Nestled at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Fort Monroe played a pivotal role in ending slavery in America. Constructed in the early 1800s on the Old Point Comfort Peninsula, the site is rich with Civil War and maritime history, as well as recreational activities.
Your Advocacy at Work
NPCA worked tirelessly to ensure that a park at Fort Monroe would preserve its natural beauty and rich history. Over one thousand NPCA advocates turned out to show support at stakeholder and public meetings in Hampton, Virginia. Thousands more submitted public comments to the National Park Service to call for the creation of a national monument at Fort Monroe. NPCA was instrumental in ensuring that the beautiful beaches and delicate wetlands in the North Peninsula were included in the park boundary. Thanks to the dedication and hard work by our members and staff, an amazing part of America is preserved for everyone to enjoy.
The Fort's History: The Beginning and the End of Slavery
The first documented Africans in Virginia landed on Old Point Comfort Peninsula in 1619. Captured from the Spanish, they were traded to English settlers by Dutch sailors for food. Thousands more would follow in the footsteps of these “twenty and odd” men and women. During the Civil War, Fort Monroe served as part of the Union coastal blockade of the South. On May 23, 1861, three enslaved African American men--Frank Baker, Sheppard Mallory, and James Townsend--rowed to Fort Monroe in search of freedom. Union General Benjamin Butler declared the men “contraband of war,” and refused to return them to their owner. More than 10,000 African Americans from the region escaped to “Freedom’s Fortress” over the course of the war, denying the Confederacy the use of their labor in the production of materials to support the Southern war effort.
Natural Resources and Public Recreation
The Old Point Comfort Peninsula contains more than two miles of rare undeveloped Chesapeake shoreline. A wide range of possible recreational activities include birding, wildlife trail hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, and camping. Both the Captain John Smith Chesapeake and the Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trails are located along the peninsula, affording visitors the opportunity to relive the history of our country’s early explorers. The closing of Fort Monroe’s Army post affords our country the chance to create a 324-acre national park with miles of beaches accessible for public enjoyment.
- Learn more about the Fort Monroe Master Plan
- Read our press release on Fort Monroe.
- Learn more about Freedom's Fortress in National Parks magazine.
- Read more about the Antiquities Act that President Obama used to make the declaration.
- Learn more about the Civil War history contained in our national parks in our feature on the 150th anniversary of the war.
- Download our fact sheet (PDF)