The Civil War was an important part of our country’s history, and many detectorists love to hunt for relics from that era to preserve history. In addition to doing your homework and researching prime sites where battles of the war were fought, you need to have the right equipment and the knowledge of what to hunt.

Have a Variety of Search Coils

You’ll find that in order to do a thorough search of Civil War sites you might need more than one size of search coil. Different sized coils have different purposes. Detectors usually come with a search coil that is between eight and ten inches, which is considered mid-sized. This size is great for general searching, but there are coils that are both smaller and larger than that.

When you use a larger coil (11-12 inch) you can cover more ground in less time. More importantly though, you’ll gain additional depth when you’re operating with larger coils.

That said, you shouldn’t always use a bigger coil. Smaller coils have benefits as well – especially if you are hunting in an area with a lot of trash. When the site is in a place where people have dropped lots of metal, a smaller coil will ensure that you don’t miss any relics that are being covered up by the junk surrounding them. 

Have the Right Shovels and Diggers

Civil War relics were buried a long time ago. That means that you will likely have to dig through all kinds of dirt to get to them. Some areas may be easy to dig, but some may be much harder. Make sure that you have some heavy-duty digging tools with you for when you encounter hard ground.

It’s also a good idea to have a shovel or trowel with a serrated edge. You’ll find that in some areas where Civil War battles took place, the landscape has changed dramatically. There may be full-grown, mature trees with extensive root systems where there once was an open landscape. Serrated-edged tools will help if you have to cut through those roots to find your targets.

Have a Pinpointer

This is a good rule of thumb for every search, not just when you’re looking for Civil War relics. A good pinpointer is an indispensable tool for metal detecting. It narrows down the exact location of your targets, cuts down on your digging time, and leaves smaller holes to fill in. If you purchase a submersible pinpointer, you will also be able to use it along the edges of creeks and streams, which you will undoubtedly run into when you’re looking for Civil War items. 

Where to Search for Civil War Relics

The key to finding Civil War relics is to go where the soldiers went. You’re going to have to do some research to locate prime spots. Comb through internet sites and books about the Civil War and pay attention to areas where soldiers followed trails or roads, where they set up camps, and where there were skirmishes or battle (even the small ones).


If you know any local historians, they are often even better sources than books and the internet. Just keep in mind that historians are protective of historical sites so you may have to reassure them that you will dig respectfully.

Also keep in mind that many Civil War battle sites prohibit metal detecting.  Don’t be overly concerned about it though, because soldiers weren’t always on protected battlefield sites like Gettysburg. There are several areas where engagements took place on private property, just remember to ask for permission before you hunt. Think like a soldier, use your resources, and you can find great spots to hunt and find the relics you’re looking for.