Televison history buffs dig Black Jack Battlefield

Abolitionist John Brown, played by Kerry Altenbernd, of Lawrence, walks away after giving a guided tour commemorating the 156th anniversary of the Battle of Black Jack at the Black Jack Battlefield Saturday, June 2, 2012 east of Baldwin City.

Last fall, Black Jack Battlefield, just east of Baldwin City, was declared a National Historic Landmark. This summer it’s received what Kerry Altenbernd, the vice president of the Black Jack Battlefield Trust, says is the first perk of the designation.

“Diggers,” a television show produced for National Geographic Channel, visited the site where the North and South had their first battle over slavery during the Civil War. “King George” Wyant and Tim “The Ringmaster” Saylor are explorers and history buffs who travel the United States using metal detectors to search historical terrain for any items that may be connected with the original historic event. The two work with an archeologist or local historian at each site they visit to help identify what they’re finding and if it has any value.

Black Jack Battlefield’s National Historic Landmark designation is what put the site on the radar of the show.

“We are thrilled that a nationally known program like this chose us as a site because this can do nothing but help increase the public’s knowledge of the Battle of Black Jack,” Altenbernd says.

When first contacted about hosting the show on the site, Altenbernd says he and others at Black Jack were hesitant, but after researching, watching a few episodes of the show and seeing that the men wanted to act as a resource for Black Jack, they decided appearing on “Diggers” was a great opportunity.

“They’re not in it for the glory; they’re actually dedicated to helping out the sites they come to,” Altenbernd says. “That’s when we decided to go ahead with it.”

Wyant and Saylor use metal detectors to scan and mark an area. After something is detected, the two may decide to dig up the item. After it is uncovered, the archeologist analyzes the artifact and determines if it’s an actual piece of history and its value. It is then given back to the historic site’s trust.

“Diggers: Bleeding Kansas” is scheduled to air at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 14 on the National Geographic Channel, and will feature other Kansas sites related to the Civil War. Altenbernd hopes local residents will tune in to find out if any goods were discovered on Black Jack Battlefield.

“I can’t say if they did or didn’t find anything, but I was extremely pleased and surprised by the outcome,” Altenbernd says.

If the explorers did find any artifacts from the Battle of Black Jack, the site would be in possession of those items and will likely have a celebration or display of them in the future.