The level of Civil War action that took place in and around Clarke County, Virginia makes our area a popular place for metal detector hobbyists. But even with the abundance of battlefields, camps and skirmish sites nearby, many metal detection enthusiasts spend years searching for that one “big find” only to be forced to settle for finding relatively common artifacts like lead bullets or scattershot from exploded cannonballs. This was not the case for seven-year-old Berryville, Virginia resident Lucas Hall however. Hall and his father Gary hit the Civil War jackpot last week by finding a battle sword after just four outings with a metal detector Lucas received for his seventh birthday.
The smile on the first grader’s face really says it all; How does it feel to be seven years old and hold a genuine Civil War sabre that you dug up just down the road from your house?
“Really cool!” Lucas says with a grin.
Like most kids his age, Lucas didn’t know much about the Civil War until his neighbor, Travis Reuling, began showing Lucas items that Reuling had found while metal detecting at sites in and around Clarke County. Reuling gave Lucas a couple of Civil War-vintage bullets and that was all it took for Lucas to catch the metal detecting bug. Lucas asked his mother, Tina, for a metal detector for his seventh birthday and his mother agreed, but only after discussing the matter with her husband.
“I wanted to buy Lucas something fancier but his mom suggested buying a basic model to see if he really liked the hobby” Gary Hall said. The couple opted to purchase an inexpensive model Ace 150 made by Garrett Metal Detectors for their son. The Ace 150 is the company’s introductory-level product.
In Lucas’s experience, “price” and “performance” don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. Displaying his collection of artifacts found over just two weeks with his new device will likely persuade others to agree. In addition to the sword, so far Lucas has also found a bridle chain, cannonball fragments and shot, a metal cow tag, several hand-held devices used to clean horse’s hooves and a heavy metal object with the letters “DS” forged on the side.
While the Civil War saber is by far the most sensational item that Lucas has found, each of the other items appear to have made an equally significant impact on the seven-year-old’s imagination. When asked what he would like to be when he grows up, there is no hesitation in the answer. Lucas’s eyes immediately dart to the kitchen table where his treasures are displayed.
“A treasure hunter!” Lucas says with pride.
The sword that Lucas and his father found is severally rusted after lying beneath the soil for the last 150 years. It is also missing nearly a foot or so of the blade tip. But the real value of Lucas’s find may be in the impact that it has had on him and his entire family.
Lucas and his sister, nine-year-old Samantha, are both home schooled and mother Tina used the newly unearthed relic to launch a series of Civil War history lessons for the two children. “All day Wednesday we studied about the Civil War” Tina Hall said. “Then on Thursday we went to the old Courthouse Museum in Winchester and showed all of our artifacts to the curator.” Tina and children also took along some small, unidentified scraps of metal that had been found by Samantha.
“The curator said that the small metal scraps were parts from a harmonica” Tina Hall said. “So one thing that we learned is to never throw anything that you find away!”
News of Lucas’s unusual find has quickly spread beyond Clarke County.
“The first thing that Lucas wanted to do was to call his brother Travis at college and tell him about it” Gary Hall said. When asked what he thought about his younger brother finding the Civil War relic Travis Hall responded “I was blown away! I never would have believed that something like that could have happened!”
Word next spread to Texas. Upon learning of the discovery made while using its device, manufacturer Garrett Electronics in Garland, Texas decided to ship Lucas a complimentary gift of its next higher model of metal detector. (Lucas says that when the new device arrives he plans to give his current metal detector to his sister Samantha to use.) The company also alerted an author of metal detecting books who plans to include Lucas’s story in an upcoming publication.
Lucas’s dad Gary has also been inspired by the sword find and has found himself thinking more about Civil War than he has ever done in the past.
“I’ve lived in Clarke County for nine years and never spent much time thinking about history” Gary Hall said. “But using a $100 dollar metal detector to uncover history like this is worth every penny.”