Charles City County: Fort Pocahontas

Aerial of Fort Pocahontas (unknown date)
Aerial of Fort Pocahontas (unknown date)

Courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Fort Pocahontas is an earthen fort built by the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. It was originally known as Wilson’s Wharf. The Colored Troops were under the command of Brigadier General Edward Augustus Wild. 

Construction began on May 5, 1864 with the arrival of the Federal troops.  General Wild and his staff made use of the existing buildings at the Wilson Farmstead (est. 1835). Dr. Wilson’s house and office were used for lodging and the barn as a hospital. Visitors from New York describe the house as a wooden structure with a steep roof, dormer windows, and having a large hall in the center. The Binford House (est. 1740) was moved into the fort from Southhampton County in September 2000. It was meant to replace the Kennon House which burned in 1876. The house underwent renovation to be turned into a museum. The museum features artifacts uncovered through archaeological projects conducted by the College of William and Mary.

On May 24, the Confederate army attacks the fort. Union troops were partially defended by the ravine and fortification ditches. Federal troops were reinforced by two gunboats in the James River.  The troops managed to stop all attacks until the battle ended at 6 o’clock that evening. Historians estimate that there were 20 Union and 100 Confederate casualties. These figures include the dead, wounded, and captured.

The site has been virtually untouched for over 130 years. It was purchased by Harrison Ruffin Tyler, the grandson of President John Tyler, in 1996. Fort Pocahontas was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 27, 1999. Reenactments of the battle are held annually in May. To reserve a tour for your groups or for further information, call (804) 829- 9722 or email fortp@sherwoodforest.org. The Fort’s website is: Visit Fort Pocahontas.