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Crime against history? Feds charge 5 with digging in battlefields
Five people charged with hunting for relics on Civil War battlefields in Spotsylvania County

 The Spotsylvania Court House battlefield was damaged.
FILE/REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 4/13/2007

BY BILL FREEHLING

Five people have been charged with illegal relic-hunting at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, and two pleaded guilty yesterday.

Park Superintendent Russell Smith said the five were all caught digging and using metal detectors on the federal land. He said they dug up artifacts, including Civil War bullets.

Smith said the bullets themselves aren't of great value, but the digging left numerous holes in the park's earthworks.

"They have destroyed the context of understanding that portion of the battlefield," said Smith.

On March 11, according to a National Park Service news release, a park ranger saw three men digging for relics at the Spotsylvania battlefield. They were caught leaving the park. Their equipment and the relics they got were seized.

National Park Service authorities along with the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office later searched the homes of two of the men.

Fenton E. Terembes Jr., Jeremy L. Burroughs and Vincent E. Williams, all of Spotsylvania, were charged last week with felony violations of the Archeological Resource Protection Act, according to the news release.

On March 17, two 16-year-olds were caught metal-detecting in the Hill-Ewell Drive area of Wilderness battlefield, according to the release. One lives in Orange County, and the other lives in Spotsylvania.

Both teens pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges yesterday in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, said Keith Kelly, chief ranger at the military park.

The boy who was described as the leader was sentenced to serve 200 hours of community service and pay about $2,000 in restitution, Kelly said. The other was fined $1,372 and given 150 hours of community service.

Smith said relic-hunting on national park land appears to be getting more common, perhaps because of private land being rapidly developed. He said it's most common in the spring, as the weather gets warmer and the grass is still short.

He said it's a federal crime to damage archaeological sites on or remove property from federal lands. It is illegal to collect or search for artifacts on federal land without permission.

People who violate those laws can be fined up to $250,000 and sentenced to two years in prison. Smith said the laws are posted around national parks.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5424
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com