"Aerial View of Fort Monroe" by NPS Photo , public domain
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Freedom's Fortress An 1862 lithograph of Fort Monroe showcases its strategic lo cati on for marit ime defense and commerce. Under constructio n from 1819-1834, t he fort is named after U.S. President James Monroe. It rema ined a Un ion stronghold throughout the entire Civil War, earn ing the name the "Gibraltar of the Chesapeake." Library of congress. E. Sachse & co. Abundant natural resources made this small piece of land attractive to the American Indian for centuries before Captain John Smith and the Virginia Company identified its strategic importance for the defense of the Chesapeake Bay. In 1609 the first fortification, Fort Algernourne, was built here along the bay. Arriving ten years later were the first "20 and odd" reported Africans brought to the English colonies. The defense of the nation and the quest for freedom converged at Fort Monroe in 1861, barely one month after the first shots of the United States Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Three enslaved men, known to us today as Frank Baker, James Townsend, and Sheppard Mallory, escaped and sought freedom with the Union Army at Fort Monroe. Under provisions of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act these men had to be returned. The fort's commander Major General Benjamin Butler, a lawyer by profession, reasoned that since Virginia had seceded, stating it was no longer part of the United States, the Fugitive Slave Act did not apply. Further, because the Confederates considered enslaved persons as property and were using these enslaved men in their war efforts against the United States, Butler argued these freedom seekers should be considered "contraband of war." Like seized goods, LEFT Major General Benjamin Butler supported education, train ing, and enlistment of able bodied members of the "Contraband Camp" surrounding Fort Monroe. Mary S. Peake taught former enslaved people encamped for protect ion near Fort Monroe. She worked for the American M issionary Associat ion (AMA). Library of Congress. Courtesy of Hampton University Archives RIGHT Hampton University, pictured here in 1899, sti ll thrives as a Historically Black College and University, an d traces its existen ce to the AMA. Library of Congress these men would not be returned to bondage, giving rise to communities of men, women, and children known as "Contraband Camps" near Union forces. This landmark decision to consider these freedom seekers as "contraband" forever changed the legal status of enslaved people in the United States, influencing thousands to seek sanctuary behind Union lines. This decision ultimately led to President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which finally abolished slavery in the United States in 1865. The fort became known as "Freedom's Fortress," and has remained a national symbol for protection and freedom. Fort Monroe continued as a bastion of defense and training until it was deactivated in September of 201t. ABOVE Robe rt E. Lee, a 24 year-o ld West Point-tra ined engineer, post ed in 1831 to oversee const ruct ion at Fort M o nroe and at t he Ri p-Raps in Ham pton Roads for Fort Ca lhoun, now Fort W ool. Courtesy of Washington and Lee University LEFT Fo llowing the "Co ntra band decision " in 1861, thousa nds of freedom seekers risked thei r lives t o f ind sanctuary at Fort Monroe. Library of Congress Brown Pelican North Beach Area Fort moat Alan D. Wiison, Fort Monroe Authority, NPS, NPS Fort Monroe Points of Interest Building #1, Quarters No. 1: Major General Benjam in Butler occupied these quarters in 1861 where he made the pivotal Contraband decision. These quarters were also President Lincoln's residence while planning the attack on Norfolk in 1862. also served as living quart ers and a holding cell for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. /1 /1 Building #SO: Constructed in 1834 as quarters and office space for engineers posted to Fort Monroe, the building has seen many arch itectural changes during its transformation to the set of three houses seen today. Chapel of the Centurion: Dedicated in 1858 in honor of t he Roman centurion Cornelius and designed in the style of noted arch itect Richard Upjohn this chapel fea tures many impressive arch itectural details includ ing three Tiffany stained-glass windows. Gated A Autf) rea Wildlife Parade Ground: This open area, surrounded Or/zed Access 0 Observation ··············· '17/y Platform • ................. o n three sides by mature live oaks includ ing t he 500 year old Algernourne Oak," was historically used as much for recreation as military exercises and ceremonies. /1 Building #17, Lee's Quarters: While on leave from Fort Monroe, Robert E. Lee married Mary Custis, great granddaughter of Martha Washington, at Arlington House in present day Arlington, Virgi nia and occupied these quarters from 183 1-34. The Lee's first child, a son, Custis Lee, was born here in 1832. I I I I I Old Point Comfort Lighthouse: This 1802 \ lig hthouse was a British observation post during t he War of 1812 and is t he oldest operating lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay. The lighthouse is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. \ \ \ I I I Casemate Museum: A partner operated museum depicting t he complex history of Fort Monroe in the defense of America's freedoms . Occupying former artillery emplacements t hat form t he fort's wal ls, these casemates have I I I I I I I I I m: The Colonies RV and Travel Park Fort Monroe is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. Visit wwwnps.gov to learn more about parks and National Park Service programs in America 5 communities. I I Battery / Anderson-Ruggles I I I I I I ! Beach Access I 0-Club FORT MONROE NATIONAL MONUMENT North Beach Area PHOEBUS I /liJm I I Battery Church I I I I I I I I I I I I Battery DeRussy I liJ/I I I I I I I I (!) ~-~I I I I FORT MONROE NATIONAL MONUMENT NPS property I I Stilwell Dr North Chesapeake Bay I I I I I I I I - - - - - Trail, No motorized vehicles I I I I I I I Restaurants open seasonally E Marina FORT MONROE NATIONAL MONUMENT 0 0 0.25 0.5 Kilometers 0.25 Gate l,mliJOutlook 1 se / .......... ~~\ ,,,, ,,,, ,,,, ,,,, ,,,, ,,,, ,,,, ,,,, 0.5 Miles '\ Pastern Gate ' Fenwick Rd • Chamberlin''--- - - - - - Continental Park, Gazebo The',,~ '\ \ ,,,/ liJ ~ mJ Beach Access / Batteries Irwin and Parrot For More Information: Fort Monroe National Monument 41 Bernard Road Fort Monroe, VA 23651-1001 (757) 722-FORT (3678) www.nps.gov/fomr Chapel of the Centurion Engineer Wharf \ Planning Your Visit A Brand New National Park Fort Monroe Natio nal Monument is a new national park area with limited services and programs. It is a park " in prog ress " and in t he com ing yea rs, facilit ies and services will be added for t he public to enjoy. The best w ay to explore "Freedom's Fort ress " today is on foot. As the largest stone fort ever built in the United States, experience and underst and the fort's scale and st ra tegi c location in defense of the Hampton Roads Harbor and t he Chesapeake Bay simply by w alking the ramparts encircling the t op of t he fort. From here, loo k across the w at er to Fort Wool; see how the geog raphy of Old Point Comfort w as vital to the coast al defense strat egy of the nation . The Fort Monroe peninsula has been home t o thousa nds of mi litary fam ilies t hroughout t he centuries. The scen ic streets and historic homes t hat remai n are re minders of American domestic and civic life t he fort w as established t o def end . Today Fort Mo nroe is a home and workp lace just as it w as during the period of active mil ita ry service. Please respect the resident s' privacy as you enjoy exploring Fort Monroe National Monument. For a Safe Visit Use ca ution when w alking the ram parts that circle the top of the f ort. Do not vent ure too close t o t he edge of t he fort w al ls and stay clea r of the moat. Child ren should be closely supervised. Be alert for vehicular traffic, pedest rians, and cyclists on Fort M onroe's thoroughfares. Getting to the Park From Richmond: 1-64 East t owa rds Norfolk/ Wi ll iamsburgNirginia Beach. Take Exit 268 (169 East Mallory St/Ft M onroe), t he last Exit on 1-64 East before the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. From Virginia Beach/Norfolk: 1-64 West t owards Richmond, VA. Take Exit 268 (169 East Mallory St/ Ft Monroe), the fi rst Exit o n 1-64 West after the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. Then, for both: Turn Left at the lig ht onto S Ma llory St (0.1 mi les). Turn Rig ht at the light onto E Mellen St and contin ue (approximat ely 0.6 miles) over a smal l bridge and ca useway onto t he Fort Monroe Peninsula. At the light take t he Lef t fork ont o Ingalls Rd and follow t he signs f or t he Ca semate Museum.