• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

DVIDS – News – Fort McCoy ArtiFACTs: Metal Detecting Discoveries at Former Camp McCoy During 2022 Archaeological Survey

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Aug 26, 2022

During a July 2022 archaeological survey of nearly century-old concrete tent pedestals on South Post at Fort McCoy, the facility’s archaeological team found dozens and dozens of artifacts through metal detection.

Here is a review of some of the items found during the investigation in the area that some call “Old Camp McCoy”.

Three wheat pennies were recovered from the former Camp McCoy during metal detecting near concrete tent slabs dating to 1912, 1918 and 1926, along with a mercury penny from 1923.

Wheat pennies were produced from 1909 to 1958 and first issued on August 2, 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.
The term wheat penny was coined from the design on the reverse of the coin which features a stalk of durum wheat on either side and the phrases “ONE CENT” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” between the wheat. The top of the coin bears the Latin phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, which means “over many, one”.
The obverse or “heads” side of the coin features a right-facing profile (head and shoulders) of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln with the phrase “IN GOD WE TRUST”, the word “LIBERTY” and the year of production of the piece. .

Wheat pennies were made of bronze (95% copper and 5% tin and zinc) until 1943, when the composition was changed to zinc-plated steel due to the need for copper to other purposes during World War II.

Zinc coated steel created silver coins, which were mistaken for dimes, so a year later the composition changed to brass (95% copper and 5% zinc).

Brass wheat pennies were produced by melting spent bullet casings until 1946 when they reverted to the original metal composition of wheat pennies. They measure 0.75 inches in diameter and about 0.06 inches thick. The composition of the metal dictates the weight of a wheat penny, with those that are mostly copper weighing around 0.11 ounces and those that are mostly steel weighing around 0.10 ounces.

Mercury dimes were produced from 1916 to 1945 and first issued on October 30, 1916. The obverse or “heads” side of the coin features a left-facing profile of Liberty wearing a cap with wings which symbolizes freedom or freedom of thought. with the phrase “IN GOD WE TRUST”, the word “LIBERTY” and the year of production of the coin. The depiction of Liberty was commonly confused with Mercury, the Roman god of messengers, hence the nickname Mercury dime.

The reverse or “tail” side of the coin depicts a Roman fasces (a battle ax tied in a group of rods) which symbolizes strength and unity, and is surrounded by an olive branch which signifies peace . The phrases “ONE DIME” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” as well as the Latin phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” which means “out of many, one,” are also found on the reverse of the coin.

Mercury dimes are 90% silver and 10% copper. They measure 0.71 inches in diameter and 0.05 inches thick. Dimes of mercury weigh 0.09 ounces.

WWI tent rope tensioner
Six tent rope tensioners, also known as metal tent wedges, were recovered from the site. The tent slip, invented by H.B. Thompson, was patented on November 30, 1880 (patent #234,896) and adopted for army use by the Office of the Quartermaster General of the War Department on January 5 1889. They were used by the US military from the 1880s through at least World War I (WWI).

A document from the Office of the Quartermaster General of the War Department titled “Specifications for Metal Tent Leaflets” provides details of the three sizes of tent rope tensioners (#1, #2, #3 ) used by the US military at the time. These specifications stated that tent rope turnbuckles should be constructed of red brass (composed of copper and tin).

They had to be semi-tubular in shape, except at one end which had to be covered. All of the tent rope tensioners recovered in recent surveys are size #3. They are 3 inches long with two 9/16th inch diameter holes to accommodate the rope and weigh 1.11 ounces.

Captain, Lieutenant Bars
Military rank is a badge of honor and leadership; not just a way to know who is greeting whom. As one progresses through the ranks, one’s level of responsibility increases.

Two military insignia or rank bars were recovered from the site during metal detecting activities, one for the rank of captain and the other most likely for that of second lieutenant.

Insignia bars are worn by ranked officers who hold presidential commissions, and their ranks are confirmed by the Senate.
The captain’s bar consists of two vertical silver bars attached to each other by two thin horizontal silver bars and measures just over one inch square with a weight of 0.34 ounces.

The second lieutenant bar is a gold (brass) bar that measures 3/8 inch by 1 inch and weighs 0.14 ounces. The second lieutenant wears a single gold bar, while a first lieutenant wears a single silver bar.

The lieutenant’s bar pictured here is most likely one that belonged to a second lieutenant as it is more tarnished, like other brass items found at the site, and does not have the silver look of the captain’s bar, so it’s probably not a bar signifying the rank of first lieutenant.

Decades of archaeological work at Fort McCoy has generated hundreds of thousands of artifacts, some of which are on display at the Fort McCoy History Center, Building 902, in the Memorial Area. Others are supported by the Mississippi Valley Center for Archeology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at https://www.dvidshub.net/fmpao, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy” and on Twitter by searching for “usagmccoy”.

Also try downloading the Digital Garrison app on your smartphone and set “Fort McCoy” or another facility as your preferred base.

(Prepared by Fort McCoy Division of Environment Public Works Branch, Natural Resources Branch, and Colorado State University Military Lands Environmental Management Center.)

Date taken: 26.08.2022
Date posted: 26.08.2022 13:46
Story ID: 428134
Location: FORT MCCOY, Wisconsin, USA

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