Bartletts offer peek at Civil War artifacts
For decades, Bruce Bartlett spent his free time swinging a metal detector around Civil War battlefields and Civil War campsites.
He and his wife, Jane, shared the bounty of his efforts with the public during the Ray County Historical Society's Quarterly meeting in August 2011.
Bruce worked for Missouri Public Service and lived in Richmond when he bought his first metal detector.
It changed his life and led to the Civil War becoming his greatest hobby.
Talking about his life, he said when he was in high school he hated history and English.
History became his hobby and he married an English teacher.
He started out using his metal detector to find coins.
That changed when he went to Lexington and Ike Skelton let him run his detector in his front yard. That's where he found his first Civil War bullet - a 69-caliber mini-ball.
It wasn't on a battlefield, but was probably where some Civil War soldier laid down to sleep for the night. Bruce imagined what that night would have been like for the soldier.
"Of all the things I've learned," he said. "I learned what the Civil War was and what it stood for."
But he's learned so much more. He's found relics in places where those relics aren't supposed to be and he believes the Battle of Lexington was much larger than the history books tell.
He is serving as an advisor to the upcoming reenactment of the Battle of Lexington and is going to give his version of the way the battle went down.
The history books describe the Union soldiers going from house-to-house in Lexington and taking the lead pipe plumbing and silverware to melt down into bullets.
He said they also packed those lead pipes with black powder to make the 1860's version of an IED (improvised explosive device.) Fortunately, for the Confederates, these homemade bombs didn't send shrapnel flying when they went off as the lead was so soft, it just split or blew out the ends of the pipe.
He had one of the pipe bombs on display.
He found a six-pound cannonball and a 36-caliber solid silver pistol ball at the battlefield.
He also found two-pound mini-cannon balls at the site, which were fired from a Woodruff cannon. The history books say that gun was used at Pilot Knob, Baton Rouge, La., and Helena, Ark., and were never used this far north.
It was never an effective weapon.
But he says he's found more at campsites than he ever found at battlefields.
"I want to share their happy days," he said. "I'm more interested in the personal life of a soldier than in the battles."
During the Civil War era, German immigrants were building a new railroad line through Sedalia, but as they got the line built, the Confederate Army or Partisan Rangers would ride in and tear up the track. So the Union Army sent the 6th Iowa regiment to Sedalia to guard the construction.
"A lot of these relics belonged to the 6th Iowa regiment," he said. "I was the fist one in that camp with a metal detector."
The wives of the men building the railroad thought they would do something nice for these soldiers and so they made them pies.
That kind gesture led to the camp being named "Camp Sole Leather Pie."
When Bruce would find something at the camp, he would mark that spot with a little orange flag. At the end of the day, he could stand back and look out over where all the flags were and he could tell exactly how the camp was laid out.
It was at this campsite where he found a token or medallion that had Abraham Lincoln and the year 1860 on one side and Hannibal Hamlin on the other side. A hundred years after a Civil War soldier lost it; Bartlett found the Lincoln presidential campaign medallion. He also found an 1861 half-dime near the medallion.
Hamlin was Lincoln's first vice-president and Lincoln never cared for him. While he was vice-president, Hamlin enlisted in the Union Army and served as a private.
Soldiers were paid in gold and silver coins and Bartlett imagined these young soldiers getting paid by the paymaster, putting their money in their pockets and walking back to their tents. Like all young boys, they had holes in their pockets and lost money as they walked along.
He also used his metal detector at the Lamine River Railroad Bridge Crossing at Otterville where over 100,000 troops were billeted to protect the railroads.
The Otterville Civil War entrenchment was constructed during the winter of 1861-1862.
He did so much research there that the local historical society called upon him to unveil the monument placed at the battle site.
He found an 1851 gold dollar that Jane wears on a necklace.
At the Otterville site he found US belt buckles, a lot of harmonica reeds, a juice harp, woodcarvings, uniform and cap insignias (crossed sabers, company letters, bugles), and musket balls flattened out and formed into poker chips.
He's also found a horse bit, cannon fragments, a surgeon's knife, and medicine balls.
More than 1000 different types of bullets were used in the Civil War.
One of his rarest finds was a Confederate belt buckle as most Confederate soldiers went to battle wearing the clothes they wore when they left their homes and were never issued uniforms.
The Civil War is a subject of enduring interest and Bartlett says that history has no ending.
"You keep going back and going back . . . . . . . "
+The Bartletts gave the quarterly program at the August 11 meeting of the Ray County Historical Society