Civil War Yankee Cavalry Fairfax, VA (unedited)

An ongoing search for civil war artifacts continue. The site is a known Union Cavalry Camp possibly connected to elements of the 5th,6th and 7th Michigan Cavalry given somoe of the artifacts recovered over the years. There is a race agaisnt time because as of March the site has been undegoing constructuon for a new housing development. Unfortunately this means a loss of flora and fauna as well as the destruction of an American Civil War site.

The site has been hunted for at least 30 years possibly even longer. Informal interviews I have had with people who have hunted the site tell me that among the artifacts found the most intrguing have been items like bugles, a few state buttons such as Michigan, Rhode Island and New York but also numrous general service buttons. A few plates havce also been found such as a recently dug US buckle, some eagle paltes (during the bull dozing phase) and only one sword plate which I found back in the late 1990’s. We are certain this is a cavalry camp. The ammunition we find all are indicative to cav troopers. A variety of 44. cal bullets such as Barthelows, and Colt variants – quite numerous. Sharps, Spencer and Burnside Carbines are also quite abundant and which might point towards evidence that this is a mid to late war camp given this type of ammunition. Three ringers and .69 cal round balls are occaisionally found but not as abundant as the former mentioned bullets. We also have found horse harware iron roller buckles etc and spurs, pieces of swords- pommels and hilts, hat letters and insignas such as the crossed sabers and carbine sling hooks and swivels. But the most significant recoveries have been ID items. Brass stencils bearing soldier names and units were some of the earlier finds when the camp was hunted back in the 70’s and 80’s. During the 90’s two ID disc were found both identifiyng soldiers of the 5h and 7th Michigan Cav Regiment. IF I am not mistaken those are regiments of General George Armstrong Custer’s Brigade.

The one ID disc clearly identified the soldier as William P. Snow of Flint Michigan. I did some basic research on him and found out that he originally enisted in the Infantry but after a short period became ill and was hospitalized. He recovered and somehow was able too transfer to the 5th Michigan Cavalry. He was wounded at Brandy Station -shot in the butt from what I can tell from his medical records but did survive the war.
About the Camp:
P1030209The camp from what I can tell exist on about 20-30 acres of land with rolling terrain. There is a creek (Difficult Run also near by) towards the rear and there were numerous Mills in the area but no longer exist of course. Many large trees which have since been dozed age and type I do not not know but they were quite large. The soil is real rocky. There so far doesnt appear to be any sign of a latrine or trash or fire pits. We do find the remains of rusted straps that may have been associated with wooden supply containers. As of recently I discovered what appears to be the firing range given that there are 100’s of pistol bullets shot into a bank along one o the rolling hills.
(above view showing man detecting the firing range)
So far no evidencce of any other types of bullets from another direction which would indicate a fight with the Rebs. Unfortunately the hill is almost gone today I could see that a silt pond has been dug through a portion of this area.


Civil War 6 lb Solid Shot and Bayonet

These artifacts were recovered in a field on private land. Both attest to the ferocity of battle that occured on or around Late August of 1862. Much of the land had been previously developed and further development is imminent so its a race agaisnt time to recover what we can before the dozers get to it.

6 lb solid shots were not uncommon and were used by both sides. The bayonet was recovered by a friend (who gained the permission for us to be on the land ) not far from this solid shot and numerous dropped and fired bullets were also found nearby. My wife is doing the research to try and identify potential units in the area. I am in process of having the relics stabilized using a chemical solution of sodium hydroxide and zinc.

Cool Artillery Pieces

 Went out this weekednd to a construction site/an abandon property slated for development and found these cool pieces of artillery shell. The fragmented remains of an exploded shell are most likely, given where I found them,from battle of First Bull Run. Amazing that this one little site surrounded by numerous houses would yield such things. I can only imagine what cool artifacts were lost once the houses were built. In addition to the fragments I found a few bullets and a nose piece to an enfield rifle.


The Battle of Union Mills by Margo Khosravi

On June 26, 1862 President Lincoln appointed Gen. John Pope to command the newly created Army of Virginia, a force of about 51,000 men. The Peninsula Campaign, begun in March 1862 by Gen. George B. McClellan, would shortly meet with defeat on July 1st at the culmination of the Seven Days Battles. Lee forced McClellan to retreat behind the James River at Harrison’s Landing, effectively dividing the Union Army in northern Virginia, with the Confederate capitol and Lee’s army in the middle.

According to Lincoln’s original intention, Pope was to go on the offensive and strike at Gordonsville and Charlottesville and disrupt the operations of the Virginia Central Railroad to cut off Lee’s supply line from the Shenandoah Valley. With the retreat of McClellan to Harrison’s Landing, Pope decided that any offensive action would be impractical and he instead conceived a defensive plan. His army and McClellan’s would concentrate in a defensive line from Fredericksburg to Culpeper and Sperryville and would harass the railroad if the opportunity were to present itself. Until a better and more “well-defined plan of operations” could be developed, the armies would adhere to this defensive plan. On August 4th McClellan was ordered by Gen. Halleck, the general-in-chief of all the armies, to abandon his position on the James and join Pope along the Rappahannock.

Gen. Lee’s success in forcing McClellan to retreat to Harrison’s Landing was due in large part to a series of brilliant maneuvers executed in the Shenandoah Valley by Stonewall Jackson to divert the attention of the Union Army away from Richmond. Jackson advanced his army 350 miles through the valley towards the Potomac and Washington, and during the period from May 4th to June 9th won four battles against the Union troops, effectively preventing them from otherwise reinforcing McClellan.

In late July of 1862, with Pope and his army in a position to cut the Virginia Central Railroad, Lee realizes that he needs to take action. He decides to move against Pope’s army before McClellan has a chance to join him. He dispatches Jackson and Ewell (14,000 men) to intercept Pope, telling Jackson, “I want Pope to be suppressed.” Jackson clashes with Union troops at Cedar Mountain on August 9th, but by the end of August Jackson and Longstreet are in a stalemate with the Federals along the Rappahannock. Taking a great risk, Lee decides to split his army and send Jackson around Pope’s right to cut the O&A Railroad, Pope’s supply line. Jackson moves west along the Rappahannock through Orleans and Salem (Marshall), where he camps the night of the 25th.

By early evening on the 26th Jackson has captured Bristoe Station. The first train (the “Secretary”) to reach Bristoe Station after the arrival of Jackson’s men breaks through their line and speeds on to Manassas Junction where it warns the 105th PA guarding the depot that Bristoe has been taken. Word reaches Washington from Manssas almost immediately by telegraph. The Secretary leaves Manassas and then slightly east of the Bull Run Bridge it crashes into another train and the wreck completely blocks the tracks in the vicinity of Union Mills Station.

At Bristoe, Jackson hears that Manassas is only guarded by a few hundred men and has “stores of great value.” He orders Trimble to take Manassas with the 21st GA and the 21st NC and Stuart’s cavalry. Trimble captures Manassas Junction with a loss of only two killed and two wounded. That evening, Col. Herman Haupt, chief of construction and transportation for the U.S. Military Railroad, proposes to send a construction train to repair the bridge and 3000 to 4000 men to protect Bull Run Bridge. After midnight, four NJ regiments under Gen. G.W. Taylor and two Ohio regiments under Col. E. Parker Scammon board the train to go to the bridge.

On the morning of August 27, 1862, N.Y. troops (2nd N.Y. Heavy Artillery) under Col. Gustave Waagner set out across Mitchell’s Ford from Centreville to try to take back Manassas Junction from what they think is “a party of guerillas.” They are joined by Capt. Von Puttkammer, whose PA troops lost the junction the night before. They come in view of the earthworks at Manassas and deploy skirmishers and begin shelling, having no knowledge that Jackson has 9000 men to their 1000. In short order, 28 Confederate cannon open on them and Waagner realizes his mistake and orders a retreat. At about this same time, the 1200 men from the 4 NJ regiments (1st N.J. Brigade) arrive at the Bull Run Bridge. They have unloaded from their train about a quarter mile east of the bridge because of the wreck of the Secretary and the train it crashed into still blocked the tracks. 1800 more men (the 11th and 12th Ohio) are on a train behind them.

Taylor’s men get within sight of the plains of Manassas (Liberia Plantation) and they notice a battery on the hill to their right and cavalry on the left, but they are unable to determine if they are friend or foe. Jackson orders his men to hold their fire and let the Federals come on. By the time they are marching into the arc of the Confederate line, Jackson orders his men to fire and the N.J. troops are ripped into with “a storm of lead.” Taylor orders his men to charge, but Jackson has them boxed in on three sides. Jackson rides out with a white handkerchief, intent on asking them to surrender, when one of Taylor’s men fires a shot that whizzes by Jackson’s head. The Confederate batteries then open with full force upon the Federals. They retreat and Jackson pursues, driving them back towards Bull Run. At a steep hill before the bridge the N.J. men have trouble climbing it. When a Confederate battery rolls up and begins to fire, they panic and a bottleneck forms at the bridge. In the chaos, men are jumping and falling into the water and Gen Taylor is mortally wounded, shot through the leg. By this time the 11th and 12th Ohio arrive and bound off their train towards the sound of the gunfire. They run in to a crush of terror stricken N.J. soldiers. Taylor orders Col. Scammon to hold the bridge as he is being carried off the battlefield to die. Scammon forms his men on the stream bank above the bridge, with the 11th Ohio on the left and 12th Ohio on the right. They manage to hold the Confederates for awhile. They prevent attempts by Gen. Pender’s troops to ford Bull Run at Union Mills, but Gen. Archer’s brigade manages to outflank the 12th Ohio further upstream. Col. Scammon conducts a rear guard action for three miles as he retreats down the O&A (Sangster’s Station?). He is pursued by A.P. Hill’s division, but is able to escape by the railroad. Hill burns the two trains that had wrecked near Union Mills and the two trains that had carried the Union troops from Alexandria. As the Federals retreat to Washington, Fitz Lee’s cavalry intercept a train sent by Col. Haupt to retrieve the wounded at Bull Run Bridge. Union losses – 500, Confederates – 25.

Repairing Destroyed Bridge Over Bull Run )library of Congres)


Murderous Munitions

Canister is probably one of the most horrifc yet highly effective types of ammunition to be used agaisnt an approaching line of soldiers. Canister is essentialy a tin can filled with over a hundred .69 cal lead balls and a wooden sabot at its base.

It’s a type of close range artillery projectile round fired from a smoothbore cannon. A poweder charge (gunpowder) would be inserted first into the cannon barrel follwoed by the canister. The basic concept is that when fired and upon exiting the bore of the cannon the lead shot spread out in all directions with the idea of impacting as many soldiers as possible (basically in one shot). This was highly effective at repelling an attack, tearing huge holes in the ranks of advancing soldiers. It was not uncommon to load the cannon with multiple “loads” of canister to maximize the devastation on the approaching enemy. The picutre above is a borrowed image of a nonfired origianl example of canister. The video below is one that I took of a piece that had been lying on the bottom of a river since the war nearly 150 years ago!!!

Civl War Artillery Canister
Watch this video on YouTube.