Metal Detector Survey near the Philippi Battle (Philippi Races), Philippi, West Virginia

OVAI conducted a metal detector survey on a 3.7-acre parcel on the north side of the Town of Philippi, Barbour County, West Virginia, which is the location of the so-called first land battle of the Civil War–known as the Philippi Battle or Philippi Races.

The Philippi Battle consisted of a Union advance on a small force of poorly armed Confederate troops camped on either side of the Philippi Covered Bridge, which is located approximately 600 meters west of our survey area.  The military advance occurred during the middle of the night on June 3, 1861 during a torrential rain storm.  Our survey area was located along the avenue of approach used by the Union forces that advanced on the town from the east along Route 24 (Pike Street).  Despite strategic errors, the Union forces managed to catch the Confederate camps by surprise.  The Confederates immediately fled after a brief skirmish, which resulted in a small number of casualties.  Overall, the battle was short-lived and, despite being touted as a major Union Victory at the time, many of the veterans afterwards claimed that there was never an actual battle (Carnes, E. M., Tygarts Valley Line.  McClain Printing Company, Parsons West Virginia 2003).



This image (left) illustrates the Union advance from the north and east and Confederate retreat to the south and west.   Colonial Kelley’s northernmost route passes around our survey area.



The image below is a USGS topographic map showing our survey area relative to the Union and Confederate troop positions.



Metal Detector Survey

Our metal detector survey within the 3.7-acre Philippi project area was conducted by walking parallel transects spaced at 5-meter intervals.  Each detected artifact was mapped using a GPS unit.  The image below is an illustration of the survey area showing the locations of 94 metal objects detected from our survey.  Most are modern objects found adjacent the roadway or fencing material (wire and nails).  The two most exciting finds are the Civil War-era bullets show below. These likely were related to the Philippi Battle.



Civil War-era Bullets from the Philippi Survey


Philippi Bullet #1

Caliber:                        0.58 cal.
Diameter:                    0.5775 inches
Weight:                       30.6 grams
Number of Rings:       3
Condition:                   Fired




Philippi Bullet #2

Caliber:                        0.52 cal./0.56 cal
Diameter:                    0.5775 inches
Weight:                       21.9  grams
Number of Rings:       2
Condition:                   Fired