If you live in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (or you’re driving through), consider stopping at Fort Monroe. After visiting there today with my parents and my son, I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of it before! I suppose it’s because the east coast is filled with historical sites, so what’s one more? Really, though, the history that took place at Fort Monroe is just incredible. Oh, and the best part…it’s free!
Formerly an Army installation, Fort Monroe was decommissioned just last year and is now a national monument. The guard shack is even still in place at the main gate, but empty now, of course.
From the National Park Service: “Fort Monroe National Monument spans the American story from the 17th to the 21st centuries: Captain John Smith’s journeys, a haven of freedom for the enslaved during the Civil War, and a bastion of defense for the Chesapeake Bay.”
Did you know Lincoln stayed there? Robert E. Lee was stationed there? Edgar Allan Poe was a Soldier there? And that Jefferson Davis was held there? Fort Monroe was often called “Freedom’s Fortress,” because of the hundreds of runaway slaves that sought and found refuge there during the Civil War.
Once you get on the island, to get to the museum, you first have to drive or walk across a bridge over a moat and then go through an opening in an old, brick fortification. We walked through, and it was a very cool feeling going through an entrance that thousands of people have walked through over hundreds of years.
On the other side of the wall, is a quiet, peaceful, well-kept community. After the Army left, the installation’s historic homes became available on a lease basis. The museum is located inside in the fortification’s casemate.
I wish I’d taken more photos, but I was distracted by Mr. Fussy Pants, unfortunately. You can, however, view a virtual tour of the Casemate Museum here.