Finding the Walls of the Fort

All that remains of the palisade fence at James Fort are stains in the soil. In the spring of 1607, the fort walls were constructed of logs set upright into a narrow slot trench. The areas where the slot trench disturbed the natural clay subsoil showed up as a dark stain in the clay. Further excavation revealed the postmolds themselves. Every 20 feet along the south palisade wall there is a larger support or buttress post. This, as well as the depth of the trench, indicates that the palisade was a full-scale fortification rather than a breastwork or garden fence. Significant sections of the eastern, western, and southern palisades forming the triangular fort have been identified. The projected measurements of each of these walls precisely match the 1610 description by William Strachey, secretary of the colony. The east and west palisade walls were each 100 yards long, while the south palisade was 140 yards when each was measured to the projected intersection, “where the lines meet,” as described by Strachey.

By as early as 1609 James Fort was “reduced” to a five-sided fortification. The topography around the fort only allowed it to extend to the east. A 60-foot section of palisade line was unearthed at a point where the east curtain wall joins the bulwark. It is very likely this is part of the 1609 alterations.