As seen in the September 2005 edition of W&ET Magazine
Civil War Field Of Dreams
By: Ed Fedory
I guess there are times when you just have to sit back and let the experience wash over you. I was thinking that very thought as I leaned back in a soft chair, cold beverage in hand, and stared at my discarded leaden boots on the floor. I knew that if I didn't get on my feet soon, my back would start to seize up, and minor muscle and joint pains would terminate in some deep and guttural groans... a sign of aging? Perhaps, but more likely the results of a full day of hard digging. I knew that the big Georgia Boots lying at the entrance to the open door created a potential hazard to anyone entering, but at that point in the day my mind found it very easy to rationalize that the boots presented no great hazard... and so they continued to sit there, mud-caked and abandoned, for the better part of half an hour.
As I reflected on the events of the day, it was easy to understand the growing stiffness in my back, and the reason why "my dogs were barkin'". There had been an awful lot of soil moved, not only by myself, but by everyone who had been on the field during the first day of the hunt.
Our first hut site was perfect. We dug directly down into the first of two fireboxes, found the walls, floor, and rear corners of the hut, and then carefully proceeded, using small shovels and our detectors in our quest for relics. To one side of us, Mike was pulling a "US" belt plate from the ground... to the other side, Roger had just recovered a beautiful umbrella inkwell... from two huts over, Rick crossed the piles of growing soil to show us the bayonet he had just dug. In comparison, it seemed as if our hut had gone through some thorough and intricate sterilization process!
Roger amazed everyone with the recovery of this Ohio Volunteer Militia belt plate, one of the nicest relics to come from the three-day hunt. (Photo by Greg Sites.)
Well, we thought philosophically, that was only our first hut, and we might dig four more just like it before we hit a bonanza. It was a thought that should never have crossed our minds, as some thoughts can come back to haunt you. This particular one did just that! Our second hut produced one piece of glass. Our final hut of the day turned into a pit used for burning, and while it offered some very interesting and colorful soil conditions, the only relics it yielded were barrel hoops... a lot of barrel hoops!
Taking a break from his arduous and seemingly endless digging, "Rudy the Relic Hound" soaks up a little sun.
From that first umbrella inkwell, Roger would find Lady Luck sitting on his shoulder for the entire course of that three-day dig. Taking a break from one of our huts, I walked over to Roger's digging area and found him with two beautiful emerald food bottles, and the broken remains of a civilian serving platter that had been "liberated" from Fredericksburg. It came as no surprise when we heard later that an "OVM" (Ohio Volunteer Militia) belt plate had been recovered by Roger in another of his excavated huts!
Mark Gerrick recovered this nice bottle from Lancaster, Pennsylvania... a town only 15 miles from where he lives!
I've witnessed some strange things in my life, but meeting Rudy has to be among the strangest. We had just finished digging our second hut and were walking down what must have been a camp road lined with huts at one time, when I saw a dog frantically digging away with its paws at the side wall of a hut. Jokingly, I asked the lady who owned Rudy if he had recovered any relics. Quite seriously, and certainly to my amazement, she replied, "Oh, yes, Rudy just dug up a coat button, and a little earlier he found a dropped bullet."
Of all the hunters who recovered bayonets during those days of digging, it was Terry who pulled the only brass-handled bayonet from the ground, and it was a beauty! I walked over to where a crowd was forming (a sure sign that something rare was being unearthed), and there knelt Terry with the bayonet cradled in his hands. I looked at the hole he had dug and was surprised to see that he had barely begun to open up the hut when the bayonet was discovered. I'd be willing to bet that on his long drive from Virginia back home to Wisconsin, the smile never once left Terry's face!
One of the most interesting features of the expansive encampment was discovered by Art on the second day of the hunt- a line of trash pits that fully extended the better part of 100'! Before long dozens of relic hunters were digging deep into the trash-pit line as it angled down the hill. The soil was piled high on both sides of the line, and as I walked along I could see smaller piles of broken glass and ceramics. I stopped to talk with Mark Gerrick and view the bottle he had just recovered. Interestingly enough, the bottle came from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, only 15 miles from where Mark lives. It had traveled across time and space to meet up with Mark on a Virginia hayfield!
Terry Behn, also known as "Mr. Lucky," displays the only brass-handled bayonet recovered on the site.
It didn't seem as though there would be any end to the number and quality of the relics recovered during the three-day dig, and as usual, I've barely scratched the surface of the finds that were made. I look forward to returning to that wonderful encampment site in the near future, and digging a little harder and a little deeper... a little smarter... and a whole lot luckier!
Some relic hunters are true "lightning rods" for great finds, and these three plates, recovered from a single hut by Ernest Bower, prove it!
Ohio In The Civil War
In 1860, with a population of 2.3 million, Ohio had 679,000 men of military age. With the outbreak of the Civil War and Lincoln's subsequent April 15, 1861 call for 75,000 volunteers to preserve the Union, Ohioans responded immediately. While the quota of volunteers from Ohio was set at 13,000, within 16 days there were enough volunteers to fill the national call to arms. In 1861 over 100,000 men volunteered for the service, and by the war's end more than 346,000 had served.
This massive response by the men of Ohio to preserve the Union resulted in Ohio's ability to supply 198 infantry regiments, 13 cavalry regiments, three cavalry battalions, one light artillery regiment, and 25 artillery batteries.
Ohioans fought in all theaters of the Civil War, with a loss of over 35,000 men- 11,588 as a result of direct combat. Following the war, five Ohio Civil War veterans would be elected to the office of President of the United States.
While doing a little basic "fact finding" on Ohio's part in the Civil War, I came across an anecdote relating to Roger's "OVM" plate. These plates were made during peacetime and were largely replaced; however, the 27th Ohio had retained their plates for a number of years. While transporting Confederate prisoners, the corporal leading a squad of Union soldiers was asked a question by one of his Mississippi captives:
"Corporal, what the devil does O.V.M. stand for?
"Oh, my plate, you mean?" said the corporal. "That stands for Ohio Visiting Mississippi. We had a few made on purpose for this campaign."
It would seem that even in times of terrible conflict, the sense of humor could never be suppressed!