As seen in the November 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine
It All Comes Back Around
By: Ed Fedory
I am starting to get the feeling that there is something very cyclic about relic hunting. I probably need to clarify that statement with some sort of explanation so that you understand where I am coming from on this point. In order to do that, I have to bring you back some 35 years to the period in my life when I was a near-starving college student in coastal Maine.
During these searches I also stumbled onto an area where there was an extensive amount of broken glass. Further investigations revealed the site of an old dwelling on the small bluff above that section of the shore, and I noted that the broken glass was due to the erosion of a section of the bank behind the house where the dump must have been situated. I figured I was on to something and began digging into the sandy escarpment above the river's edge. Within minutes I had pulled a small bitters bottle and a beautiful dark green, case gin bottle from the sand. That was just the beginning!
After a careful cleaning, George's emerald cathedral pickle bottle is once again gleaming after over 140 years underground!
With the big Bicentennial approaching, my interests shifted to the American Revolution and relic hunting the numerous sites in upstate New York relating to that period in our nation's history. Yet I never thought about bottles much during that period of time, either. It was mostly surface hunting I was engaged in - now with a high-end metal detector in my grips!
One of the most interesting items was this French mustard jar found by Lori Knowles. Translation into English revealed that this mustard was the favorite of not only the Queen of England, but the emperors of Austria and Russia as well!
With my first few Civil War relic hunts under my belt, I also find that the passion for pulling a complete bottle from the floor of a Civil War soldier's hut has been rekindled. I hadn't thought about digging bottles for over 30 years, but now the thought of finding an umbrella inkwell or a cathedral pepper sauce bottle is continually on the forefront of my mind. I've come full-circle once again, and I find that fact kind of amazing. I guess it must always be that way when you find out something new about yourself. Suddenly, I'm investigating a period of history that never held much interest for me. It may have started as a little spark, but fanned by some buddies in Virginia, I find the flames of interest steadily mounting.
Uncovering the hut site of the "regimental slob," Donnie was able to recover an entire collection of bottles and umbrella inkwells from just one site.
When you're in the bottom of a 4' deep hole, facing the recovery of a potentially valuable bottle... when you're surrounded by onlookers three deep, watching your every move toward recovery... well, you're pretty much on your own. Nobody's going to offer you too much advice on how they would go about the recovery. It just comes down to a one-man operation: your bottle... your treasure... your problem.
Resting beside the umbrella inkwells is a cathedral pepper sauce bottle. Pepper sauce, it seems, was commonly used to season slightly tainted meat in the days before refrigeration.
As we dug our huts, it became obvious that the individual soldier's personal characteristics would play a great part in the amount of relics we would be able to recover. My digging partner, Charlie, and I had the questionable ability to locate what must have been the huts of the "regimental neat freaks." One particular hut contained only two small pieces of buckshot. We dug an entire morning on that particular hut before attempting to find the site of another.
George Lesche proudly displays one of his excavated bottles. George got to the site a little late but made up for lost time with a nice assortment of relics.
curity, but my bags were held up for a careful inspection. I watched as the security officer went through the bag. He reached into one of the side pockets and tried to get a grip on it contents. It was a little awkward, and he found he needed two hands to heft it out. He looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face.
Seeing that the conversation wasn't getting very far, I had to explain that we had just completed a dig on a Union encampment, and the brick was from a Union officer's hut site.