Construction project in Virginia leads to surprising Revolutionary War-era discovery

Archaeologists in Colonial Williamsburg have discovered what they believe to be Revolutionary War barracks in the historical city located in Virginia.

The finding came as officials with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation prepared to break ground for a new indoor sports complex, and Dr. Jack Gary, executive director of archeology, was brought on board to examine the site.

Fox News Digital spoke to Gary about why experts have linked the discovery to colonial barracks.

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“We started by getting together as much historical documentation about the area where this new facility is going to be built,” he said.

“That led us to realize there are maps from 1781 and 1782 that showed this general area as being the location for a barracks constructed by the newly formed state of Virginia in 1776 to house continental troops.”

Archaeologists in Colonial Williamsburg are shown working around a chimney base in the summer of 2023 at a site in Virginia where military barracks are believed to have stood during the American Revolution. The museum announced the site’s discovery on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation via AP)

Archaeologists at the site found documents and maps that point to barracks built between 1776 and 1777 for the Continental Army.

“What we know about the barracks from historical documentation is that, in August 1776, just a month after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Commonwealth of Virginia ordered the construction of those barracks,” Gary said.

The Continental Army barracks could accommodate 2,000 soldiers and up to 100 horses. The barracks were originally designed to hold up to 1,000 soldiers.

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Yet British troops destroyed them while on their way to Yorktown under the command of Gen. Lord Charles Cornwallis in 1781.

Gary said he and the team learned the barracks had been destroyed after a Revolutionary War soldier’s request.

“There has to be a description of the soldiers’ activities in the war in the pension request,” he said. “He describes staying at the barracks where the British chased the continental soldiers and how they were treated.”

This image provided by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation shows bricks believed to be part of military barracks during the American Revolution at an archaeological dig in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Museum officials announced the site’s discovery on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation via AP)

Gary said, “Later on, after the Cornwallis troops moved through, they could see the barracks on fire in the distance … For us as archaeologists, this is a burning event, which is a catastrophic event. But it can also lend itself to really good preservation.”

Archaeologists on the site have discovered several artifacts, which give clues as to how soldiers lived their lives in the barracks. Among the items are mother-of-pearl and glass button inlays and belt buckles.

Lead shot was also found that showed teeth mark embeds.

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Gary said there’s a simple explanation for the tooth marks in the lead shot discovered on-site: boredom.

“The soldiers would chew on the bullets in the shot,” he said.

A piece of lead shot with tooth marks was excavated in summer 2023 by archaeologists in Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum in Virginia. Soldiers chewed on the lead balls because of the sweet taste, historians say. (Brendan Sostak/Colonial Williamsburg Foundation via AP)

“[It’s] kind of one of those things to pass the time. I think any soldier out there can probably tell you that there’s a lot of downtime in the military.

The preliminary excavation of the barracks has paused for now, but Gary and other archaeologists in Colonial Williamsburg hope to revisit the site in the near future.

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Archaeologists have been conducting surveys of Colonial Williamsburg since 1928.

A military buckle and lead shot were discovered at an archaeological dig, revealing a Revolutionary War-era barracks at Colonial Williamsburg in May 2024. (Brendan Sostak/Colonial Williamsburg Foundation via AP)

These experts plan to expand operations to a brand-new center for archeology.

The Campbell Archeology Center will be open to the public in 2026, per a spokesperson for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxnews.com/lifestyle.

Jasmine is a Production Assistant at Fox News Digital and a military spouse based in New Orleans. Stories can be sent to [email protected]

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