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Hidden History Unearthed: Archaeologists Identify Possible Revolutionary War Barracks in Virginia

Presumed Location of Revolutionary War Barracks Uncovered in Virginia
Source: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Bricks that were believed to be part of military barracks during the American Revolution at an archaeological dig at Colonial Williamsburg, Va.

May 23 2024, Published 1:02 p.m. ET

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In Virginia, archaeologists have made a significant discovery: the probable remnants of a military barracks dating back to the Revolutionary War era.

Among the findings are chimney bricks and musket balls, some showing marks from soldiers' teeth.

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This historical treasure lies within the confines of Colonial Williamsburg, a renowned living museum showcasing life in Virginia's colonial capital during the 18th century.

Records and historical accounts indicate the existence of a barracks constructed between 1776 and 1777 to house the Continental army during its conflict with the British. This structure, intended for up to 2,000 soldiers and 100 horses, served a crucial role in the war effort.

The barracks likely met its destruction around 1781, during the march of British General Lord Charles Cornwallis's troops toward the decisive Battle of Yorktown.

Subsequent to the pivotal conflict, which led to British surrender and marked a turning point in the war, the barracks fell into disuse. The American Revolution formally concluded in 1783.

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The possible discovery of the ruins in Virginia is particularly noteworthy due to their previous exclusive use as a barracks and the relatively undisturbed nature of the surrounding land.

Uncovered during an archaeological survey preceding the construction of a proposed regional sports complex, this site has shifted the project's footprint to safeguard the roughly 3 to 4 acres occupied by the barracks.

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Initial excavations last summer unearthed chimney bases, military artifacts like a buckle, and musket lead shots, some bearing the telltale signs of soldiers' teeth marks — a practice believed to stem from the sweet taste of the lead.

While only a fraction of the site has been excavated thus far, Colonial Williamsburg plans to utilize the discovery to enrich its narrative of Williamsburg's military involvement in the Revolutionary War and shed light on the daily lives of soldiers who once inhabited these barracks.

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