Meet Kenny Sink

by Daniel Russ on December 26, 2009

Kenny Sink, Art Director, Civil War Relic Hunter and Afficionado

Kenny Sink is a well known, highly feted art director in the advertising industry. As native of Virginia, he took a keen interest in Civil War history and battlefields.  Sometime this week he will become a contributor here and post stories about that incredible event in US history.  Here is his first piece on finding something of value over a century old.

“The first time I picked up a metal detector was in the fall of  1973. I was told everything had already been found. Judging by what I found using an old Metrotech machine that I’d rent for $5 per day, I began to believe that was true.

 

After seeing the movie “Johnnie Shiloh” as a child, I was fascinated by the American Civil War. Here was a war where everyone was brave, both sides were right, and people heroically died without bleeding.

 

I was the only one of three brothers who really cared to read about history. Our parents would take us on day trips to places like New Market Battlefield, Lexington where Lee and Jackson were buried, Appomattox Court House and others. I couldn’t get enough of it. I think I actually could see the soldiers charging across the fields, cannons blazing, and men falling (without bleeding, of course).

 

When I decided to attend college in Richmond, I knew I’d have every weekend planned. Not doing schoolwork, but visiting battlefields. I didn’t have a car, and didn’t know the area. I would take a map, draw a straight line from the school to whatever site I wanted to visit, and take off walking. Unfortunately, I found myself crossing through some neighborhoods that I had no business in, and I was told that in not-so-friendly terms.

 

Eventually I met a guy who not only had the same interests as I, but he had a car. And a metal detector. We found a farmer at Cold Harbor Battlefield who let us hunt his property, but of course, he told us it had all been found. I started renting the Metrotech and we’d go out there on weekends, returning with huge caches of 2 or 3 bullets.

 

I never gave up. I read about people finding shells, belt buckles, rifles, everything. It wasn’t happening for me, but if other people were finding it, I knew it was just a matter of time. Eventually, I realized it wasn’t me or where I was hunting, it was the machine. I saved every penny I could, which wasn’t easy living from paycheck to paycheck. I gradually saved the $400 I needed to buy a Nautilus metal detector, the machine those guys were using who were finding all the good stuff.

 

Twenty years later: 1990s. I have two rooms full of Civil War relics. I have dug shells, belt buckles, buttons, bullets, and most interestingly, 13 ID tags. Those ID tags were highly sought after by collectors. Not only are they rare items, they are relics that can be connected to an actual soldier. I had taken a lot of time researching these 13 soldiers, spent days at the National Archives in DC, and even taken a trip to Vermont in search of gravestones (and did find a few).

 

Eventually I had a new place to look for information on these guys- the Internet. One day I was on a website called “Vermont in the Civil War”. I already knew the basic information about my 13 soldiers that this site offered. But I saw where I could click on “Descendants”. I scrolled down through the comments of people who claimed some relation to many of these Vermont troops. Then I saw a name I recognized- Franklin Eno, Company C, Ninth Vermont Infantry. Eno used an alias during the war- Franklin Arno (don’t know why). Fortunately I made the connection, because there were often misspellings on ID tags, they were spelled the way they sounded. Next to his name was the descendant, great-great grandson Ralph Standring. I knew the right thing to do was to contact Ralph. I thought “What if someone contacted me one day and told me they had my ancestor’s ID tag from the Civil War”. I sent him an email.

 

My email started out “I think I have your ancestor’s Civil War ID tag”. It was dated August 19th, 2001.

 

Two days later I got a response. Ralph Standring, it turned out, was the family historian of sorts. If I was going to talk to someone in that family about the ID tag, I found the right guy. Ralph immediately told me where Frank was from, his aliases, where he mustered into service, he obviously had done his homework. I knew that Frank had survived the war, but after that I had no idea what became of him. Ralph did. Franklin Eno had lived out his life in Vermont, and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetary in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

 

Ralph and I had several informative exchanges regarding his g-g-grandfather. Eventually I told him that if he would come down to Richmond from his state of Massachusetts, the ID tag was his.

 

Ralph was thrilled. We agreed to meet at my home on September 16th, 2001.

 

Unfortunately, the biggest event of that week wasn’t me handing over an ID tag to a descendant. It was the cowardly murder of three thousand innocent people in New York City. It seemed ironic to me that Ralph was reconnecting with his family at the same time so many people were losing theirs.

 

9/11 took much of the excitement out of what happened that Sunday. Ralph and his wife arrived in the morning, and I went outside to meet them. They were a very kind couple, full of anticipation. I had taken the tag and mounted it in a small mahogany case. When I handed it to him, I think we were both close to tears. I was really, really happy to hand this over to him. I don’t think there could have been a more grateful person than Ralph. I later had them follow me to the spot where I had found the tag.

 

A few weeks later, Ralph called me and told me he had called his elderly great aunt in Texas and told her about the ID tag. As it turned out, she had met Franklin Eno as a child. She cried.

 

I never thought I’d feel so good about making an old lady cry.”

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Federal Firearms License October 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm

If you’re going to get schizo tech, you’ll have to explain why there’s schizo tech. Is one nation insanely more advanced and the other’s never encountered modern weaponry before? Did someone discover them with access to time machines? Are they a brand new invention, and if so, how did they jump from longbow to gatiling gun without so much as a repeating crossbow in between? (Yes, ancient China had those. The Chinese were pretty badass like that.) Why hasn’t the old technology been put aside if it clearly doesn’t work? (Actually, slower ammo can do more damage if it only penetrates armor once. Suit of armor + pinball = gory.) What other counters to the newer tech are in place?

Flora Lourentzos February 7, 2011 at 3:50 pm

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Daniel Russ February 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Happy to have any new hits.

Sherrill R Sink " Chip" May 30, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Kenny, my family is originally from Roanoke , Virginia. In Bass Virginia, my cousin told me there was a archive of civil war material. I am going to visit it in September of this year. i am currently working in Uzbekistan as a contractor. I retired from the Army in June 2005 just after leaving Iraq. Anyone with the same last name as mine is always a curiosity to me. i beleive our name originated in Germany. I currently live in Jacksonville, Florida. I have always thought it would be fun to look for civil war artifacts. Maybe i will get a metal detector. Take care Kenny.

Chip

Daniel Russ June 1, 2011 at 8:37 am

I talked to Kenny yesterday. He will reach out to you soon. Thanks for the visit.

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