Metal Detecting Civil War Union Camp – Documenting Plowed Fields’ Role in War’s Waning Months

Temporary zone cataloging (in association with GPS)

Temporary zone cataloging (in association with GPS)

With the holiday break, I’ve made a lot of progress on my exploratory metal detecting survey of the Civil War Union Infantry campsite.   It’s been incredibly enjoyable combination of research, reading, field time and cataloging.

I’ve been experimenting with a variety of technologies in my survey of a Union Camp in Kentucky.  I’m using the Handy GPS App set to AGD84 datum and calibrated for ~10ft accuracy, double checking on satellite imagery reference points to place items on a Google Earth file.  Finally, I’m  weighing and measuring each item to determine caliber, type and more.   Some items are damaged by plows, but some are in good conditions having been deposited along fencelines.

Detecting Tracks – The absence of signals is still good information.

My goal is to construct a reasonable mechanism for amateurs to use where the net output is a decent resolution survey of finds – but also of areas without finds.  So, I’m using GPS based tracks every 5 feet to trace my steps on each hunt, working to improve my coverage and see how the data accumulates.  The tracks vs finds method is working – I can honestly say that when all is said and done, I‘ll have a decent representative survey of the field even without pre-gridding the area working straight from GPS.  I have some ideas on how to improve things, of course…


For the exploratory survey, the entire property has been separated into zones based on natural divisions of terrain (woodland, mowed fields, scrubby fields, creekside, etc. )  The cataloging of items is being done within these zones and the location placed on Google Earth via KML file.  I’ve estimated from similar nail-scatter the plow has moved items above the plow line +/- 4-5 feet along the North-South Axis (apparently the plowing direction?)   A 1950s aerial seems to confirm this.

Pre-cleaning day's work

Pre-cleaning day’s work

One thing…+/- 5-cm consumer GPS chips are getting closer to availability, and hopefully by the time I have the property ready, I can use this (with a compatible app.)  Otherwise I will get a few precise GPS measurements and do a proper grid on key areas.  I’m going to be looking to experts for help.

Here’s a small sample of the finds.  Let me know if you have trouble with this gallery on mobile:

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