Persistence Pays Off
by Jeff Jeffers
At the start of the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee (CSA) appointed former Virginia Governor Henry Wise as commander of one of two legions to be formed in Western Virginia. These legions were similar to modern commando units and were able to fight independently with infantry, artillery and cavalry units assigned.
Wise's adversary, General Jacob Cox commanded the Ohio troops out of his main camp near Hawk's Nest. To secure the main road and protect the camp, General Cox stationed 1200 troops of the 11th and 26th Ohio Infantry Regiments along the mountainsides at Big Creek, about one mile from his headquarters. These men constructed road blocks and dotted the mountains with breastworks which made the position very strong. On August 31, 1861 General Wise lead his legion to attack the invaders from Ohio who camped there.
General Wise's force had been reduced to 900 men due to an outbreak of the Measles. Furthermore, he had dispatched 300 of his men on a flanking movement in an attempt to sweep the enemy's left flank. Of the 600 men remaining, three companies were passed up the road toward the enemy. Federal pickets allowed these men to pass, determined that they would come into the full sweep of the Union artillery. The remainder of Wise's force made their way through a laurel thicket in the direction of their enemy. Then General Wise ordered a sudden charge on the entrenchments of the Ohio Regiments. In the official record, he said "We drove the enemy up and over the mountain". They fled incontinency, dropping guns, hats, canteens and etc. My men gained the summit and blocked down into their very camps, keeping upon them an irregular skirmish fire. I then shelled the mountainside (howitzer). The three hundred men that Wise had sent on the flanking movement returned later. They did not participate in the engagement, having lost their way in the forest.
It seemed appropriate that I be there on Independence Day, almost 144 years later. However, I had not planned on relic hunting that day and had slept late after a tough week at my shop. Upon my arrival to Fayette County, several hours were spent scouting other locations. It was hot, humid, and I didn't have a single bullet to show for my efforts. So I resolved to stop by Big Creek, determined not to return to Charleston empty handed.
I've been told that the site is hunted out. And that's likely very close to the truth. I am accustomed to that, however. So I employed a technique that has worked well in the past, searching the spots that others are reluctant to search. I decided to hunt close to the main road that passes by the site.
I dug several trashy targets near the road before passing rather quickly through a dense garden of Poison Ivy. The ivy thinned out around the base of the mountain, so I slowed down and swept every square inch that I could reach within 20 feet of the main road.
About 40 minutes into the hunt, my Fisher rang a high pitched tone.
I was excited, thinking I'd finally found a keeper. But the detector was showing me a silver coin ID, not a bullet. Too often in the woods, I've dug aluminum cans when I had a silver coin signal. The depth reading was two inches. I dug a three or four inch hole and recovered nothing. By this time, I'm frustrated and thinking that it has to be a big piece of garbage. Regardless, I swept the hole again and had a good crisp double beep as I passed the coil over the target. "Well, now that's a good sound", I thought. Finally at seven inches, I noticed a pale gray manmade object. So I cleaned up the hole and pulled out my first US cartridge box plate! Of course I had to yell out loud. Remember the Dukes of Hazzard? I'm certain that passersby would have thought me to be mad. After sitting and admiring my find for a while, I scanned the immediate area, finding no other targets. I was eager to get home to clean the plate, so I cranked up the AC in my truck and giggled like a little girl all the way home with my solitary Independence Day find.
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