Metal Detecting Finds From the Fields of Glory

Traditionally, the term “Fields of Glory” has been applied to battlefields where brave men have struggled to wrest victory from the ever-present threat of defeat.  The more I pondered on that, however, the more I found it an appropriate term to describe the metal detecting sites scattered across countless square miles of fields and pastures in many states that surrendered amazing treasures to the persistent swing of my metal detector. Why don’t you join me for this tour?

These “battles for supremacy” have comprised a “war” for me that has lasted well over 40 years and there have been battles lost as well as the battles won that I  want  to  discuss  in  this  article

The “enemy” has thrown at me every weapon of nature that it could bring on to these fields whenever I was present on them.  These took the form of… sudden rain that drenches you to the skin before you can retreat to your vehicle, wind that dries you out and wears your energy down

resisting it, cold that chills you to the bone and numbs your feet and fingers, mud that clings to your boots by the pounds and makes traversing the ground take 3 times as much effort as walking in them when dry and sun that sizzles on days that there is no gentle breeze to cool your sweaty brow and forces you to need more water than you are carrying with you.

Add to these obstacles to detecting success in these fields, the constant threat of “enemy snipers” that take the form of unscrupulous detec-torists that see you on a good site and come back without permission when you are gone, to “plunder” it without you or the landowner catching them and also the difficulties presented when upon discovering a very old and promising building site with the structures long gone, you find that the whole area it occupied is “mined,,,” with thousands of iron signals ranging from square nails of different sizes, old axeheads, pieces of cast iron from broken up stoves and pots and skillets and a plethora of other strange-shaped iron pieces from who-knows-what to hinder and/or prevent you from picking up the signals of the treasures hidden close to them in the form of coins, jewelry, old brass and pewter buttons, etc.  To be fair, I should mention that even on sites like that, not all the iron signals will be junk… included among them will be things like antique tractor tools and other historical artifacts both collectible and valuable.

If I were to stop right here after describing the above, it would probably discourage many reading this article to want go in to the fields to hunt… but… I am NOT going to stop here… I am going to show you some of the treasures found for the effort put forth to hunt them. These make it all so VERY worthwhile to fight the enemies already described for possession of what these fields are hiding beneath their bare surface. 

Keep in mind as we take this tour that this is not meant to be a “HOW to hunt fields” treatise… that subject is being covered most adequately by Mike Haer in his articles.   My intention in writing this is to make you EAGER to take his information and get into field hunting with a vengeance! I want to prove to you that the fields are “ripe to harvest,” any time of the year when they are empty of crops and the weather is good… or at least doable.

Where I live in North Central Kentucky, within a…say… 50-mile circle, I have literally thousands of potentially pro-ductive soybean and corn fields to target for finding long-gone log cabin and old house… and, yes… even TOWN sites. These sites commonly date back to the mid-1850’s and some go back as far as the 1760’s and… most have never heard the beep of a metal detector on them!  And if they have been hunted, it was most often done sloppily by unskilled detectorists with inferior metal detectors that left up to 90% of the treasures they contained still in the ground when those hunters concluded they had found it all.

As Mike Haer has pointed out… permissions for field hunting are MUCH easier to get than permissions to hunt standing house yards.   Most of the time the farmers are willing to let you hunt their fields as long as you abide by four “iron-clad” rules… 1. Don’t go into the fields once the crops are planted in the spring, 2. Always fill your holes, even if it is a field that is going to be plowed or disked. And 3.  Stay out of the fields when they are so muddy wet that you leave holes and plainly visible tracks if you try to walk across them.  4.  Always leave farm gates as you find them.  If open, leave open, if closed BE SURE to leave them closed.  If you leave a gate open and his stock gets out… you have lost your permission and the farmer will tell his neighbors about it and you will NOT be hunting their fields, either! If you are going to hunt with a buddy, be sure to get the farmer’s permission to do so and make sure that he sees your vehicle so if parked on his property he knows its you automatically.

The “Button Field” at which all the pics you have viewed so far were taken was found while we were on our way to hunt an old standing log cabin site in the woods near Perryville, KY.  We followed an old sunken road down a wooded hill and came out in the field which had a nice creek flowing all around its borders.  I suggested to my hunt buddy that we stop and take a few minutes to hunt the high side of the field in case a military camp might have been there during the battle of Perryville.  Well, I had a brass flat button from about 1810 in my hand within five minutes and the buttons just kept coming… I ended up with seven and my partner had 8 more.  Strangely, considering the site had never been metal detected, we found no coins which was pretty unusual but that is the way field hunting   goes   sometimes…  you  find                                                                                                                                                                                          

what you DON’T expect and then, DON’T find what you expect to in the “Fields of Glory.”  While it did not prove to be a Civil War campsite, it did prove to be a very old house site worth metal detecting.

If you keep hunting the old house and cabin sites in the fields, however, you are bound to find some real treasures.   The picture at the top of the previous page is what I took out of the fields near where I live, over a two-month period in about 5 hunts.  Sometimes the area of the fields you have to search is very large… I have one permission along the Ohio River that has 3500 acres in it.  So far, in eight years of hunting these fields I have located two ghost town sites… one from the mid 1700’s the other from the mid-1800’s and several dozen single dwelling sites on this permission as well.  One house site belonged to a Colonel of militia named Obadiah Stout and he had established a militia training camp adjacent to his house and barn.  We took over 450 uniform buttons from this camp site in the fields… right above the banks of the Ohio River!  Some were rare and almost all were in excellent condition.  Stout’s house site has produced a variety of coins including cut Spanish silver coins, Large Cents, 3-cent silver pieces, Seated dimes and half dimes and shield nickels. 

In almost all of the fields where you find old house sites, you also find Indian Artifacts on the surface. The Native Americans camped in these fields, had villages in them and they are to be found on the highest ground in the field where the closest water source is.

While metal detecting the fields in the last 8 years I have found over 500 Indian artifacts with my eyes while listening to my metal detector!  And… I will tell you without

hesitation that the miles you walk in the fields and the times  that  you  do NOT find are MORE than worth it because of the great finds like these you will make if you persist!

I will mention that research is a key to success because often there is not a single visible clue that the fields you are driving by once had VERY old structures, military camps, picnic grounds, churches or school sites, etc.

Let me give you a prime real-life example of what I mean with the pictures on this page.  There was a time, a few years back, if you had driven up the dirt road leading back into this remote hollow near my home, you would have seen this log cabin built in 1862 during the Civil War standing in all its vintage glory at the base of the hill behind it with a pasture in front of it in what was once its front yard.

A couple of years ago, some guy from Tennessee bought the historic log cabin and took it and the outbuildings with it down log by log and hauled it all back to Tennesse to rebuild on his property.  If you did not know that cabin had been there, you would very likely never consider the site now as holding any metal detecting potential.  The lesson here is do not judge by your eyes alone… do your due diligence to research field and pasture properties in historic areas and you WILL find unworked sites that you can dig treasures from!  

Sometimes you find them on a site beyond your wildest imaginations.  This next picture is what I recovered in one day from a former church site that was no longer there.  It proved my best day ever for silver and old coins dug from a single site in one day… I can’t wait for my next bonanza from a “field of glory!”

If you happen to live in an area that had military activity dur-ing any period of our history… French and Indian War, pioneer militia vs. the  hostile Indians, Revolutio-nary War, Civil War or even training camps/facilities for WW 1 and WW 2 soldiers, sooner or later in your field hunting you are going to discover where soldiers camped or fought.  If you prove to be the first on such a site or sites, you are almost sure to recover MANY treasures in the form of both artifacts and coins.

If the campsite turns out to be a large one where thousands of soldiers lived and drilled, it could provide you with 2 years or more of great metal detecting… THAT would truly be a “Field of Glory” for you! Pay special attention when searching fields with a creek or river nearby that could have provided water for large numbers of soldiers and horses and mules. Here is an example of what I have found in the camps I discovered.  These Civil War artifacts and coins were found in camps once occupied by Union troops defending Cincinnati, Ohio from invasion. 

When you do find your “Field of Glory” military campsite, be careful NOT to let anyone driving by on the road see you out there metal detecting and digging!   I have learned from painful experience that the “claim jumping” outlaw detectorists will steal such sites from you in a heartbeat once your presence alerts them to the fact that you are finding something out in that field and often they will bring a bunch of their no-good buddies with them to clean it out quickly!

Sometimes pieces of visible rock lying on the surface of a spot in a “field of glory” will alert you to the fact that a structure that had rock in foundation pillars or chimneys once existed there and that is a good place to start metal detecting if you find such. Often, though the farmers who worked that field over the years removed the larger pieces of rock from their fields leaving only smaller pieces that you have to get pretty close to see.  Walking a field will allow you to spot small pieces of broken old bricks in the dirt that nail down the former location of a house as do visible pieces of old glass bottles, crocks and/or cups and plates. 

Lastly, I want to tell you about my most recent trip to one of my “fields of glory” with an old log cabin site on it that dates back to the 1780’s and was gone by the mid-1850’s.  How do I know it was gone by then?  There have been no metal objects come off this site that were newer than that date… no modern metal trash in the soil there at all.  When first found I invited a buddy to work it with me. It was located about 500’ from a county road on the end of a low ridge in the back of the field.  The field was bordered by a good-sized creek… too deep to wade.

We found a number of old flat buttons of various sizes the first two times we worked this site and I managed to pull out one 1822 Large Cent in fair condition.  We were hoping/expecting to find at least a few seriously old silver coins as well. But that did not happen.  After that my buddy lost interest in the site and the next two times I hunted it, I was by myself.  On both of those hunts, I zeroed out with my AT Pro metal detector, finding no non-ferrous targets.

Recently I bought a Nokta Macro Simplex metal detector and decided about a week ago to take it out to this site and see if it could find anything the AT Pro had missed.  Boy, was I ever in for a surprise!   I got to the field about 1:30 in the afternoon, walked across the field to the cabin site and started to swing my new metal detector.  In about 10 minutes, I got a high-value signal in the copper coin range and dug up a flattened copper thimble.  It was not exactly a treasure but it did show what to expect from coin-sized copper objects in terms of the pitch of the audio and the number readout on the display.  After having zeroed out twice before it felt pretty good to dig that thimble.  Soon I got a very similar signal and dug a nice gold-plated flat button that had been made in England around 1810.  Impressed with this great start, I soon found another really small old brass button and… it was only about 10’ from the first one.   I was liking my new metal detector more and more as I methodically worked back and forth in 8’ wide rows.  About a half-hour after my last button find, I got a big iron signal and a bit of a high-value chirp and number readout with it.  I swung back and forth over the double-signal and wondered if a big piece of iron was hiding a piece of treasure.Putting my shovel to work, I popped out a great big single-bitted old axe head with a crack in one side of it.  Once that was dug, I rechecked the hole and got a crystal-clear high-pitched tone and a steady reading of 91 on the digital display. The reading was so high I was sure that it must be an aluminum can in the hole tossed out of a tractor by some farmer while disking or planting. It was too big to be a small coin so I thought if it was NOT a crushed soft drink can it might be a silver dollar due to the high reading.  Well… that was not to be… it was not silver, but it was a keeper indeed… a beautiful 1845 Large Cent in excellent condition!  The Simplex had done a great job of separating the coin from the really big piece of iron!  I was really starting to love this new metal detector! 

My next find proved to be a modern zinc penny that was badly eaten up.  I suppose I lost it on a previous hunt on the site.  It does not take long for the strong chemical fertilizers in the field soil to seriously attack our newest coins made of zinc.

 I now had five keepers and it was a great day in this “Field of Glory” that had given up nothing on my last trip there… but as it turned out, I wasn’t done yet!  The field had one more treasure to give up to me that day. The first silver coin off this site was destined to elude me once again but I was going to go home with my first silver from it.  My last good signal I proved to be a very old SILVER-plated snuff spoon! What a great find! 

You just never know… WHAT you will find in the “Fields of Glory,” but… you have to hunt them to find it!  So get out in those fields and start swinging your metal detector… treasures await you!

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