The City of Alexandria, Virginia, has recently completed three stages of an archaeological investigation at Fort Ward Park, located at 3601 West Braddock Road. The goal of the City’s work was to identify unmarked graves and cultural resources associated with Native American habitation of the area, an American Civil War fortification, and a post-Civil War African American community known as “The Fort,” that was present until the 1960s. During the more than two-year investigation, 43 graves were identified within the park, only three of which were marked by headstones. Significant findings include:
- Two of the marked graves contain the remains of Virginia Fitzhugh and W.E. Javins, both located in the area called the “Old Grave Yard.” This area also contained 15 additional unmarked graves.
- The marked grave of Clara Adams, who died in 1952, is surrounded by three other unmarked graves, which probably contain the remains of her husband, Robert Adams, and two other relatives.
- Amanda Clark, sister of Clara Adams, and Clark’s husband are also believed to be buried in unmarked graves found in proximity to the Adams burial sites.
- On the west side of Fort Ward, 20 unmarked graves were identified at the Jackson Family Cemetery, north of the home site where members of the family once lived.
Fencing will be installed to protect the burial areas from adjacent park activities, and all graves will be marked by blank signposts until each identity can be confirmed. In addition to graves, archaeologists discovered several concentrations of Civil War artifacts, including Minié balls (a muzzle loading, spin-stabilizing rifle bullet, developed by French Army officer Claude-Etienne Minié, used during the Crimean and American Civil Wars), lead shot, clothing buttons, personal items, and military hardware, mostly in the northern portions of the park.
Archaeologists identified 25 discrete archaeological sites within the park boundaries, not including Fort Ward itself. All of these sites are relevant to the community of African Americans that began residing around the abandoned Fort Ward following the Civil War. Now that the archaeological surveys are complete, preparation of the Fort Ward Management Plan has begun. The plan is being developed by the Fort Ward Park and Museum Area Stakeholders Advisory Group, in conjunction with the appropriate City departments.
For more information on Fort Ward, visit www.fortward.org.