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Civil War Cavalry Button Found in NJ Soil

Posted by on June 2, 2014
Civil War Cavalry button

Civil War Cavalry button

At dawn one May Saturday, I headed out for my 3rd hunt at a local church property. Last fall I had received permission to scour the property adjacent to my church, where an 1830s farmhouse once stood. On two previous hunts here, I’d found some interesting items (see here and here) in only a small segment of the property, and it boded well for success on subsequent visits. Diggable signals were seemingly everywhere, and I knew it would take many more hunts to deem this site “hunted out.”

Starting out in a new portion of the property, one of my initial finds—deeply seated at that—was a women’s brass or copper wedding band. Such wedding bands were common in the mid-to-late 1800s, and many of them are found with some remaining gold plate and a misleading mark of “14K” or “18K.” As the dark metal underneath proves, the base metal is clearly not gold. The ones I’ve found or have seen are usually plain, but after careful cleaning at home, this one appeared to have a nice design. I was very pleased with this find—including the eight-inch depth at which it was found—and it raised my excitement.

Small copper ring

Small copper ring

Small copper ring

Small copper ring

A little later, after unearthing many iterations of the ubiquitous pull-tab and some other unmentionables, I got a very loud mid-tone signal that grabbed my attention. A quick dig revealed an older lock in good shape bearing the words “English make.” Another interesting find; it was gearing up to be a good day indeed.

Early 1900s lock

Early 1900s lock

Gridding the small area in straight lines, more digs produced some horse tack and some older utensils. This new portion of the property, like the areas searched on previous visits, had a large amount of diggable signals. I had discriminated out iron on my machine and yet the signals kept coming.

Buckle

Buckle

Old spoon and knife handle

Old spoon and knife handle

Towards the end of this two-hour hunt, traipsing over a previously scoured portion near a large tree stump, I got a promising mid-tone signal (VDI in the 60s) that beckoned me to investigate. Digging a few inches down, I pulled out what was clearly an older button, as I could see evidence of a backmark (maker’s mark) through the encrusted dirt. Flipping it over and swiping it with my glove, the image of an eagle appeared. I was thrilled, but my excitement was tempered by the fact that the eagle motif was commonly used on civilian and turn-of-the-century standard-issue military buttons, and I had found a few before. That said, this one looked different—the eagle was more refined and seemingly unfamiliar to me. Still very much covered with dirt, I filed the button away in my finds pouch for future identification.

Later that day, after a delicate cleaning, the full image on the button’s front shined through: a right-facing eagle bearing a shield with a “C” emblazoned on it and clutching arrows in her talons. The backmark was even more telling—“Scovill Mfg. Co.” Quick research, factoring in the “C” in the shield combined with the maker, yielded an easy ID: a Civil War cavalry officer’s coat button. This was a rarer find for these parts considering that New Jersey isn’t exactly a haven for Civil War relics. That fact only added to the excitement, and I was elated.

Civil War Cavalry button

Civil War Cavalry button

Civil War Cavalry button, reverse

Civil War Cavalry button, reverse

Before the church acquired the property, several generations of the same family lived there. As of this writing, I’ve learned that four men with that family name served in the Civil War with New Jersey regiments. And, to make matters even more interesting, only one of the four served in the cavalry (the others in the infantry). All I have to do now is connect that dot to this property and I will have likely identified the button’s original owner. If so, I will then seek to locate a descendent with the hope of returning it. Such is one of the joys of this hobby—not just reclaiming history in a tangible sense, but the occasional chance to give back. Stay tuned, I will post an update when I learn more.

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