Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Virginia Invitational Relic Dig

About a month ago, I was honored to receive an invitation to join a group hunt for Civil War relics down in Suffolk, Virginia. This couldn't have come at a better time for me, I've really been feeling the winter itch to get out and dig. The heavy snow this winter made it impossible to get out. I've only been detecting three times so far since January.

I ordered a new machine and it arrived just before the trip, thanks to my friend (and White's dealer) Sam Padgett for his great customer service. As most of you know, I've been running an MXT for years now.  So I decided to stick with what I know and go with the MXT All-Pro.  (I'd like to upgrade to the V-series someday, but I didn't want to risk breaking in an unfamiliar machine on such an important hunt.)

Counting down the weeks and days to the trip seemed to last forever.  And then all of a sudden, the day was here.  I traveled with my buddies and avid hunters, Chuck Meyers and Mary Shafer.  We began our trip with tons of snacks, much anticipation, and 335 miles of road to travel.

Conversation made the six-hour trip seem to fly by, and before we knew it, we'd arrived at the hotel in time to check in and get ready for the meet & greet dinner.

I was excited to meet two very well known diggers - Tim "Half Cent" Glick and Evan Granger.  Tim and I have been social networking for years and have developed a genuine friendship.  It was so cool to put a name with his face in person and spend some time together.

DJ Yost & Tim "Half Cent" Glick
Evan was running a few minutes late, which was expected, given that his trip was over TWENTY HOURS long.  That's one dedicated detectorist.

It was an honor to meet both of them, as well as everyone who organized and participated in the hunt.  The local Virginia residents were so nice and very hospitable.  And the food was great, too!

After dinner and drinks at the meet & greet, we went to another hotel - where most of the others were staying.  We shared laughs and digging stories with some familiar faces and with new friends we'd just met.

After that, it was time to head back to our hotel. And I gotta tell ya, it was tough to sleep that night.

When we arrived to the dig site in the morning, the first thing I noticed were two rebel flags flying proudly, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of history, anticipation and excitement.  We all were.

The hunt was professionally organized and well put together.  We received welcome bags with maps and info and awesome local peanuts, as well as trinkets suitable for metal detecting like a pouch, flashlight, magnifying glass, and an army knife. They also awarded door prizes before the hunt started.

These were our badges

and this is a letter from the mayor that was in our welcome bag.

Before we began, we went over the rules:  stay within the boundaries of the hunt, fill in all of your holes (even though we were digging in an open field), and remove all trash - nothing goes back into the ground.

There were 46 diggers total and once they said "go" it was like the bell rang for recess!  46 diggers scattered over 125 acres including some woods and bean fields.

I immediately headed for a tree line separating the bean field from the woods...

The first target in turned up a piece of scrap metal.

The next target was a modern bullet, I could tell by the copper casing.

A few steps away, I got a solid 7-8" deep signal and pulled out my first real Civil War relic:  a tiny buck and ball (buckshot pellets from the Civil War era).  I was surprised that the All-Pro picked up such a tiny target at a good depth.

From there, it was on.  I dug a bunch of modern bullets, a lot of iron, and 8 or 9 buck and balls.  Hunting with no discrimination is fun!  You get a signal every five inches or so - LOL!

Meanwhile, my friend Mary Shafer dug the face of a Civil War era lock and a really cool flat button.

with Mary Shafer

My next good signal turned up a 1902 Indian Head penny, way out in the middle of the field.

About 75 feet away from that target, I discovered my find of the day:  a beautiful, heavily gold gilted Civil War Navy button, which I have yet to positively ID.  It has a Waterbury, Scovills & Co. backmark.

Navy button - freshly dug

Navy button - cleaned up

I was thrilled with this find!  If you look closely, you can see that the button has a tiny dent right in the middle... it makes me wonder about the soldier, his journey, and how he lost it.

Lunch was included and we ate the local fare of chicken and BBQ.  I've never had BBQ like that before - it was delicious!  After lunch, they raffled off prizes and drew the 50/50 tickets.

I donated some silver dollars from my personal collection for raffle prizes and was surprised when both Chuck and Mary won my coins!

Chuck Meyers
It was the next best thing to me winning the 50/50...

Oh, wait.  I did!

Perfect ending to an already incredible trip - and we still had an afternoon left of digging.

The weather was beautiful.  Not only did we escape the frigid cold and piles of snow back home, but the sun was shining and the temperature hit almost 50F.  It was truly a perfect day.

By now, I had heard that a US belt plate, an eagle belt plate, and a breast plate had come out of the ground.  Once I heard about and actually held these relics in my hands, I was recharged and the anticipation built all over again.

belt plate found during the hunt - not by me 

My first target after lunch turned out to be a nice pistol ball.  

The following target was a broken skeleton key.  I enjoy finding keys and have many in my collection, but there is something about this one that is special.

From there, I turned up some trash, modern bullets, and a pound or two of iron.

My last good target was a .31 caliber pocket pistol bullet:

After a solid 8 hours of digging, I was beat, but mentally didn't want to give up.  We called it quits around 5:30, knowing that our ride home was so long.

We said our goodbyes and thank yous, packed up the truck and headed on our way.  The first thing we did on the ride home was discuss what an incredible experience the whole trip was.  It was such an honor to be included and it was an experience that bonded us together that we will never forget.

Chuck had some great finds including a bunch of flat buttons, some bullets and other miscellaneous relics.

We all came home with great memories and little pieces of history.

All-in-all, I wouldn't change a thing about the trip.  It was amazing.  I can't thank Kelley Rea and Ina Finn enough for organizing the hunt and for welcoming us PA folks.

Here is a video summary of my finds:

And here they are displayed:

For more pictures, check out my facebook page.  There are over 90 photos in the album from the hunt.

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