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Fort Monroe Historic District, Hampton

The newly expanded 400-acre Fort Monroe HD includes an impressive collection of intact, architecturally varied buildings and structures built by the U.S. Army between 1819 and 1960. The fort is one of the oldest military posts under continuous use by the Army. Construction started in 1819 and it remained garrisoned into September 2011, when it was decommissioned and returned to the possession of the Commonwealth of Virginia under a 2005 BRAC decision.
   Strategically located at Hampton Roads, Fort Monroe guarded the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, a role it assumed soon after the British burned Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. Fort Monroe was a vital Union military asset and installation during the Civil War. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler made his seminal “contraband” decision in 1861 while in command at Fort Monroe when he declared that enslaved African Americans employed by the Confederates could be confiscated as contraband of war and thus would not be returned to their former owners. President Lincoln stayed at the fort when visiting military commanders, and after the war Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned here for a time. The fort is also associated with Robert E. Lee who oversaw completion of its construction while he resided there in the early 1830s as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Fort Monroe is the fourth known fortification to have been built at Old Point Comfort since the settlement of Jamestown, and the newly expanded historic district has the potential for significant archaeological resources, including prehistoric cultural deposits.