Diggin' In Virginia XLIX: Beauregard Farm
Earlier this month, I attended Diggin’ In Virginia XLIX at Beauregard Farm, my fourth visit to this site and nineteenth relic hunt overall. Beauregard holds quite a historical significance through the lens of the American Civil War. The manor house served as headquarters for J.E.B. Stuart and his Confederate cavalry division, while several properties on the farm, particularly Fleetwood Hill, became a battleground during the Battle of Brandy Station. On June 9, 1863, eleven thousand Union troops under command of General Alfred Pleasanton attacked Stuart’s force of ninety-five hundred men encamped around the Beauregard property. The combined number of forces engaged (around 20,500) made Brandy Station the largest predominantly cavalry battle of the Civil War. The wartime activity at Beauregard saturated its soil with countless relics from the past. Although relic hunters have heavily detected this area for several decades, the farm always seems to turn up some amazing artifacts with each DIV hunt. Beauregard has treated me and many other diggers well in previous hunts, so I was incredibly eager to return for another three days of digging.
However, Mother Nature was less than cooperative as she greeted DIV XLIX with a torrential downpour. Culpeper received about three inches of rain overnight and into the morning of the first day. The fields and roads were all flooded and it was nearly impossible to walk out into the freshly-plowed earth without sinking in shin deep. The excessive mud and stormy weather made conditions unfavorable, to say the least, so I decided to wait it out. By time the storm blew over around noon, I had lost over a half day of digging. I was able to wallow in the mud for a few hours but didn’t find much of anything—just a few pieces of camp lead and a melted three-ringer. With my clothes and machine completely covered in mud and little to show for it, Day 1 was essentially a bust.
Day 2 didn’t start out much better as I had to miss the first half of the day (again) due to my graduate work. I arrived at Beauregard around 12:30 p.m. and hauled my gear on a twenty-minute trek to the eastern corner of the property, where elements of General David McMurtie Gregg’s brigade engaged with Confederate General William “Grumble” Jones’s cavalry and 2nd Lieutenant Robert Franklin Beckham’s artillery over 157 years ago. The land was practically a swamp due to the rain. Every hole I dug pooled with a steady stream of ground water, which I had to promptly and repeatedly bail out. Despite the bogginess, I managed to find several pieces of shrapnel and shell fragments within the first couple hours.
As the day drew to a close, I received a nice-sounding high target near the fence line of the property. Several targets had given me similar signals—all being barbed wire or nails—but the sound was too good to pass up. I dug down about six inches and saw a glimmer of green in the hole. I excavated the relic and realized it was a cuff button. After carefully cleaning the face, I could see the New York state seal on the front! Finally, after nearly two days of digging, I had a relic to brag about. The cuff was my second New York button and third state button overall. I was extremely thrilled and it certainly put a smile on my face as I made the long hike back to the car.
The New York button kept me motivated for Day 3, which would be my only full day of digging. I started my morning in the “Shaler Field”—an area on the western end of the farm—and had marginal luck. I found a poncho grommet, brass washer, and a haversack rivet, but nothing else of note. I changed locations midway through the morning and detected in the fields surrounding the Beauregard house. Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with anything else before the barbeque.
The barbeque is always a great opportunity to enjoy some good food, comradery, and the relic display. Although my finds were meager, other diggers had phenomenal hunts. It was incredible to see what sorts of relics were recovered from the ground (pictures of which can be found below in the slideshow). Before we resumed the final half day of relic hunting, the DIV organizers announced that we were all invited to participate in their 50th hunt, which will hopefully take place Spring 2021. Needless to say, I am beyond grateful for another chance to go Diggin’ In Virginia and I hope that, in the face of a pandemic, we are able to pull it off!
Following the barbeque, I worked my way back behind the Beauregard house to some cornfields overlooking Flat Run. I managed to find myself a relic-rich spot atop a steep hill and had some of my best digging of the hunt. Within the waning hours of DIV, I found two dropped .69-caliber Minie balls, a .58 Minie, a Colt pistol bullet, a ‘Liberty Bell’ overall button, a button back, and a knapsack triangle. Nothing like some last-minute luck, right?
While DIV XLIX wasn’t my most productive hunt, it still was a great experience. I left with more relics than I had before, so that’s something to be proud of! And what really matters is that we were able to save physical pieces of history from the ground. I’m exceptionally grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something so important to the preservation of our past. Thank you to John and Rose Kendrick and all the DIV organizers for making these hunts possible! I can’t wait for the next one!