Civil War Site Recently Discovered in West Virginia

Story by Rich Creason
Artifacts see the light of day for the first time in 150 years.

Large Civil War Cannonball
Large Civil War Cannonball

Chicago, IL – -( After the beginning of the Civil War in April of 1861, fighting quickly spread across the southern states. The mountains and valleys of southern West Virginia saw many months of conflict with the sounds of gunfire, the rattle of sabers, and the screams of soldiers. When the battles were over, remnants of the skirmishes were left behind. Fired and dropped bullets were quickly stomped into the soil by the boots of running infantry. Fallen leaves covered lost buttons, buckles, and other items. Muskets, canteens, spurs, and more were also lost and forgotten.

A century and a half later, Gary Persinger walked slowly through these hills and valleys, swinging his Minelab Equinox 800 metal detector. When his machine sounded, he dug a deep musketball, which had been hidden from the daylight for nearly 15 decades. A few more swings of the detector produced another round ball. Then, a third. And a fourth. His next signal was much louder and covered a larger area. After much digging, Persinger unearthed a complete, 12-inch wood-fused cannonball. He suddenly realized he had just found a previously undiscovered battle site.

Persinger wasn’t always so fortunate. In his younger years, he walked mountains, valleys, and beaches looking for treasure with merely his eyes. He dug roots for food. He says he often wanted to buy a metal detector, but even into his late twenties, the aspiring treasure hunter was unable to afford one.

When asked where he conducted his searches, he replied, “I live in the rugged country of southern West Virginia. The Civil War was fought and skirmished along the cliffs and steep mountains of this county in which I live.”

Finally, Persinger purchased a high-end, brand name machine. He continued walking miles through the West Virginia countryside. A few items came to his pouch, but not what he was expecting. Persinger used this detector for 14 years before deciding to try a different brand. After spending some time with his second detector, he changed again. This time – just one year ago – he selected the Minelab Equinox 800.

Minelab Equinox 800

Minelab Equinox 800
Minelab Equinox 800

“I found myself going back to previously searched sites and recovering the items I knew were there, but couldn’t pinpoint with the other detectors because of where they laid beneath the soil,” he says.

He made numerous trips to the site where he found the large cannonball, and would become exhausted from digging deep targets and carrying all of his finds back home. Persinger unearthed a nice bayonet, an Enfield ramrod, many cartridge box finials, buckles, buttons, locks and keys, spoons, and hundreds of pulled and dropped bullets. He has even found many tiny percussion caps with his Equinox.

What led to the dramatic increase in finds? Minelab Multi-IQ Technology. Available on Minelab’s Vanquish and Equinox series metal detectors, Multi-IQ Technology allows users to enjoy a full range of frequencies that scan and work at the same time for maximum results in any conditions, allowing users like Persinger to detect and find any metals in any soils.

Cache Of Civil War Bullets
Cache Of Civil War Bullets
Civil War Site Era Firing Block
Civil War Site Era Firing Block

At this same site, Persinger found several shoulder scales, artillerist tools, and a Burnside block — an invention that chambered a .54 caliber bullet, which had an effective range of 200 yards. Further searching uncovered a cache of 621 bullets hidden on top of a rock and covered with debris. Finally, a complete multi-loaded Austrian Lorenz .54 caliber musket (minus the wooden stock) made his Minelab machine sing out.

Persinger does little or no research when deciding where to hunt, preferring to rely on his intuition. “Just miles of walking,” he relates. He finds most of his best hunt sites just by observing the terrain and deciding where groups of soldiers would camp, travel, and set up ambushes for the opposing troops. He almost always detects alone but says his son is starting to get interested after seeing all of his great finds. When asked if he plans on continuing with his Minelab Equinox 800, he exclaims, “I have no expectations of leaving this magnificent machine!”

Persinger’s Minelab Equinox 800
Persinger’s Minelab Equinox 800, shown here modified with an aftermarket carbon fiber shaft, has located many Civil War treasures, including this artillery shell.

Besides finding numerous items in the wide valley, Persinger found Confederate items on the hillside on one side of the valley and Union artifacts on the other. It doesn’t take much imagination when standing alone in an area like this, surrounded by these long-buried relics, to picture the fierce fighting that happened in this now peaceful valley.

Persinger has found Civil War relics in many other areas of his West Virginia mountain home. He has glass-topped display boxes – which he constructs himself – to showcase his many finds. Among these finds is a sword and a bayonet in very good condition, as well as several artillery shells – including a Read shell – which he just recently found.

Not all of Persinger’s time is spent searching for Civil War artifacts. He sometimes detects yards at older house sites. At one house, he discovered over 200 flat buttons, a Spanish reale, a wax seal fob, several thimbles, and a handful of old coins. His oldest military button from 1830 was found in this yard. Everything else found on this trip was determined to be even older than the button.

Persinger detected with other machines for over 15 years before discovering the Minelab Equinox 800. After what he calls “pounding the ground” for only a year with his new Minelab, he has found a quantity and quality of items of which other searchers only dream.


Minelab is an Australian, multi-award-winning business that has successfully scaled world markets to command global leadership in its key areas of operation. Based in Mawson Lakes, South Australia, with regional offices in Cork, Ireland, Dubai, UAE, Chicago, U.S., and Itajai, Brazil the company specializes in advanced electronic technologies. Since its origins in 1985, Minelab has been the world leader in providing metal detecting technologies for gold prospecting, treasure hunting and landmine clearance. Through devotion to research and development and innovative design, Minelab is today the major world manufacturer of handheld metal detector products. Over the past 30 years, Minelab has introduced more innovative and practical technology than any of its competitors and has taken the metal detecting industry to new levels of excellence. Minelab is a Codan Limited company (ASX: “CDA”). To learn more about Minelab, visit

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If you can’t find stuff from this battle, just wait a few months…. There will be another soon, there won’t be nearly as many bullets lying on the ground though..


Awesome !! Surveying in West Virgie for 10 yrs found all kinds of cool stuff but that’s some good finds love the article
My next life home.

Mike Carbine

Cool article. Thank God we Americans can count on one hand all the large Wars fought in this land. Unlike the old countries where large scale fighting was constant, going back thousands of years only ended with MAD a few decades ago.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mike Carbine

You are so right but the left thinks we have it wrong. That’s is so amazing to me.


I really dig the shovel. Where can I purchase one of them ?