Pittsylvania: A Carter Family Plantation In Virginia Piedmont

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Manassas National Battlefield Park in Manassas, Virginia has very limited information regarding the archaeological remains of a large plantation complex known as Pittsylvania (44PW287). In order to expand the information base concerning this contribution element to the park's National Register nomination, it was necessary to gather and synthesize the available historical and archaeological data. In partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University of Maryland Masters of Applied Anthropology program, an internship was established, consisting of an above-ground survey of the Pittsylvania plantation complex and a comprehensive review and a comprehensive review and synthesis of the primary historical data related to the site. This project was intended to provide the park with a detailed summary of the occupational history of Pittsylvania as well as an updated, accurate representation of the site's built environment.

The results of this study will be useful as a contributing resource to the park's National Register documentation, and will also provide background information that will facilitate future research at the site. The resulting data should also serve to update the park's interpretive programs.

As part of the Carter family's vast landholdings in Virginia, the Pittsylvania plantation complex began as a tobacco plantation that was established in the mid-eighteenth century, evolving into a small-grains farming landscape by the nineteenth century. Plantation decline began in the first quarter of the nineteenth century upon the death of Landon Carter, Jr. By the time Pittsylvania witnessed the hostilities during the First Battle of Manassas, the main house had fallen into disrepair and the Carters were forced to abandon the estate until after the war. The house served as a field hospital during both battles of First and Second Manassas but was burned sometime before 1864. A modest house, Pittsylvania II, was built near the site of the original mansion in 1885. The Carter heir continued to occupy the property until 1903, culminating in an occupational history that spans over 150 years of occupation by a single Virginia family.

The synthesis and interpretation of primary and secondary resources pertinent to Pittsylvania reveal much about the people who inhabited Pittsylvania and about the ideological implications of the plantation in general. However, this study also reveals that substantial information regarding the experienced and contributions of African Americans at Pittsylvania is conspicuously absent from the available primary resources. Finally, this study shows that previous research at the site is incomplete, and in some cases misleading or even incorrect. In short, the primary and secondary historical data surrounding this important site does not present an accurate picture of the site. Archaeological research and interpretation have the potential to present a more complete story of Pittsylvania.