Fort Monroe becomes the 396th National Park Service site

I am so pleased to report what many of you may already know. Fort Monroe, located on Old Point Comfort in Hampton Roads, Virginia became an addition to the National Park Service on November 1, 2011. President Barack Obama used the Antiquities Act of 1906 to sign an executive order putting the fort into the NPS system.

Fort Monroe, was named in honor of the nation’s fourth president, James Monroe. It was here that young Robert Edward Lee and his wife, Mary Custis Lee lived and had their first child, George Washington Custis Lee in the early 1830s. It was here that Chief Black Hawk, a Sauk Indian was imprisoned at Fort Monroe in 1833 for attacking settlers in the upper Midwest. Lt. Jefferson Davis escorted him to the fort.

Robert E. Lee and his wife, Mary Custis Lee lived in this building at Ft. Monroe between 1831 and 1834. It was here that their first child was born. Photograph by Emmanuel Dabney, 2007.

In 1619, the first ship bearing Africans to Virginia stopped briefly at Old Point Comfort before continuing on to Jamestown Island. In 1861, three enslaved men, Frank Baker,Sheppard Mallory, and James Townsend fled to Fort Monroe seeking protection from the heinous slave institution. Union General Benjamin Butler used the issue of secession and the law to refuse to give up those three men to Confederate authorities. Butler argued they were contraband of war. By war’s end there were thousands of runaways living in and around Old Point Comfort because of the actions of three men who fled bondage and one Union general that is popularly raked over the coals in the Civil War community. Out of the contraband camps rose a series of problems, such as disease and malnutrition which cannot be forgotten; but also came positive things such as community solidarity, the enlistment of United States Colored Troops and men into the Union navy as well as women and children working as nurses and learning how to read and write.

In 1865, Davis, the former Confederate States President, was indicted for treason and imprisoned in Fort Monroe.

Fort Monroe is a great bastion of talking about the history of America in its positive aspects and negative. As of today, Kirsten Talken-Spaulding, a native to Williamsburg, a graduate of the College of William & Mary, and a 20 year veteran of the NPS has been made the first superintendent of this new national monument. I know we will all be tuning into the future of this great site! You can check out the new website for Fort Monroe National Monument. Keep in mind that it is a new park and more content will come in the future.

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