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    Fort McCoy ArtiFACTs: Old Camp McCoy metal detecting finds during 2022 archaeological survey

    Fort McCoy ArtiFACTs: Old Camp McCoy metal detecting finds during 2022 archaeological survey

    Courtesy Photo | Artifacts found by the Fort McCoy archaeology team members with the Colorado State...... read more read more

    During a 2022 archaeological survey in July 2022 at nearly century-old concrete tent pads on South Post at Fort McCoy, the installation's archaeological team found dozens and dozens of artifacts through metal detecting.

    Following is a review of some of the items found during the survey at the area some call "old Camp McCoy."

    Three wheat pennies were recovered from old Camp McCoy while metal detecting near the concrete tent pads dating to 1912, 1918, and 1926, as well as one 1923 Mercury dime.

    Wheat pennies were produced from 1909 to 1958, and first issued on Aug. 2, 1909, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.
    The term wheat penny was coined from the design on the reverse or “tails” side of the coin which features a stalk of durum wheat on each side and the phrases “ONE CENT” and “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” in between the wheat. The top of the coin has the Latin phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” which means “out of 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 the coin was produced.

    Wheat pennies were made of bronze (95 percent copper and 5 percent tin and zinc) until 1943 when the composition changed to zinc-plated steel as a result of needing copper for other purposes during World War II.

    The zinc-plated steel created silver-colored coins, which were confused for dimes, so a year later the composition changed to brass (95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc).

    The brass wheat pennies were produced by melting down used bullet casings until 1946 when they switched back to the original metal composition for wheat pennies. They are 0.75 inches in diameter and about 0.06 inches thick. The metal composition dictates the weight of a wheat penny with those that are mostly copper weighing about 0.11 ounces and those that are mostly steel weighing about 0.10 ounces.

    Mercury dimes were produced from 1916 to 1945, and first released into circulation 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 liberty of thought with the phrase “IN GOD WE TRUST,” the word “LIBERTY,” and the year the coin was produced. The depiction of Liberty was commonly confused for Mercury, the Roman god of messengers, hence the nickname Mercury dime.

    The reverse or “tails” side of the coin depicts a Roman fasces (a battle ax bound within 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,” and the Latin phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” which means “out of many, one” are also found on the reverse side of the coin.

    Mercury dimes are composed of 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. They are 0.71 inches in diameter and 0.05 inches thick. Mercury dimes weigh 0.09 ounces.

    World War I tent rope tensioner device
    Six tent rope tensioner devices, also known as a metal tent slips, were recovered from the site. The tent slip, invented by H.B. Thompson, was patented on November 30, 1880 (Patent No. 234,896) and adopted for Army use by the Quartermaster General’s Office of the War Department on January 5, 1889. They were used by the U.S. Army from the 1880s through at least World War I (WWI).

    A document from the Quartermaster General’s Office of the War Department titled, “Specifications for Metal Tent Slips” provides details for the three sizes of tent rope tensioners (No. 1, No. 2, No. 3) used by the U.S. Army at the time. These specifications dictated that tent rope tensioners were to be constructed of red brass (consisting of copper and tin).

    They were to be semi-tubular in form, except at one end, which was to be covered. All the tent rope tensioners recovered from the recent investigations are size No. 3. They measure 3 inches long with two holes 9/16th of an inch in diameter for receiving rope and weigh 1.11 ounces.

    Captain, lieutenant bars
    Military rank is a badge of honor and leadership; not just a means of knowing who salutes whom. As one advances through the ranks, their 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 second lieutenant.

    Insignia bars are worn by commissioned ranked officers who hold presidential commissions, and their ranks are confirmed by the Senate.
    The captain bar consists of two vertical silver bars attached to each other by two thin horizontal silver bars and is a little over an inch squared with a weight of 0.34 ounces.

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

    Decades of archaeology work at Fort McCoy has generated hundreds of thousands of artifacts — some of which are displayed at the Fort McCoy History Center, building 902, in the Commemorative Area. Others are cared for by the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

    Learn more about Fort McCoy online at, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”

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

    (Article prepared by Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch and the Colorado State University’s Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands.)



    Date Taken: 08.26.2022
    Date Posted: 08.26.2022 13:46
    Story ID: 428134
    Location: FORT MCCOY, WI, US 

    Web Views: 103
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