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Pickett’s Mill, Georgia

Posted 10/07/2022

  On January 30, 2022, while at the Dalton, Georgia North Georgia Relic show, where I was selling my book on Flagstaff Finials that were used during the Civil War, I was approached by a man named David McNamara who had done some work previously at the Pickett’s Mill State Historic Site in Paulding County, Georgia as a volunteer.  A good conversation between David and myself was started regarding the finials on display on my table. It was then David began to tell me of an eagle flagstaff finial located at the Pickett’s Mill Park Library in New Hope, Georgia  that had been on display in the library for quit sometime as far as he knew. David believed, based on information he had learned, that the eagle in question was a reproduction that was donated to the museum by an unknown donor.  David agreed before leaving me to send me some pictures of the eagle the next time David was at the park. This didn’t mean much to me because I had been promised contact and pictures of finials at several shows by several individuals who never delivered. Knowing that if David didn’t come through, the location of eagle was known, and a follow up could be done at a later time.

  During the first or second week in February 2022, David made me a believer in those who  say, “I will send those pictures when I get back home.” David sent me several beautiful pictures of the eagle on display at the Pickett’s Mill park library.  There it was, no legs or feet. The globe the eagle had been standing on at one time was gone. A broken wing, a bent wing, standing on a very attractive wood stand that bore a brass tag on the stand that is engraved with the name and date of the battle of Pickett’s Mill. Close examination of the pictures sent to me by David made me believe that the eagle at Pickett’s Mill was the same as one in my personal collection, however, I am no expert on the eagle finials used in the war. I decided to call upon a friend who I consider an expert of sorts on the eagle finials, who lives in Lebanon, Illinois. Also with that first impression was the absolute feeling this eagle was no reproduction. The eagle is approximately six [6] inches tall and four [5] inches wide. On the stand, the eagle stand at nine[9] inches.

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  A telephone call was made by myself to Kyle Wilson of Lebanon, Illinois who helped me considerably on the eagle chapter of my book, [Flagstaff Finials, Toppers, & Ferrules of the American Civil War]. Kyle has examined hundreds of brass and hollow body eagles for several years, as well as researched the manufacturers. Kyle was sent the images furnished to me by David McNamara of the Pickett’s Mill eagle and the eagle in my collection that I thought might be a match. Kyle said it all. Kyle felt there was no doubt that the two eagles were the same manufacturer. Kyle also felt the eagle from Pickett’s Mill was a ground recovered piece and had probably been out of the ground for several years, and it was definitely not a reproduction. We both knew that it was going to be fun trying to unwind the Pickett’s Mill eagle story.

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  In the meantime,  feelers were put out to old time relic hunters that were known by me that lived in the Marietta, New Hope, and Kennesaw, Georgia area that might have some information about the Pickett’s Mill eagle. Gold appeared with the first inquiry. A old time Civil War relic hunter from Kennesaw who wished not to be identified, claimed to know the story on the Pickett’s Mill eagle. The person told me that a man named Hubert Rackley from New Hope, Georgia dug the eagle in the early 1960’s, and that Mr. Rackley himself told of the eagle recovery to this relic hunter. The person went on to tell me Mr. Rackley ran a grocery store about two miles from the battlefield at Pickett’s Mill and that Hubert told the person I was talking to that the eagle was recovered in a portion of the battlefield known as “the ravine.” The person I was communicating with also said Mr. Rackley had a beautiful collection of war period relics that Mr. Rackley allowed the New Hope, Georgia elementary school to display, but the collection, or portion of which, was stolen at the school. The person telling the story then said Mr. Rackley was a fine gentleman and a great relic digger. I knew I was on to something the same as I did when working for the State of Georgia.

  The day finally arrived when the meeting with the DNR personnel at Pickett’s Mill State Historic

site was to take place. At 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 24, 2022 a meeting with myself,  John Hoomes, Jeffery Wright, Judd Smith, and Josh Headlee, all of the DNR took place.  I brought along the flagstaff finial eagle in my collection as a comparison to the eagle at the mill. As we all began our examination of the Pickett’s Mill eagle, it was noted two legs and feet are missing as well as the globe the eagle stood on, however, someone did a great job making a temporary stand for the eagle that is mounted on a wood base. The detail of the recovered piece is very special with many dents and dings on the entire surface. I had the feeling almost immediately that the two people who had to be convinced the eagle was a ground recovery, and not a reproduction, were Mr. Smith and Headlee.  The two  were on board that the eagle was in fact a ground recovery, the problem was, was anyone going to believe the story relayed to me by the Kennesaw old time digger. The group then compared the eagle in my collection to the eagle at the mill. All believed the two eagles were from the same manufacturer. Decisions were made by the DNR personnel to take the eagle to Atlanta and begin the process of giving the eagle the proper identification numbers to place it in the DNR collection data base. I think all felt pretty good with the findings to date. The story I had received on the recovery of the eagle by Mr. Rackley was also relayed to everyone in the meeting.

  At 1:36 p.m. on Sunday, April 3, 2022, an email was received by me from Ranger Jeffrey Wright at Pickett's Mill State Park.  Ranger Wright notified me and others that on Friday April 1, 2022 a couple of old time relic hunters visited the park, and Ranger Hoomes quizzed the two regarding their possible knowledge of the Pickett Mill eagle. One of the gentlemen was Tommy Carter who lives just a short distant from the park. Tommy told the ranger that Tommy was  present when the eagle was recovered from the ground when he was nine years old, [long before the State of Georgia purchased the property and opened the park in the 1990’s]. Mr. Carter went on to say that Hubert Rackley was using the metal detector and that Mr. Carter was doing the digging. Mr. Carter said the eagle was recovered from the ground just a few days before the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. According to Ranger Wright, Mr. Carter then pointed out to the Rangers the approximate location in “the ravine” where the eagle was recovered. I was now close to cloud nine, wherever that is supposed to be.

  On Monday, April 4, 2022 at about 10:30 a.m., my curiosity got the best of me and could stand it no longer and I had to make a call to Mr. Tommy Carter.  Mr. Carter was a nice southern communicator and a jovial man. I told him who I was, and what I wanted to know. Mr. Carter invited me to ask anything I wanted to know about the eagle and how it was recovered. Mr. Carter told me that Hubert Rackley had married Mr. Carter’s cousin. Mr. Carter had gone with Hubert “hundreds” of times to dig relics for Mr. Rackley. Tommy told me that on the particular day the eagle was found, he and Hubert were in “the ravine” at Pickett’s Mill battlefield, digging relics about 10.00 a.m. Tommy said Hubert got a great signal with his metal detector and Tommy began to dig. Tommy said it became apparent the target was not just a run of the mill find. The brass of the eagle began to show, and Hubert told Tommy to be careful, and then Tommy started digging  the target with a spoon so as to not damage whatever it might be. Tommy said when the eagle was finally out of the ground, being a nine years old, he was very excited. Tommy said that Hubert Rackley took possession of the eagle for Hubert’s collection. Tommy was not sure what happened to the eagle, but is positive the eagle at the library at the Pickett’s Mill State park is the eagle he helped uncover in 1963. Tommy also knew of the theft of Mr. Rackley’s collection at the New Hope school but was not sure if the eagle was at the school when that theft occurred.

  My mind then turned to the boys of 1864 on that May day in Paulding County, Georgia. Who were the boys from the north stuck in that “ravine?” Where were they from, what regiments did they belong to? Who had that eagle found by Hubert Rackley and Tommy Carter mounted on their state or national colors flagstaff? What regiments were in the vicinity where the eagle was recovered? Who were their antagonist that May day? Where were they from? 

First, it should be noted the Confederates under Confederate General Patrick Cleburne held the high ground at the ravine with the Union trying to remove the foe from the top of the hill. There were at least two Union Divisions that participated in the attempted removal of the Confederates, that being William B. Hazen’s and William H. Gibson’s.

  First, it should be noted the Confederates under Confederate General Patrick Cleburne held the high ground at the ravine with the Union trying to remove the foe from the top of the hill. There were at least two Union Divisions that participated in the attempted removal of the Confederates, that being William B. Hazen’s and William H. Gibson’s.

  Hazen’s Division consisted of the 124th, 41st, and 93rd Ohio, 5th, 6th, and 23rd Kentucky, and the 6th Indiana. Gibson’s Division consisted of the 15th, and 49th Ohio, 32nd Indiana, 15th Wisconsin, and the 35th and 89th Illinois. These are the two primary Divisions that fought in the area where the eagle was recovered.

  I think the Wisconsin regiment can be eliminated due to the fact during my research on my book, Flagstaff’s Finials Toppers, and Ferrules of the American Civil War, I learned that no eagles were ordered or existed on any Wisconsin flagstaffs during the war. The same appeared to be so with Union Kentucky regiments. Indiana only has two war period finials that exist in the state archives, neither of which can be identified to a regiment, neither are eagles. Illinois has at least two eagles in their state archives, one being made of wood, the other is a Cairns and Brother New York eagle. Information on flagstaff  hardware orders for Illinois is very hard to locate.

  The state of Ohio has numerous eagles on various flags in their collections, however, the style eagle cannot be verified due several problems in communication with state authorities in Ohio. What is  known is several eagle finials have been verified and these pieces appear to have somewhat the same appearance as the eagle recovered at Pickett’s Mill. The known Ohio eagles have their heads turned to the left, while the eagle at Pickett’s Mill is looking right. The body of the eagles are almost identical. I realize it is only a guess, but if I were a betting man, I would bet that some Ohio regiment lost their eagle finial at the battle of Pickett’ Mill.


David McNamara, Georgia

Kyle Wilson, Lebanon, Illinois

John Hoomes, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Ranger, Pickett’s Mill State Park

Jeffery Wright, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Ranger, Pickett’s Mill State Park

Judd Smith, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Josh Headlee, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Tommy Carter, New Hope, Georgia



Jeffery Wright

John Hoomes

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