The Legacy And Preservation Of Jamestown

One can go visit Jamestown to explore the lasting legacy of the first English settlement in the New World — and what a legacy it is. The storied past of the Jamestown settlers might not be remembered at all, were it not for the exploits of many historians who, over the years, have taken great pains to preserve and protect its place in history books. The first real test came during the American Civil War. 

Jamestown was quickly occupied by Confederate troops early in the war in 1861. The goal was to keep the James River (they were very creative people back in the 1600s) blockaded so that Union ships could not use it to transport supplies or reach Richmond. At the height of its power, the occupation managed to garrison about 1,200 men. It was the site of battery tests when Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones joined Confederate William Allen, whose force first occupied the town. 

Thankfully, there was never any fighting in or around Jamestown. The Confederate forces hastily abandoned Jamestown once it was clear that their position would quickly be overrun if they stayed. And it became clear after battles at Yorktown and Williamsburg turned into failures for the Confederate side. 

That’s not to say there wasn’t any damage to the historic town. Jamestown became a haven for runaway slaves. Not surprisingly, they took to damaging or destroying icons of slavery, such as the old Ambler (plantation) house. 

Following the war, the town was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Barney, who eventually donated over 22 acres of land to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. This helped pave the way to keep many of the artifacts from being destroyed or the buildings from being demolished. Mother nature has since done her share of damage (the river eroded the island’s shore over the years), but this donation is a big part of the reason we still have much of Jamestown’s history intact.