After waking up from sweet dreams of finding a CSA (Confederate States of America) plate (buckle or accoutrement), Butch Holcombe set out with his metal detector to explore a site in North Georgia that saw action during the Civil War. It was 1973, a time in which finding Civil War artifacts was much more prevalent than it is today – especially those rare relics that are coveted by collectors both then and now.
Great Seal of the State of Georgia
As Butch was searching a hillside, his metal detector sang a promising signal. After kicking over a few leaves to better pinpoint the signal, Butch saw the back of a box plate. The kind of accoutrement that would have adorned a Civil War soldier’s cartridge box. Butch knelt down and picked up the plate hoping the reverse side would reveal the letters CSA. Much to his surprise, dismay, and sheer excitement, the Great Seal of the State of Georgia was staring back at him. He had found a Georgia cartridge box accoutrement plate!
With the help of a legendary Civil War historian and relic hunter, Dent “Wildman” Myers of Wildman Civil War Surplus in Kennesaw, GA, Butch was soon on his way to finding out the history behind the plate. After an extended period of research, he found out the plate most likely belonged to a soldier from the Republican Blues – a prestigious militia organized in Savannah, Georgia, nearly 50-years prior to the Civil War. In 1861, it was assembled as a disciplined unit and served throughout the war in several states – including Georgia where they were sent to the north to defend the state against the invading Federal forces under the command of Gen. W.T. Sherman.
The plate itself was recovered on a picket line about .25 miles in the front of Gilgal Church where heavy skirmishing took place on June 15-16, 1864. Also found near the plate were several Confederate Enfield bullets and a heel plate. Butch’s theory is that the Confederate trooper broke and ran from his position in the face of Sherman’s battle hardened troops, losing his cartridge box and its contents along the way.
ID Tag with a Story
In addition to the cartridge plate, Butch also shared a story about another artifact he found – one with a tremendous personal story. While searching a Civil War field hospital site, validated by the numerous fired bullets found in the valley beneath the hospital site (most likely discarded from amputated limbs and other horrific surgeries performed at the hospital), he found a soldier’s ID tag near the Battle of Chetahm Hill.
Much like the cartridge plate he found, the fun really began when he began to research the history behind of the soldier who once wore the tag. In reviewing enlistment records, Butch found out the soldier enlisted at the age of 45 as a Corporal – quite an old age to be joining the service! The man was from a wealthy family – his father was a famous architect from Connecticut. Records indicated that he was captured at Cedar Mountain and later exchanged as part of a prisoner exchange program.
Following his exchange, he was listed as AWOL for nearly 6-months. Another interesting discovery was a letter written and signed by his commanding officer stating that the AWOL assessment was incorrect and that the soldier was on hospital duty at the time. Further digging revealed the soldier’s rank was changed from Corporal to Private. Butch believes that the soldier went AWOL, was caught, and that his wealthy father secured a pardon for his son and had him moved to a hospital site to keep him away from the danger of battle.
American Digger Magazine
Butch, along with his wonderful wife Anita, publish a terrific magazine, American Digger Magazine, that’s devoted to those who enjoy recovering and collecting history – coins, militaria, bottles, Indian artifacts, gold, gems, fossils, and more. Don’t believe us? Check out their online 2015 sampler here.
American Digger is also hosting their first ever Civil War Relic Show & Sale, January 16-17, 2016 in Mt. Pleasant, SC.