When his metal detector sounded off, Benjamin quickly dropped to the ground, stuck his digging tool into the dirt, and popped out a Civil War musket ball. He took a second to hold it over his head to show to us nearby. Then, it went into the “finds” bag on his belt as he immediately began swinging his machine searching for the next target.
Benjamin is our 15 year-old grandson. He actually has been metal detecting with us since he was five when we bought him his first machine. Since that time, he has participated in kid’s hunts, junior hunts, and beach hunts, besides hunting with us in yards, fields, and other locations. He has actually been in paid adult hunts, but only as a relief hunter. One of our friends is in his early nineties. He pays the entry fee for a treasure hunt, starts the beginning of the event, and detects for six of seven minutes before he tires and he leaves the field. Benjamin then steps in to take his place for the rest of the 30 minute hunt.
But this would be the first paid adult hunt in which our grandson would be the registered hunter. The fee was $90 for the day. This particular day was special for him. The first event of the day was a Civil War relic hunt. It cost $40 for the entry. Relics and artifacts from 160 years ago would be buried in a large, hilly field. The 40 entrants picked a spot to start and the gun sounded the beginning. Along with the relics were 40 metal targets with numbers on them. These were tokens for special prizes to be redeemed later. Everyone was hoping to find one of these.
When this first hunt was over, we returned to our truck to compare finds. We all found some round balls, Minie Balls (a bullet shaped like a modern bullet), J-hooks (look it up), and other items. Susie and Benjamin both found a token. I didn’t find one, but I did dig an Eagle uniform button. This is a common button, but was in very good condition.
We all went to the pavilion for the awarding of the token prizes. The huntmaster would call out a number, and the person holding that token would come up to receive their prize. Susie’s number was good for an antique ginger beer bottle and a Civil War book. An OK prize, but certainly on the lower end of some outstanding items on the table. The numbers kept being
called but not Benjamin’s. The table was almost empty. Only three prizes left, and one was the grand prize. It was a decorative dress sword, long and narrow. It was not used for fighting, but only for wearing to fancy events when the soldier was wearing his dress uniform. The other two items were both boxed collections of several nice relics.
A number was called and it was his. Not the sword, but a neat box with three J-hooks, two Minie balls, and an 1840 half-dime. When the drawing was over, we took the coin to the dealer and he graded it as extra fine. After he checked his reference book, he told us it was worth around $100. Not bad for one dig in the ground.
The rest of the day was a normal coin hunt. It cost $50 and we all were busy during the next three hunts, digging silver dimes, both Roosevelt and Mercury, and tokens for other prizes such as digging tools, headphones, and even new metal detectors. We won a few small items, but none of the better ones. Susie and I have won several detectors in the past and Benjamin won two in kid’s hunts (real detectors, not kid’s toys) and another on a token found on a beach hunt. At age 15, he already has four machines.
The hunts were over for the day, but after dinner, there was a Civil War relic display and talk. Some of the guys were displaying some of their better finds from years of hunting relics in mostly southern states. Bullets, buttons, buckles, bayonets, and many other great artifacts have come to the surface from the skillful work of these hunters and their metal detectors. One of the displays was a Confederate Enfield 57 caliber rifle. It was found complete except for the wooden stock which had rotted away after decades in the ground. But, the best was yet to come.
“Doc” is the head ER doctor in a hospital in Virginia. We met him five or six years ago at one of the treasure hunts we attend every year. He was camped next to us and Benjamin also attends these events with us. Doc and Benjamin became great friends. Doc found our grandson was extremely knowledgeable about the Civil War and even had a 4-H collection of over 80 relics. Last year, this collection took Grand Champion of all collections at the Fort Wayne fair.
Doc began giving Benjamin some great relics every year to add to his collection. These were all found with a detector and were mostly displayed with locations where they were found and often information about the item itself, from which army it belonged, and other related facts. Doc said he had never found a person that young who was that interested and knew that much about the Civil War. He would give Benjamin special bullets, buttons, and other relics and their friendship grew.
During the Civil War talk at the hunt, Doc explained the history of his Enfield rifle on display, then called Benjamin up on the stage. He explained to the crowd about how he had met Benjamin and how they had grown to be such good friends. He gave Benjamin a 57 caliber Minie ball which had been fired, and asked him if he knew what the bullet was fired from. Then, he presented this Civil War rifle to our grandson.