While writing this post on the role Florida played in the Civil War, I learned how different forts in Florida remained in Union hands despite Florida being a Confederate state. This got me wondering if other forts in the South remained under Union control as well. It’s a very specific bit of trivia so I asked on /r/AskHistory and /u/Irishfafnir answered with: Fort Monroe.
After the British naval hostility during War of 1812, President James Monroe wanted to build up America’s coastal defenses. Fort Monroe was one of many forts built at the time. It was built at Old Point Comfort in Virginia in 1834. (Old Point Comfort is also the location of the first entry point of enslaved Africans into the continental United States in 1619.) According to Wikipedia, Fort Monroe is the largest stone fort in the United States. (This seems to contradict a previous article’s assertion that Fort Jefferson is the largest masonry structure in the United States. Maybe there’s a distinction between stone and masonry.)
Its sister fort, Fort Wool, was built on an artificial island in the Hampton Road harbor. This also appears to have remained in Union hands during the duration of the Civil War.
Even though the location where Fort Monroe was built was the first entry point for African slaves in America, it soon became a rallying point for escaped slaves after General Benjamin Butler decreed that all escaped slaves during the Civil War would be defined as contraband and not returned to their owners. Fort Monroe was a very important fort during the Civil War, being a Union fort in a Confederate state. After the Civil War, Jefferson Davis was imprisoned there.