Think like a Civil War General
To locate the great old relic sites you have to think like a Civil War soldier and not only that but also from a Generals viewpoint. You want to have a firm feeling on how and where that they would find the most logical ways to move and where they would want to camp. One thing in the wet season that was of prime interest was where could they find a road that was dry! Not only that but the huge lines of soldiers, horses, wagons, and cannons would rut up the road until it was so bad even if it was mostly dry that they had lots of trouble getting stuck and slowing down the march.
Other detachments that were ordered to camp and watch for movements of enemy soldiers, railroad traffic, or to watch for the enemy boats and had another set of considerations of where to camp. The clues that I am giving in these articles should put you well ahead of many other relic hunters who simply just walk around in the woods and look for anything that might have been dropped by the soldiers. You must obtain a map of the railroads as they existed during the period of the war. It is key to your ability to locate the old Civil War camps.
The detachments of soldiers who were instructed to camp and watch areas were often just dropped off the railroad near rivers or navigable waterways. Remember that the old Civil War gunboats could just about run on a wet dew and it didn’t take much of a waterway to provide them a quick road inland to cutoff the retreat of soldiers, to work in behind enemy lines, and to resupply the enemy troops.
There were very often skirmishes along these places where an old camp was. Either an enemy group captured a train and was using it or several gunboats would sneak along the waterways and fight it out with the boys in the camp. If the camp had cannon then they had a fair chance but if not then they could be quickly overrun. Their main purpose was to report enemy actions and if some of the boys could get away from the fight and report on the incident this achieved a major part of their activity.
The cannons were almost always located just around a tight bend in the stream where the gunboats would have to slow down in the turn and would just be sitting ducks for cannons on the bluff above them. They also would often use a higher bluff where the gunboats could not see anything unlike the low banks where they were easily discovered. Look for these gunboat camps just around the sharp bends. It is where a General looked at a map and pointed to as a defensive fort and they are still easy to spot today!
When there were many fresh troops they would just load them on trains and every time they would cross a large stream they would drop off the troops to camp there. These also are very easy to find today.
Now for one of the best tips… In much of the southern country you could find yourself lost in a marsh and never know which way to turn. Therefore it was high on the mind of the officer to make sure that they always could fall back on something to keep them from getting lost, “The Railroad”. He would locate one that had a high and dry bank and especially an existing road to travel on where he would always know where he was. there were many more rural settlements along these railroads where they would ship their produce to market. In other words they should also be extremely easy to find.
The same was true of the rivers, however there was always the problem of fording the streams so only smaller detachments of soldiers are likely in these areas where they would not be followed by the wagons and cannons.
Now in Roman times as in the Civil War a soldier had to have one thing that was extremely important!! You cannot overstate how important and that is that they needed salt. Yes, simple old salt was difficult to obtain and you can find near the salt water bays and marshes that they would set up a process to reclaim the salt from saltwater. Either that or find salt mines which could supply a much larger army. These areas are always good and have many relics as men and transports frequented them during the entire war.