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  • Writer's pictureTim Murphy

Diggin' In Virginia XXXVII: Brandy Rock

This past weekend I traveled back to Culpeper, Virginia to participate in another Diggin' In Virginia Civil War relic hunt. This particular DIV was a back-to-back hunt, spanning the course of a week. The first hunt (which I was unable to attend) was DIV 36 at Glebe Farm. Judging by the photos, some nice relics came out of the ground. A lot of Confederate state buttons (South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia), a few belt plates, and a lot of nice bottles. Pictures 14-25 in the slideshow are from DIV 36. This hunt was my twelfth with the organization and my third at Brandy Rock Farms, which was the site of some of the largest winter encampments during the war. I believe this was DIV's eighth or ninth trip to the site, so as you can imagine, this site has been hit hard over the past decade. Regardless, Brandy Rock always seems to produce, and we (the 300+ diggers attending) were ready to find some relics, no matter how sparse they may be.

Eagle I Cuff button fresh out of the dirt

Day 1: A gorgeous day to start off the hunt! Cloudy and in the mid-50s. Not to mention, the fields had been recently mowed and plowed making for easy digging. I decided to trek back to the area known as the Wisconsin Camp. I've had luck in that field before, finding a Confederate wreath, craved Washington Arsenal bullet, and countless other relics from hunts past. I got a new 11" x 15" ellipses coil for Christmas (big shout-out to mom and dad) so I was excited to try it out for the first time. Within 15 minutes after the start of the hunt, I found my first artifact: an Eagle I cuff button. But my luck would not act so quickly from there on out. Over the next three hours, I only found two other buttons--a one-piece cuff button and a General Service Eagle coat button--with sprinklings of camp lead and bent nails. After a long dry spell, we tried our luck in the front fields, which were the sites of Confederate and Rhode Island camps back in the day. However, the majority of the Confederate sites were recently put into the Civil War Trust, so we were unable to hunt those areas. And our luck didn't pander...only thing I had to show for the rest of the day was a lousy brass grommet. Honestly, I wasn't too discouraged. Most other people weren't having much luck either. There were a couple of of exceptional finds I witnessed come out of the ground. One guy opened up a cavalry trash pit, pulling out six complete spurs, numerous buttons, and a rare cannon worm, which would be used to pull out artillery rounds stuck inside cannon barrels. Another digger found a beautiful Block I button, used by Confederate Infantry troops. Finally, a nice Mississippi Calvary button managed to find its way to Virginia. That's pretty much all I have to show for Day 1. Not too bad in the grand scheme of things.

Day 2: Rainout. Or should I say torrential downpour. No way am I digging in this. Good news is, in light of this off-day, the hunt organizers have decided to extend the hunt to Sunday. Meanwhile, some of the guys have organized a viewing of Gettysburg for the participants on this rainy day, which is very nice of them. I'll definitely be catching that and will probably explore Culpeper a bit to kill time (in addition to writing this paragraph). In terms of relics, I can't really do much. We'll see how this rain affects the hunt in the days to come.

Dropped .58 three ringer

Day 3: The rain didn't do nearly as much damage as I initially thought. Sure it was muddy, but wasn't sloppy digging. Also, the sun was shining brightly all day and it was quite enjoyable. I decided to try my luck in "the Fingers," a section of the property that, from an aerial view, looks like a hand reaching across the landscape. I didn't have high expectations knowing this area had been hunted before, but I tried it anyway. After about 3.5 hours, I had found a General Service coat button, two iron underwear buttons, and about a pound of camp lead. At noon, we walked over to headquarters for the barbeque, something I personally look forward to each hunt. In addition to the wonderful food, relics found at the hunt are put on display. Judging by the lack of relics normally seen at these things, it's safe to say everyone was struggling out there. There were a few nice bottles, a couple breast plates, some Richmond spurs, and a beautiful sword blade for show. After lunch, I decided to cut my losses and hunt in the firing range, where every signal was a fired bullet. At this point, I was desperate to find some lead. And desperation paid off. I got a few fired three-ringers in a matter of minutes. However, finding nothing but fired bullets gets a little monotonous. I braved the thickets and pricker bushes and crossed the wooded gully to the old firing line. This area had been heavily hunted before, but I figured why not? Just like desperation, intuition paid off too. I found a couple of dropped .58 three-ringers with some profound mold seams to end the day.

I finished the hunt with two General Service Eagles, an Eagle I cuff, a couple iron buttons, a plain brass cuff button, and five bullets (three fired, two dropped). I was very pleased with the results, considering the fact that everyone was struggling to find relics. Any chance to recover history from the dirt is a win in my book. And it's important (and humbling) to realize that you won't tear it up every time you go out and hunt. It was nice to get a chance to see some old friends, make some new ones, and walk where soldiers once trod. Until next time!


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