Civil War Relic Hunting chapter 2
This chapter is provided to give you farther insight into how easy it is to locate the old camps. In chapter one we saw how you could get information that contained either field reports or a diary that made note of the far ranging trek of the soldiers and of certain events that happened along the way. You will have to locate certain actions that took place near you. Then read to determine who was involved including the names of commanding officers and detail as to the regiment and troop information. It could be farther broken down into the individual names of the soldiers involved to try and locate old diaries.
In a diary you might find a note jotted down by a soldier that made an entry about stopping by old man Smiths farm and camping down by Jones creek. Go to your County tax office and locate the very old land plats and find the Smith farm and then overlay a modern map and locate Jones creek to find the campsite. The old farm may be leveled to the ground and provide good hunting grounds as well as the Civil War campsite near the creek.
Add to this information any proper names of rivers, creeks, wells, ponds, lakes, post offices, hills, ridges, forts, or other landmark that will aid you greatly in your research. You can find in some instances the actual routes used by the soldiers which is in map form and ready to use. The things that give us problems is that they seldom referenced the name of settlements but always named the rivers. This information will leave some blanks but you can use your mind to fill in the gaps.
Remember that the soldiers always needed good water and a defendable position to camp at. You have the key points that they crossed and some names of wells, or post offices that they marched by and what ever else that you have gathered now begin to draw a dotted line from each detailed action to the next. For instance if they sacked a town in one location and had a shooting spree somewhere else just fill in the dotted lines and you will have a fairly good trail that they took.
Now, remember this that most troop movements took place from waterhole to waterhole and mostly along railroads or main trails. Many early trails were improved as more people settled and finally paved in later times so that you might find yourself fairly lucky on some of them.
To locate the camps just mark the highlights along the way where they fought the enemy on a certain hill or forded a river. Remember that the shallow spots in the rivers were used by “every” traveler as most just waded the shallow crossing or rode the horse across. Early river crossings were main superhighway overpasses back in their time and were clearly marked on early maps. Every troop of soldiers made use of these especially if the bridges were down. Use the topographical map to locate a ridge or hill near where you determine that they camped. This may have been nearby water, railroads, or a settlement.
The thing that you must do before you try to get permission and that is talk to either the landowner or the person who has been plowing the ground on the farm. The most important thing to ask is if they ever have plowed up anything like patches of bricks, glass, coins, or iron in the field. Obtain permission and walk around the high ground in “all metal” mode on your detector set on highest sensitivity where it will pick up any metal evidence of a Civil War camp like nails or iron relics. Determine quickly if is only an old homesite or Civil war camp by the nature of the iron relics and anything like Miniballs to prove that it is a CW site.
When a group of soldiers had performed an action whether or not it was destroying railroads, burning towns, plantations, large mansions, or even outright confrontation with the enemy, it was often the last action before setting up a campsite. The days were short especially in winter and the troops were tired, wet and cold most of the time and the long treks were pretty short so camp could be set up and firewood gathered and a defendable site established.
On a recent hunt it appeared that the enemy had focused on hurting the economic ability of the enemy by destroying huge farming areas and destroying all the iron farm equipment that they came across. Much of this equipment was purchased across enemy lines now and the equipment could not be replaced and important crops could not be produced. This would deal a heavy blow to the blockade runners that traded the goods in spite of an enforced prohibition against it, and money that would be used against them. It also helped to starve a population into submission. Hurting the enemy in the pocketbook was just as effective as killing off enemy soldiers and a lot less trouble.
Finally you have several new ways to use your newfound information. You have the Terraserver with actual pictures of terrain and you can obtain topographical maps indicating hills and ridges. Your dotted line will cross many present day roads or railroads and these can be used by simply locating within a reasonable distance where the troop crossed the present day road and hunting along the public right of way in the grass along the shoulder for anything that might indicate where the troop passed. In the same manner you can also use the railroad right of way to come across an old trail. This could be a great shortcut if you can simply pickup a Miniball along the shoulder of the roadway or railroad bed. Then you can recalibrate your dotted line. You could be exceptionally fortunate and find that the troop walked right along the railroad and you could just go anytime and hunt without permission. Determine if the railroads near you were in existence during the Civil war and that might provide you access to a trail.
You should have determined at what time of year that the troops moved along the trail. Use this information to mentally compute times when high water in the river crossings would prevent movement and approximately how many miles that they traveled in a day.
You have your best asset sitting on your shoulders and you can simply use your head to think these things through. It is much like a mystery where you know part of the story but not all and you have to figure out who the villain is. You have all you need of the background information and you just need to pick a day soon and start to locate your own virgin Civil War camp.
Use a GPS to recall the exact longitude and latitude of the site. Trying to recall a site when a season has changed the look of it can make it very hard to relocate again especially if it is in the deep woods. You can use the previous position lock stored in the GPS memory to locate the exact center of the camp again.