound cows, you could almost faintly hear the beat of the drums and the notes on a wooden fife across the centuries.

The rows of stalks did not parallel the road as they had in the earlier field, so we found ourselves searching from the edge of the asphalt to a point halfway up the slope, and then retracing our patterns back to the road in the adjoining row. Interestingly enough, when we began our search we noticed some small fragments of broken brick, and early shards of Colonial ceramics. We had found the site of one of the early roadside wooden dwellings indicated on the Revolutionary War era map.

Nate was able to pull his first rifle ball, and a later 19th century token on the first leg of his search pattern, but it was Charlie who seemed to have picked just the right row to search. Within the first 50' he scored two fired musketballs, and two Colonial buttons.

Later, as we stopped mid-field to take a break and compare finds, I noticed that while the majority of the balls were about .50 caliber, some were elongated, having been fashioned from a larger caliber ball. It wasn't the first time I had recovered rifle balls of this type, but on previous occasions they had been found singly. I had thought that perhaps it was due to the fact that the correct size bullet mold had not been available, and that a larger ball had been hammered to fit a smaller caliber barrel. Suddenly, the blinders were drawn from my eyes, and I saw that this had not been the result of necessity, but of design. The ball had been fashioned to have the same weight as a Brown Bess musketball, fashioned to have the same impact power; but having been fired from a rifle, it would have far greater accuracy, at a greater distance. I was amazed with the understanding that I was holding a couple of pieces of Colonial innovation in my hand!

As I continued to swing my coil between the stalks, I noticed that Joe was concentrating his hunt in a 50 square foot area close to the road. While I watched him dig his most recent target, he saw me across the field and held up another rifle ball. This was quickly turning into one of the best hunts we had ever had on the site!

Fertilizer had been spread on several sections of the field earlier in the weekend, and as my coil swung out over an area of the freshly deposited material, I heard the unmistakable "round" sound of a good target.

Flipping over a hefty plug, I immediately saw something round and silvery slide back into the hold from the side of the plug. Hitting my pinpoint button, I quickly isolated the target; and when I cleared away the soil, I saw a small piece of Spanish silver sitting in the bottom of the hole. It was worn and sorely beaten- only the top of the king's wig was showing on one side of the coin- and there were just early abrasions where the date had once been. Still, it was a genuine piece of early Spanish silver, and more than enough to really make my day!

Seeing me examining this latest find, Nate worked his search pattern over in my direction. I passed over the silver piece for his examination, and added that I couldn't wait to see the expression on Joe and Charlie's faces when they checked it out. I should have realized, at that point, that I was setting myself up!

The afternoon and the hunt were now on the wane, so I decided to start running my search patterns back in the direction of the truck. I angled my path toward Joe, who was still searching and digging in that small section of the field near the road. I could just feel the warmth of that Spanish coin in my pocket as I approached closer.

I watched as Joe began digging, and then went down to his knees to search the depths of the hole. From a distance of about 30' I couldn't see what he held between his fingers, but I could sure hear his voice as he called to me, "Hey, boss! I think I got a good one here!" I half chuckled to myself, thinking of that little piece of silver burning a hole in my pocket.

The smile quickly slid from my face as Joe passed over a beautiful 1784 Spanish 2 reales for me to take a look at! All of the details were there. It was unscraped, unbent, and magnificent!

The other members of the team came over, sensing that something good had just been found. After examining the coin, Nate asked, "Did you show Joe your piece of Spanish silver?" Sheepishly, I dug into my pocket to retrieve my once spectacular find. As I held that beaten coin in the extended palm of my hand, Joe asked me the question I had hoped he wouldn't, "You were coming over here just to flash that in front of me, weren't you?"

Well, the sounds of musketry and cannon fire are long gone from that rural valley- but it will be a long time before the echoing laughter of that relic hunting team ever fades!

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