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  • Writer's pictureTim Murphy

Diggin' In Virginia XXXIV: Brandy Rock

Hi all!

For some reason, I never got around to publishing my story on Diggin' In Virginia 34, which has been in my drafts for nearly two years now...better late than never I suppose! This hunt took place at good old Brandy Rock Farm, March 16-18, 2016. This was my second trip to the site. I was extremely excited to return, considering my first hunt (Diggin' In Virginia 27) yielded a Confederate Wreath buckle and a North Carolina Local Seal button! Hopefully my luck would continue to pan out this hunt...

Eagle 'I' Coat Button

The morning of Day 1 started much like any other DIV hunt--John and Rose officially kicked off the hunt and over 300 relic hunters scampered into the fields. I decided to begin my hunt in the area where I found the North Carolina button. About an hour into it, I found my first solid relic: a pocket knife! This thing was certainly period and the blade was still there. Not nearly half an hour later, I found a brass triangle from a knapsack and a General Service Eagle Coat button. A pretty good start to the day, if I do say so myself!

Shortly before noon, I got a very deep low tone on the side of a hill. As I started to dig down, I noticed the ground change color from an earthy clay to an ashy gray. That could only mean one thing...I was in a pit! The side wall of the hole showed striations of rust, gray ash, and black charcoal as I neared the floor. After about fourty minutes of digging, I was finally able to pull out what got me into the hole--an intact barrel band that was about eighteen inches in diameter and two feet deep. Once it was out of the pit, I noticed some relics had fallen in from the side wall. Upon closer inspection, I identified them as belt rivets and studs with leather still attached to them! In addition, I pulled out a few interesting one-piece floral buttons (which I haven't been able to ID yet...check out the picture in the slideshow and see if you can!).

I decided to open the hole up some more and follow the ash layer to its end. After expanding the pit, I recovered a "dining set" that consisted a fork, knife, spoon, pieces of tin cups, and ration cans. Buried in the ash came one of my favorite finds of the hunt: a pair of scissors! This was an incredible discovery, considering they weren't common items regular soldiers carried. Based on this information, I hypothesized that this was the pit of an officer, doctor, or quartermaster.

The pit still had one more surprise in store for me. While I was cleaning out the final corner of the hole, I noticed the glimmer of glass. And not just any glass...this belonged to a Drake's Plantation Bitters bottle, famous for its log cabin design. The dark color and ridges on the side were a dead give-away. Being a bottle guy, the site of it took my breath away! I started a careful excavation, gently removing the dirt and rust away from its sides. Unfortunately, the bottle was already broken. I was able to recover a pane and its top, which are still amazing finds in my opinion (too bad it wasn't whole, though). Further digging revealed more glass shards from various bottles and a few rectangular belt buckles.

Finds from the pit

I finished the first day digging out that pit to its natural floor and side walls. I found a great share of relics in that hole, ranging from buttons and eating utensils to belt buckles and glass. Even though there weren't any big-ticket items (like state buttons or complete bottles), I was incredibly pleased with what I had recovered!

After completing six hours of excavation on Day 1, I filled the hole in the morning of Day 2. I continued to hunt in that field for the rest of that day, finding a few bullets, two General Service Eagle buttons, and a very nice Eagle 'I' Coat Button with a beautiful green petina and some of the gilt still on it! Day 3 was much of the same: some bullets, a couple button backs, and my first Eagle 'C' Cuff button! I finished the hunt with ten buttons (4 GS Eagle Coats and a Cuff, an Eagle 'I' and 'C,' and three floral buttons), six bullets (five 3-ringers and a Gardner), and all the items from the pit.

It was a "quality-over-quantity" hunt for me this time around, and as usual, I had a blast! While I didn't dig too many targets, the relics I found were all in great shape. Additionally, I spent a good half day digging the pit. To be honest, I'd much rather spend my time excavating trash pits and huts than surface hunting. Pit digging is high risk-high reward. High risk in that you're putting in a lot of time and effort and concentrating them to one area without the assurance that the pit will yield relics. High reward in that the relics that tend to come out of pits are usually higher in quality and extremely hard to find in the open field, such as bottles and personal items. These things can be potential treasure troves, and that's all the motivation I need to continue digging them (maybe one day I'll find one with a complete bottle in it...). A big thanks to John, Rose, and the DIV committee for organizing the hunt! Can't wait to dig some more!


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