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  • Writer's pictureTim Murphy

Diggin' In Virginia XXXIX: Ratrie Farm

This past weekend, I attended Diggin' In Virginia 39 at Ratrie Farm. This is the organization's third time at the site and my second (check out my story from Diggin' In Virginia 35 to see my first!). This hunt was a little bit smaller than other ones since it was a quick turnaround from DIV 38. A little over 100 people were present for three spectacular days of relic hunting. Here's how my hunt went...

New York State Cuff Button

DAY 1: We really couldn't have asked for a better day to start the hunt--mid 50s and sunny. Plus, the area had seen some rain over the past few days so the ground was nice and soft and made for easy digging. The first half of the day primarily consisted of me wandering around the property from corner to corner finding nothing but camp lead, nails, and brass washers. I couldn't get anything going. Around midday, I finally found a relic: a chewed-up three ringer. Nearly fifteen minutes later I found a fired one. These relics weren't in the best shape, but hey, I'm still finding relics. However, this is all I would find through seven hours of hunting. With an hour left in the day, I decided to change coils for my machine and move to a different field. In an instant my luck changed. I found six dropped bullets--four 3-ringers, a round ball, and a Williams Cleaner--and managed to salvage my day.

DAY 2: What a difference a day makes! I absolutely tore it up! I started off the day hunting in the same area I finished in previously and pulled out a dozen bullets (a mix of fired and dropped). Around 1 pm, I made my way toward the back corner of the property where there were known Union camps. That area had been hit pretty hard in the past, but I figured I try my luck. About a half-hour in, I got a screaming signal that sounded like brass. I dug down not even four inches and popped out a New York State Button! This is my second state button ever and my first Union one! The button was in two pieces when I found it, but both sections are in great condition! The front of the button shows the state shield and says 'EXCELSIOR' underneath. The back piece says 'EXTRA QUALITY.' I was beyond excited and knew that my hunt was made. Everything else was gravy. For the rest of the afternoon, I found a shoe buckle, a few bullets, and another brass button. As I was making my way back to the car, I got another sweet signal. After digging down 9-10 inches, I popped out one of my favorite finds of the hunt: a gilded Kepi buckle! Kepis caps were flat caps with circular tops and were popular with state militias, officer uniforms, and private purchase headgear. The relic simply shines and about 75% of the gild is still there! I finished the day with about 15 bullets, the Kepi buckle, the New York State button, and a few other miscellaneous items.

Sixth Corps Carved Pin

DAY 3: As if my hunt couldn't get any better! I picked up where I left off and found a bullet, a brass cuff link, and a nice General Service Eagle coat button in the first hour of the third day. Around 10 am, I got a deep brass signal that turned out to be a scabbard tip! It's in two pieces, but it's all there! Finally, right before lunch, I got what sounded like a bullet tone about six inches down. To my amazement, I pulled out a carved Sixth Corps pin! This is the first corps badge I have ever found. Just think...a soldier 155 years ago took the time to carve this unique artifact, and now it sits in my hand. Needless to say I'm still speechless. At noon, we broke for lunch and the relic display. A lot of great artifacts were recovered, including a few bottles, some nice state buttons, and a 2nd Rhode Island ID tag! Photos of the display are in the slideshow below. After lunch, I hit the fields one last time for about an hour, finding another Eagle button, dropped bullet, and a button back. Not a bad way to end the dig.

This hunt was definitely one of my best! I'm so excited to have found my first corps badge (carved nonetheless) and my second state button! I finished the hunt with those items, 25 bullets, the gilded Kepi buckle, the sword scabbard tip, and a nice assortment of other relics. I'd like to thank John, Rose, and the DIV committee for organizing this hunt and for doing so in such a short time since the last one! As always, it's great to connect with friends and save some history in the process. Thanks for reading and be sure to look through the slideshow below to see all the finds of the hunt!


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