Fort Monroe, Virginia was once an important post for the U.S. Army, and many future Civil War generals passed through its portals.
Sitting astride the southern tip of the Virginia Peninsula at Old Point Comfort, the masonry, hexagonal-shaped stronghold is still the largest coastal fortress in America. Built in 1834 and named for President James Monroe, the fort commanded the channel between Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay at the confluence of the James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth Rivers.
Fort Monroe was a favorite posting of many soldiers before the Civil War. It also hosted the army’s artillery school, a training center created to help improve the American arm. Then and now, the U.S. Army remains an institution devoted to improvement.
During the Civil War, the U.S. Army held the post continuously, and used it as a base of operations. Gen. George B. McClellan launched his Peninsula Campaign from there. The battle of the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac took place in nearby waters. After the war, the Confederacy's one and only president, Jefferson Davis, was incarcerated there.
Today, the fort is maintained by the National Park Service, although fittingly many installations of our modern military are still nearby. It is clear from a walk through its portals and across its grounds that Fort Monroe remains a place of deep memory and history in the story of our nation.