One of the nation’s leading battlefield archaeologists has gone in search of the people who fought Missouri’s first Civil War battle.
About a dozen people have spent three days, often walking slowly through weedy farm fields, heads down, listening intently to the sounds their metal detectors make near Boonville, the site of the third land battle of the Civil War. The more famous Battle of Bull Run would not be fought until a month later. .
Leading the search for bullets, buckshot, buttons…pieces of cannonballs…is archaeologist Doug Scott, who is best known for his work at the Little Big Horn that re-defined the understanding of that historic battle. He also is well-known in archaeological circles for his work at two other battlefields important to Missouri’s Civil war–Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge. Near Boonville he’s looking for clusters of little things that will define where the battle lines were….
He says all of the little pieces put together can build a pattern of where the battle lines were and where the firing occurred. "It’s all fun. The process of discovery is so exciting," he says. Unlike many other sites Scott worked, this one has plenty of survivors who wrote letters and reports. He says reading those records are like detectives interviewing witnesses who often have different points of view. He says archaeology is the forensic science that gives accuracy to the eyewitness accounts of a battle the Union referred to as the "Boonville Races" because of the speed of the retreat by the southern-leaning state troops.
He says it will be several months before his full report is back.