Civil war relic hunting recently with well-known middle Tennessee detectorist Joe Haile, I’ve developed an appreciation for his historic vision. Based on his extensive experience, he can walk out on a 250 acre property and point out the spots where relics are most likely to be found – often immediately walking right to the best spot on the property. Another one of my hunting partners is a master at researching maps, and as we drive along, he always knows whether we are on a “war road” are not – a road that runs exactly the same path as it did in 1864. He can also “see” homes and buildings that are no longer standing that he knows were there during the war. Sometimes I wonder if he sees things like burger joints and stop signs at all, so usually I drive.
I call this perception “RelicVision”, because it allows us to look at the world in a way more congruent with history, and causes us to hunt sites that are not obvious, more quickly find the sweet spots on large properties, and therefore dig more relics. Here are some tips on developing your own RelicVision:
KNOW THE MAPS
Some of the best sites I’ve hunted seem to be out in the middle of nowhere or otherwise not logical. I found them by examining wartime and late 1800s maps. It is astounding how many wartime roads are gone without a trace, as wherever they went to was no longer there. Also, when they started paving roads, they often straightened them out and re-routed them to use more efficient and shorter distances. Hunting along vanished roads that where there during the war is a great way to get on sites that have never been hunted.
Same thing is true with creeks. Many sections of creeks were “messed with” and re-routed (before EPA probably ended this practice) to build neighborhoods and industrial parks, for example.
Finally, maps will show homes that are no longer there – many gone without a trace. Missing wartime homes are usually relic mines!
HUNT THE VIEWS
Soldiers liked views from high spots for the same reason we do, but they also used them for strategic reasons such as picket posts and protection. Often high vantage points over roads and railroads are golden. Soldiers also liked to camp on high spots because water wouldn’t stand as bad, and would camp on the slope of hills opposite the wind for protection from the cold.
RELY ON PAST EXPERIENCE
The more you hunt, the more you recognize the types of spots and topographical features where relics are found. Maybe you often find relics where two creeks meet, or near the main road, or on the opposite sides of hills near railroad tracks. Make mental notes of the types of spots you actually dig relics and apply those notes to new properties.
RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS
Large old trees, flowers, brick fragments on top of ground, ruts of old roads through woods or pastures with thick trees growing through them. Lines of old cedars. Present day landscape will often give away easy clues to how it was during the war.
IGNORE THE TREES
In Tennessee we have trees everywhere. But not during the war. People relied way more heavily on trees for firewood and warmth, and soldiers encamped for any period of time cut down almost every single tree within eyesight. This is important because the thickets, heavy woods, and other hard to reach spots on heavily hunted sites are usually where you can find relics.
National Archives, Pixabay