Ayers said his archeology team found about 1,100 shell casings and about 35 spent bullets that had lodged in trees or other areas. He said 27 of those spent bullets were found at a new battle site about a mile north of Crooked Creek Gap where a breakthrough had happened for the miners.
"In order for there to be spent bullets there, it has to be a hot firefight. It had to be close -- almost hand-to-hand -- for people to get those bullets up there," Ayers said. "There was something really going on there that the history books haven't recorded."
Ayers said he didn't get paid to do the archeology on the site. He said he actually spent his own money to travel and stay in West Virginia in 2006.
"There are so many secrets still to be found of the Battle of Blair Mountain that we ought to do a whole lot more archeology to find out those secrets,"
Ayers said. "The only way we really have the time to do it is if we have years and years and years to do the research and carefully check everything out. I think we'd find some amazing things."
March organizer Chuch Keeney, a Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College professor, said the event is being held primarily to preserve Blair Mountain.
He said he doesn't ever see a compromise that can be reached on Blair Mountain between the coal companies and environmentalists.
"This specific march is about not letting them strip mine Blair Mountain, because it is so important to our local history and to national history," Keeney said. "(The coal companies) can mine all of the land under Blair Mountain. Underground mining creates twice as many jobs as surface mining. The biggest thing that those who oppose us are saying is that we are trying to destroy jobs, but the fact of the matter is if they save Blair Mountain and underground mine it, it creates twice as many jobs, so that's a bad argument."
Keeney said the town of Blair has been supportive of the environmentalists' efforts to save the battleground site. He said, though, that the marchers may meet some opposition along the way to the site. As marchers ate lunch, people drove by in vehicles yelling. One person drove by in a car blowing its horn and sticking his middle finger up at the group. West Virginia State Police troopers sat nearby keeping watch so that the march didn't turn ugly.
"The town of Blair is incredibly supportive," Keeney said. "We will be marching through Madison and marching through Danville and we may meet with some unpleasantries there, but we are prepared for that. We're not going to respond in kind. People may choose to be ugly and behave ugly to us, but we're not going to respond with that. That's not what we're about. We're not going to chain ourselves to any trees or anything like that. We're very organized and coordinated to make sure that that kind of behavior is not tolerated among us."
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(c) 2011, The Logan Banner, W.Va.
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