Civil War Camps Located in East Woods
Our surveys in the east woods of Montpelier (behind the Constitutional Center) have been very successful in terms of locating a series of small Civil War camps. What has made these discoveries possible is the excellent work by our newest staff member, Lance Crosby. Lance, a long-time resident of Orange, has a passion for and knowledge of Civil War sites and artifacts that makes him invaluable for locating sites in areas slated for timbering. We are using Lance’s discoveries to not only protect the Civil War camps he has found, but also to interpret them through a walking trail. This new trail will feature signs detailing our discoveries from the Civil War era and providing information on good forest management practices.
Most of the sites Lance has located have no visible surface expression (mounds or depressions) so using a metal detector is the only effective means of finding them. What Lance has discovered is a series of artifact clusters containing CSA Gardiner bullets, gun tools, Confederate and Union buttons, an array of knapsack accouterments and other military accouterments. We think these sites represent the remains of bivouac positions for troops or guard posts positioned to overlook what was, during the Civil War, the farm center for Montpelier. Based on the absence of hearth features and small burnt nails (from ration boxes used for kindling), we believe these sites were occupied during the summer of 1862, when troops are known to have been at Montpelier. These smaller camps contrast with Montpelier’s larger regimental camps that we have located in the woods around the Gilmore Farm. An unexpected bonus from the survey work is that Lance has located several sites that may have been slave quarters from the Madison era.The technique that Lance employs for locating and recording artifacts is as follows: He begins the day by going to an area designated by the archaeology department, and using his metal detector, scans the ground for metallic signatures. These ‘hits’ are then carefully excavated, ensuring that he is not getting into an area of charred wood or the organic-rich soil of a feature. Once excavated, each artifact is tagged and bagged, and a marker is placed at the location with the corresponding hit number. Lance then records the location with a hand-held Global Positioning Station (GPS) unit. At the end of each day, the recovered artifacts are checked in by the archaeological staff and the GPS unit is downloaded. Once plotted in CAD, it can be determined whether there are definable clusters of artifacts that represent potential sites. Any such clusters are revisited with a laser transit by archaeological staff and the location of each hit is recorded to within a tenth of a foot.
The site areas we have located will be protected from disturbance during the timber thinning operations that will be conducted later this summer. This timbering is designed to comply with the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Best Management Practices (BMPs) for improving Montpelier’s forest resources. It will enhance the forests by removing at risk trees and trees that crowd the growth of stronger specimens. It will also allow the development of upland meadow areas within old fields.