Just days before the area's major commemorative events linked to Memorial Day, the National Park Service has announced that Virginia's Petersburg National Battlefield is an "active crime scene," reports CNN. "Earlier this week, one of the park employees was out doing landscape work and noticed some things were out of place," says park spokesman Chris Bryce, and looting is suspected. The park stretches over 2,700 acres just south of Richmond, and holes several inches deep were discovered in places where the soil had been untouched. Though park officials have yet to detail the types of items targeted or even whether anything was taken, Bryce notes that the looters "likely would have used a metal detector and a digging tool" and "probably did research" on the Civil War.
The siege of Petersburg was the war's "longest military event," dragging on for nine months between 1864 and 1865 and resulting in the loss of some 70,000 lives. Digging at such locations in search of items from the Civil War—uniform buttons and rifle parts do find their way onto online auction sites—violates the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, reports NBC Washington. The crime can carry a $20,000 fine and up to two years in prison. Bryce says that while the battlefield will remain open to visitors during the Memorial Day weekend, a portion will be off limits as the investigation is under way. He says that the act "took us by surprise" at a time when "we should reflect on sacrifices made." (See how high school students gave Civil War veterans their identity back.)