Fort Monroe – The Freedom Fort and/or The Gibraltar of the Chesapeake

Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, is a national treasure rich in history. The site began with Fort Algernon, (or Algernourne), in the Virginia colony in 1609, predating Jamestown. In this valuable site over 50 lived in a wooden encampment with several cannons for protection until 1611 when fire raised most of the structures. Later in 1619 slaves arrived on the site from a Portuguese slave ship. This was the first documented slave sale on American soil.

Various structures appeared on the site from 1609 to 1749 then in 1849 the permanent structure of Fort Monroe was begun. The Fort is named in honor of President Monroe and took 15 years for completion.

Many well known individuals passed through Fort Monroe with Robert E. Lee residing here from 1831-1843 with his wife, Mary Custis Lee.

Lee was in charge of placing the finishing touches on the Fort and also Fort Wool, which was formerly Fort Calhoun. He was a West Point graduate trained as an engineer. Here is their actual home and a museum representation of their living quarters.

Lee later became the future confederate general. His wife was related to George and Martha Washington. Their first child was born at Fort Monroe.

Lincoln stayed here during the Civil War when he was assisting with military actions.

A cannon was named in his honor.

Edgar Allen Poe was a soldier at the Fort for 4 months. He was discharged from service after his tour.

President Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy was imprisoned for 2 years.

President Jefferson Davis Gate given in his honor by the Women of the Confederacy.

The fort is known as a casemate fort. Casemates are fortified gun positions. Here is a museum depiction.

Monroe is a “star fort” in shape and six sided. It is surrounded by a moat 50 to 25 feet across and currently 3 to 5 feet in depth.

Much military memorabilia is exhibited in the Fort Monroe Casemate Museum.

Fort Monroe was known as the Freedom Fort as black slaves escaped to the Fort since it was Union held. Over 900 sought sanctuary in Fort Monroe during the Civil War with more than 200,000 blacks serving.

Fort Monroe continued to serve as a Fort training soldiers in artillery for both World War I and II. In 1960 it was deemed a National Landmark, however, the Army Band continued to use the site for training until 1973. In 2011, under the Obama administration, it was officially deactivated as a base.

Present Day Fort Monroe

Today the beautiful homes on the grounds are leased.

There remains a YMCA, library, churches, a beautiful beach, and a lighthouse.

And even a pet cemetery.

The area provides scenic walkways and is a multi faceted community with much to offer.

And after all this are you hungry? Try The Deadrise for delicious fish meals and views of the sea.

What a wonderful place to live!

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