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  • Writer's pictureTim Murphy

Diggin' In Virginia XLV: Brandy Rock Farm

Earlier this week, I traveled up to Culpeper, Virginia, to take part in Diggin’ In Virginia XLV at Brandy Rock Farm. This was my seventeenth DIV relic hunt and my fifth at this location. Brandy Rock has been hunted extremely hard in recent years, but always manages to produce some amazing artifacts. I’ve had a bit of luck at previous hunts—finding a Confederate wreath and a North Carolina State Seal button among other finds—and hoped my luck would continue for this dig as good targets would be few and far between.

March 28 (Day 1): John and Rose Kendrick kicked off the hunt at 7:30 a.m. and over 280 diggers dispersed to the fields. My digging buddies and I decided to try our luck in the front corn fields where tons of great relics have been found in years past. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best decision as I went relic-less for the majority of the day. I think I found seven or eight brass poncho grommets over the course of eight hours. With about thirty minutes left in the day, I finally found my first good relic: a General Service Eagle coat button. About 20 feet from it was a fired Sharps Carbine. Despite the incredibly slow start to the hunt, I managed to salvage my day with these relics.

Brandy Rock Farm

March 29 (Day 2): I decided to go back to the spot where I had found the button and bullet the day prior. Within the first hour of the day, I found another Eagle coat button and a dropped .44 Colt pistol bullet. However, that was all I would find until noon. After lunch, we decided to switch spots and venture back to an area known as the Wisconsin camp. I managed to find more brass grommets and a couple of dropped 3-ringers before I got a nice high-tone on the machine. I dug down nearly a foot and popped out an iron shoe buckle. No big deal, except there was an untouched ash layer surrounding the relic. A little extra digging confirmed my suspicion: I was in a pit. I spent the next couple of hours following the ash layer to the walls of the pit and detecting the tail pile for any relics that might have come out. The hole ended up being 4’ x 2’ x 2’ and didn’t produce much: three iron underwear buttons, a couple of spent percussion caps, some rivets, and tons of nails. Although targets were scarce in this hole, the pit itself was an amazing find and I was quite pleased to have found one that’s been untouched for the past 155 years.

March 30 (Day 3): I returned to the Wisconsin camp to start the last day of DIV. I worked the coil low and slow to discern the good targets from the mess of iron signals littering the fields. I managed to find two Eagle cuff buttons, a brass ammunition box finial, and two dropped bullets (.58 Minie ball and musket ball) within the first couple hours. As I worked my way down the hill, I got a solid high-tone a couple of feet away from some dig holes. I dug out a plug, scooped the loose dirt from the hole, and couldn’t believe what laid on top of the ground: a carved lead ‘4’! After all these years and all the relic hunts that took place here, this thing managed to survive just eight inches below the surface! This is the first number/letter I have ever found and I’m still in disbelief! The front side is smooth while the reverse side is ridged, which leads me to believe it was either used as a stamp or a regiment number insignia. Absolutely incredible!

Shortly before breaking for lunch, my 11” x 15” Commander coil gave out on me. I don’t know how it happened, but it just stopped working with my machine all of a sudden. Fortunately, my buddy, Dan Lindstrom, had a spare 14” Coiltek coil that he so graciously allowed me to use for the rest of the hunt. After swapping out coils, we made our way to the barbeque, my favorite part of DIV (aside from finding relics). I got my fill of some delicious pork BBQ and saw some amazing relics other diggers had found over the course of DIV XLV. Some notable relics on display were a CS tongue, Richmond spur, crossed cannon insignias, an ID tag, Mississippi Infantry and Alabama Volunteer Corps (AVC) buttons, a beautiful amber whiskey flask, and an incredibly rare Mississippi Sword Belt Plate! Photos from the picnic are in the slideshow below!

Carved 4

After lunch, we got back out to the Wisconsin camp. I didn’t find much over the next few hours—just a dropped 3-ringer, a carved piece of bullet, and more brass grommets (I probably found sixteen over the course of this hunt…). At around 5 p.m., we drove to a bean field near hunt headquarters where a mix of dropped and fired bullets were being found. Almost immediately, I was pulling up bullets. I probably found five within the first half hour—a few fired 3-ringers and a nice dropped Gardner. Brandy Rock had one last surprise for me as I detected through the waning hours of the day. About 15 feet from the Gardner, I found an incredible civilian coat button with 90% of the gold gilt still intact! I did not expect to make that sort of find in this field, especially since all that had been dug were bullets. And this target didn’t sound great at all. It was a choppy low tone and mis-pinpointed in the hole, which led me to believe it was a fired bullet. What a find! We continued to hunt until dark and I managed to find an additional seven bullets, including a Washington Arsenal and a Williams Cleaner. What an amazing way to finish the hunt!

After three days of digging, I came out with 21 bullets—a Gardener, Williams Cleaner, Washington Arsenal, .44 Colt, fired Sharps, and the rest 3-ringers—two Eagle coats and cuffs, two cuff button backs, an ammo box finial, couple carved bullet pieces, the gilded civilian button, and the carved ‘4’. What an incredible hunt this was! As always, I’d like to thank John, Rose, and the DIV committee for organizing the hunt. And a special thank you to Keith Leppert for supplying me with new GPX batteries when both of mine died the night before the hunt. Also, shout-out to Dan and Larry Shirah for being great digging partners! Can’t wait for the next one!

Below are some photos from Diggin’ In Virginia XLV. I’m currently in the process of creating a YouTube video for this hunt and it should be out next weekend…stay tuned! Thanks for reading!


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