When I stopped at Jamestown, Virginia over the weekend, I expected to find Pocahontas—but to my surprise, I found Fort Pocahontas, too.
Just outside the Jamestown colony’s original triangle fort, to the west of the rebuilt palisade, a line of Confederate earthworks runs in a semicircle. It’s all that’s left of Fort Pocahontas, one of two remaining sets of earthworks still visible to the public. (The other, called the Square Redoubt, is located toward the center of the island).
The earthworks were constructed in 1861 as part of the defense system for Richmond. Confederates saw the island as an easy-to-defend position that would allow them to control traffic on the river—much the same way the original Jamestown settlers saw it.
Confederates held the position with some 1,200 men through early May, 1862. Then, when Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston evacuated the army’s positions in Yorktown, the Jamestown garrison also withdrew, and George B. McClellan’s Federal army finally swept through.
The positions around Jamestown played minor roles for the rest of the war. Most importantly, it served as a place for escaped slaves to rendezvous; the U.S. Navy frequently shuttled them off the island to freedom.
Jamestown’s Civil War history often gets completely overlooked in favor of the central role the area played in early colonial life. Understandably so. That’s all the more reason my hat is off to Colonial National Park: Thanks for preserving this little vestige of Civil War history.
For more on Jamestown’s Civil War history, check out the park’s page “Jamestown During the Civil War.”