One of Larry Horton’s display boxes with assorted Civil War bullets, sword scabbard tips, buttons, buckles, and more

Tips for Finding More Civil War Relics

Arkansas paramedic and author advises on research methodologies and top technologies

Chicago, IL (August 4, 2022) – Larry Horton started his metal-detecting hobby many years ago at age 12. Like many youngsters back in the day, he saved his money and purchased his first machine from a then-popular electronics chain retailer. He was interested in history and hoped his inexpensive detector would help him discover items from the past.

As Horton’s detecting experience grew, so did the expectations he had for his equipment. “A friend of mine had a Minelab Explorer which was almost new and he wasn’t using it,” he recalls. “He told me he was interested in selling it, and I got a great deal on it. It was a great detector at the time and improved my results.”

He began hunting yards and enjoyed finding all the usual stuff, including toy cars, coins, jewelry, and more. Horton got the Civil War relic bug by hunting some of the old sites between his Arkansas home and the Pea Ridge battlefield, which was considered the most pivotal Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River. Once he started finding relics, he became completely hooked on the hobby. This was the history he had been seeking since he first picked up a metal detector.

Civil War round balls and shell fragments

As advances in metal-detecting technology continued, Horton decided it was time for another upgrade. He purchased a Minelab CTX 3030. “I switched to the CTX because I don’t have many other hobbies and I wanted to have the best,” Horton says. “I like the pinpoint feature and the excellent target separation. Also, the built-in GPS, which I use pretty frequently, is nearly a must have for relic hunting in large areas.”

Minelab’s CTX 3030 is widely considered to be the ultimate high-performance treasure detector

Aside from hunting with the best available technology, Horton says finding relics begins with locating productive Civil War sites to detect, which requires effort and research. “I research all available materials to find these sites including old maps, Historic Aerials, the War of the Rebellion series and first-hand accounts,” he offers. “Then, I use a lot of common-sense examination of the sites themselves. I hunt everything which looks plausible for relics, based on my research, mostly hunting fields.”

Horton also does some research in old newspapers, which often include maps. “A lot of those maps are often not very accurate, but if they can be corroborated with other sources, they sometimes contain a lot of pertinent data,” he says. Books can be another great source of information, especially those written by knowledgeable authors like Horton himself, who has undergraduate degrees in History and Anthropology and a Masters’ degree in History. His book, History of Bentonville, Arkansas: From Wilderness to Wal-Mart, is about the history of Bentonville, Arkansas and contains many passages about the Civil War because it’s such a vital part of the community and how it formed.

1853 seated half dollar found in Civil War campsite

Tips from any expert should always be listened to. When Horton offers advice to other detectorists, they can lead to some great finds. “I often find existing accounts of an area to be incorrect,” he advises. “But, when you find items in the ground, you can start to put the puzzle back together. If you find several bullets in one spot, they were likely dropped along a trail or in camp. When I find a relic, I hunt a 20 foot radius around that spot. If I find another bullet or artifact it often suggests a line of travel.”

Horton also mentions that it can be helpful to think like a soldier. Where would you hide? Where is the closest water? What would make a good campsite? If you are searching an old homestead or house site, where would a kid hide or play? A garden would see a lot of activity and would make a good detecting site. Where was the garden likely located? He also says old coins are often found beneath clothesline locations where they fell out of a pocket while hanging on the line.

1858-O trime

Horton is happy to mention some of his better finds. His most prized coins include an 1858-O half dollar, an 1853 three cent piece (also called a trime), and a 1767 Spanish Reale. He has also unearthed a CSA Louisiana coat button from the 3rd Louisiana Infantry, the only LA unit in his area. He has detected 3/4 of a CSA pewter buckle and a CSA Bormann fuse. His collection includes numerous bullets, buckles, USA buttons, flat buttons dating back to the 1820’s, sword pommel tips and much more.

Horton usually hunts alone. “My friend who used to detect with me has since passed away,” says Horton, who doesn’t participate in seeded hunts. “I’ve heard they are a lot of fun, but I stay too busy to be able to take the time to do it.” Indeed, Horton is a busy man. “I retired from the local fire department in 2016 as a deputy chief and I now work as a ground and flight paramedic. I also own my own real estate company, so I can only detect a few days a week.”

When Horton does get out with his detector, he tries to hunt the fields before the grass gets too high. “It makes targets easier to dig and I don’t often have problems with snakes,” he offers. “If one detects slow enough – as you ought to – though, they’ll usually hear you coming and scoot away.”

Assorted shell fragments, canister shot, and more Civil War relics

If you want to discover more about Horton, his finds, or learn more tips for becoming a better relic hunter, join the Arkansas History Unearthed Facebook group.

Story by Rich Creason




Minelab is an Australian, multi-award-winning business that has successfully scaled world markets to command global leadership in its key areas of operation. Based in Mawson Lakes, South Australia, with regional offices in Cork, Ireland; Dubai, UAE; Monterrey, Mexico; Itajai, Brazil; and Chicago, U.S.A., the company specializes in advanced electronic technologies. Since its origins in 1985, Minelab has been the world leader in providing metal-detecting technologies for gold prospecting, treasure hunting and landmine clearance. Through devotion to research and development and innovative design, Minelab is today the major world manufacturer of handheld metal detector products. Over the past 30 years, Minelab has introduced more innovative and practical technology than any of its competitors and has taken the metal detecting industry to new levels of excellence. Minelab is a Codan Limited company (ASX: “CDA”). To learn more about Minelab, visit


Josh Lantz

Traditions Media