A two-year archeological investigation of Fort Ward Park in Alexandria yielded a total of 43 previously lost graves, only three of which were marked.
The dig, which began after descendants of those believed to be buried in the park asked city officials to locate the graves of their relatives, revealed artifacts and gravesites of Native Americans, Civil War soldiers and a post-war African-American community.
And although city archeologist Pam Cressey said there are no plans to excavate or immediately identify the newly-discovered graves, she said she's grateful that the families of those who used to live in the area now have some closure.
"This full-scale study now allows the story of so many to be told," Cressey said. "The findings further enrich our appreciation for the area and give credit to the many groups that once lived there."
Alexandria acquired Fort Ward Park just prior to the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. But in the years to follow, many of the park's cemeteries fell into disrepair until officials sought to celebrate as another major anniversary of the Civil War -- this time the 150th -- approached.
Those who came to the park for its commemoration told city officials they wanted to "bring to light, preserve and tell the stories" of those who had lived on the grounds of Fort Ward Park, but felt they were unable to because the grave sites of many former inhabitants were lost and even buried, Cressey said
Plans were put in place, and beginning in 2010, a team of archeologists descended upon the park with ground penetrating radars and other tools to find gravesites and artifacts spread across the more than 30 acres that make up the park.
Cressey said the City of Alexandria financed much of the dig and the trails and markers set to be installed to recognize the archeologists' latest findings, but did not have immediate access to the exact total of the project.
Fencing will be installed to protect the newly-discovered burial areas, and each grave will be marked with a blank signpost. Over time, city archeologists do expect to identify many of the unmarked graves based on their location and those buried around them.
Now that the archaeological surveys are complete, Cressey said the teams are analyzing artifacts and making a Fort Ward Management Plan.