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  • Writer's pictureTim Murphy

Diggin' In Virginia XXXVIII

Hi all!

This past weekend I attended Diggin' In Virginia 38. The hunt this fall was located just outside of Warrenton and was the site of an artillery exchange between Union and Confederate troops. While there were no dug-in camps at this place, it still produced a lot of interesting relics!

My first Burnside bullet

DAY 1: John launched the hunt promptly at 7:30 am, and with that nearly 250 detectorists scurried into the fields and woods eager to pull some history from the ground. My buddy Kyle and I made our way over to a small field near an 1860 cabin site. Almost as soon as I put my coil to the ground, I got a small cuff button back. Not nearly ten minutes later, I found another one! Not a bad way to start the hunt. Over the course of the day, I found a nice variety of lead: a couple three-ring Minie balls, a Richmond Labs pistol bullet, a couple of Sharps, some case shot, and two Burnsides (my firsts!). General Ambrose Burnside, one of the commanders of the Army of the Potomac (and whom these bullets are named after), designed a carbine rifle for Union troops. By the winter of 1863-64, his gun was the third-most popular carbine rifle in the war and approximately 43 Union Cavalry units were armed with them.

DAY 2: It was a painfully slow day for me. The only things I found worth mentioning are a small pewter cuff flat button, a dimple-base Colt pistol bullet, and some fired case shot and shell shrapnel. I did think I got into something good when I got a signal nearly two feet down, but it ended up being a broken hatchet of all things! So there's an hour of relic hunting I'll never get back. Things were so slow, I ended up taking a 20 minute power nap in the field! But it wasn't slow for everyone, especially Kyle. He'd been killing it in the woods for the past day and a half, digging about 55 bullets and a few nice buttons. Near the end of the day next to the parking area along the tree line, he got what sounded like a deep bullet signal. Digging about a foot down, the target was nowhere to be found, but the sound got louder. After digging another two feet down, he pulled out a sweet 10-lb Parrot Shell! Needless to say we were all in disbelief, but man! What a find! Way to go Kyle!

Kyle with his 10-lb Parrot Shell

DAY 3: I decided to try my luck in the woods today, despite the yellow jackets, pricker bushes, and spiderwebs all over the place. My first good target of the day was a wormed Enfield bullet. A little while later, I found another Richmond Labs pistol bullet. In the four hours I spent in the woods, I found five bullets, some brass rivets, and a couple percussion caps. At 11:30, I walked over with my finds to the headquarters tent for the BBQ and relic display, and wow there were a lot of nice finds! The most notable relics were a very well-preserved pocket watch, a 1779 Reale, a Confederate Wreath, numerous state buttons (including two very nice Virginia and Massachusetts ones), and about a dozen in-tact shells. Pictures from the display can be found in the slideshow below. After lunch, I met up with my friend Shawn who was digging out a trash site near the old cabin. While most of the items were fairly modern, I had a great time digging it out with him! We ended up digging down four feet deep and six feet long. A lot of the glass items were busted, but we did manage to pull out a few nice ones: a 1920s White House Vinegar bottle, two Whitmer's bottles (a hair tonic probably from the 20s or 30s), a small Chesebrough jar, a very nice glass vase, and a half-gallon Atlas Mason Jar with a small chip in its base. Congrats to Shawn for finding the spot! You went home with some nice finds, man!

I finished the hunt with 21 bullets, a pewter cuff button, a few button backs, the percussion caps, and several pieces of shrapnel. All in all, I had a great time relic hunting and I'm thankful for the opportunities Diggin' In Virginia has given me over the years. I'd like to thank John, Rose, and the DIV Committee for all the hard work they do. Can't wait to see y'all in November!


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