Recent Investigations at Fort Huger

Archaeological Artifact from Fort Huger - edgeware

Edgeware plate recovered at Fort Huger

In 1967, the fort was identified by a land surveyor who reported on it to W. Thomas Smith of the Hardy District of the county offices.  Smith subsequently researched the fort and submitted an article about it to the Archaeological Society of Virginia Bulletin.  Smith described the fort in detail but stated that “…only a handful of bullets have been found, and these evidently dropped, as the rifling marks are absent” (Smith 1971).  Presumably he is describing finds by collectors using metal detectors.  He goes on to speculate that so few artifacts have been recovered due to the overall frugality of the Confederate soldiers who had very limited supplies of ammunition (Smith 1971).

The fort was recorded as an historic resource in 1977; however, the site form placed the fort nearly 1.0 mile south of its actual location.  The mapped location was at the end of a paved road that terminates at the edge of a bluff that has slumped into the James River.  For this reason, attempts to relocate the fort using the map on file with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) were unsuccessful and resulted in the determination that the fort had eroded into the James River.  The fort’s true location, however, was apparently known to local residents and collectors.

Archaeological Artifact from Fort Huger - porcelain lid top

Porcelain lid top recovered at Fort Huger

In 2004, ACC conducted an archaeological survey of the Lawnes Point Development Tract in Isle of Wight County, Virginia.  This investigation included in-depth archival research and interviews with local residents.  The fort was subsequently “rediscovered” by comparing numerous historic maps to modern maps and the statements of informants.  The fort location was then confirmed in the field.  The developers of the Lawnes Point tract, recognizing the significance of the fort in local and national history, deeded the land on which the fort sits to Isle of Wight County so that its preservation could be insured.  It is well-preserved and most of the fort features are still discernable.
In addition to the fort, a number archaeological sites were identified within the Lawnes Point Development tract.  Among them was site 44IW0204.  Twenty-five shovel tests were excavated within the site vicinity.  A few shovel tests were also excavated in some of the twelve debris piles identified within the site.  The debris piles contained brick and stone and often had these materials present on the surface.  Dimensions of the site measured approximately 50 by 100 meters and were based on the distribution of positive shovel tests and debris mounds.

Archaeological Artifact from Fort Huger - nails

Cut nails recovered at Fort Huger

Artifacts recovered from 44IW0204 during the survey included several pieces of bottle glass, unidentified pieces of metal, and eight cut nails.  Brick fragments and some fragmentary mammal and bird bones were also recovered.  One shovel test yielded 34 pieces of ginger beer bottle stoneware.  The recovered artifacts all have manufacturing dates that could place the occupation of the site to the Civil War.  Civil War documents relating to Fort Huger noted the presence of an encampment near Fort Huger.  Based on the age of the artifacts and the Civil War documents, it was believed that this site represented the Confederate encampment associated with Fort Huger.

The developers of the Lawnes Point tract deeded the land containing the encampment to Isle of Wight County for the creation of a public park.  Due to space constraints, the proposed parking lot for the park will encroached slightly on the extreme northern end of site 44IW0204.  Limited data recovery excavations were conducted within the parking lot area to mitigate disturbance.  The investigations were sponsored by Isle of Wight County.  The majority of site 44IW0204, located south of the parking lot area, will be preserved in place.

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