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  • Writer's pictureTim Murphy

Diggin' In Virginia XL

This past weekend I attended Diggin' In Virginia XL at River Land Farm and Woodbourne Farm. This was my fifteenth hunt with the organization and the first time DIV has ever been hosted at either of these two locations! River Land Farm was the site of the 5th Vermont and 77th New York infantry regiments during the summer of 1863 and Woodbourne was home to numerous Union and Confederate camps over the course of the war. The prospect of digging these extensive camp sites drew over 400 relic hunters from across the nation to Culpeper, all ready to save some history from the earth.

DAY 1 (Friday, March 23) -- It was pretty rough. That's the best way I can describe it. I went the entire morning without finding a single relic, walking the property from corner to corner to absolutely no avail. Most people experienced the same misfortune I did...very little was found during the first few hours of the hunt. Finally, at 1:30 in the afternoon, I uncovered my first Civil War relic -- a General Service Eagle coat button! Within twenty feet of that find, I found a pewter flat button and an Enfield bullet (over the course of an hour). I finished the day with these items, an iron underwear button, and a melted Sharps bullet. Some major finds for the day included two ID tags, North Carolina and Vermont state buttons, a hat pin, and a U.S. Buckle! While the day was slow-going for me, I wasn't deterred, especially since we had two more days of relic hunting left!

Colt Gunpowder Flask

DAY 2 (Saturday, March 24) -- After a sub-par Day 1 at River Land, we decided to try our luck at Woodbourne for the second day. What a difference that decision made! We immediately started pulling relics from the dirt the moment dawn broke. Within the first hour, I had found three dropped .58-caliber Minie balls, two button backs, and a percussion cap. Around 9:30, I got a screaming signal that nearly blew my ears off. Despite my expectation of it being modern trash, I thought 'what's the harm in digging it?' Not nearly an inch down, I uncovered my best find of the hunt: a Colt gunpowder flask! How this thing survived (albeit in two pieces) all these years so close to the surface is beyond me. I'm just excited I was able to find it! From that point on, my hunt was made. The rest of the day yielded a few more bullets, a J-hook, a flat iron button, and a couple of belt rivets. Other hunters managed to find a couple of breast plates, Virginia and Rhode Island state buttons, and a Mississippi Spur!

Pewter Cane Handle

DAY 3 (Sunday, March 25) -- We completely hunted Woodbourne out on Day 2, so we returned to take another crack at River Land. I worked my way back through the thickets and thorn bushes towards the old stone wall at the edge of the property. I got a couple of solid hits between two saplings and decided to dig. The signals became mixed once I shoveled some dirt out (which usually means ferrous and non-ferrous targets). However, all I could find in the tail pile was nails. Then, a clear high-tone rang through a few inches down in the hole. I could see that the target--whatever it was--was loose, so I reached down and pulled it out. To my surprise, I found a decorative pewter cane handle! A neat added bonus to an already great weekend of relic hunting. I decided to stay in the area until the picnic and I managed to find a fire pit during that time. It wasn't too hard to find...I eyed what looked like a toppled chimney and traced it back to a sunken rectangular area lined by stones. When I swung my coil over the suspected fire box, I got a mess of signals. On a hunch, I started to dig. About eighteen inches down, I noticed an ash layer, which confirmed my suspicions of a fire pit. The pit ended up being about 4 feet long, two feet wide, and two feet deep. It didn't yield much...just a two-piece floral button and about 25 nails. Oh well, you can't win them all! At 11:30, I made my way back to my car and drove to the barbecue and relic display. Check out the slideshow below to see what was found...some amazing relics were uncovered!

As always, I had a great time at Diggin' In Virginia! I finished the hunt with six bullets (one of them a Washington Arsenal), four buttons, a J-hook, the gunpowder flask, and the cane handle. Thank you John, Rose, and the DIV committee for organizing another spectacular event! Can't wait for the next one in April!


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