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Fortress Monroe

Excerpts from "Fort Monroe: Birthplace of the Civil War-era Freedom Movement"

Serving as a key defensive site at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay for 400 years, Fort Monroe is one of the least known and most important places in America. It was the landing site of the first enslaved people brought to North America, and functioned as an assembly, training, and embarkation point for U.S. forces in the Seminole Wars, suppression of Nat Turner’s Rebellion, Black Hawk War, Mexican War, and Civil War. Fort Monroe protected important military and civilian resources located inland during World War I and World War II. Since then, it has served as a major headquarters for training soldiers for war.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Fort Monroe became the birthplace of the Civil War-era freedom movement when three brave enslaved men escaped the Confederate Army and fled in a small boat to relative safety at Fort Monroe. There, the Union commander seized these men as “contraband” of war, an unusual legal maneuver that provided refuge for the three men, and in turn, heralded the beginning of the end of slavery in America. Over the course of the Civil War, more than 500,000 African American women, children, and men would liberate themselves, following in the footsteps of those first three freedom seekers at Fort Monroe, leading to one of the war’s most extraordinary—and overlooked— chapters. Preservation of Fort Monroe is critical to our Civil War heritage.

 Source: "Fort Monroe: Birthplace of the Civil War-era Freedom Movement", The National Trust for Historic Preservation

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Record Details

Title: Fortress Monroe


Aerial view of the fortress which sits at Old Point Comfort, the southern tip of the Virginia Peninsular, guarding the navigational channel between the Chesapeake Bay and Hampton Roads. Clearly seen is the moat, an unusual feature for a fort, which completely surrounds the stone walls. The buildings of the town of Hampton are clearly shown partly surounding the fort. Sailing ships ply the waters in the foreground.

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