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Monroe, Fort

(official form), planned to be the most extensive military work in the United States. Its construction was begun in 1819, and was completed at a cost of $2,500,000. It was named in honor of President Monroe. Its walls, faced with heavy blocks of granite, were 35 feet in thickness and casemated below, and were entirely surrounded by a deep moat filled with water. It stands upon a peninsula known as Old Point Comfort, which is connected with the main by a narrow isthmus of sand and by a bridge in the direction of the village of Hampton.

Fort Monroe in 1861.

[249] There were sixty-five acres of land within its walls, and it was armed with almost 400 great guns when the Civil War broke out. It had at that time a garrison of only 300 men, under Col. Justin Dimick, U. S. A. Its possession was coveted by the Confederates, but Dimick had turned some of its cannon landward. These taught the Confederates, civil and military, prudence, wisdom, and discretion. Gen. B. F. Butler, having been appointed commander of the Department of Virginia, with his headquarters at Fort Monroe, arrived there on May 22, 1861, and took the chief command, with troops sufficient to insure its safety against any attacks of the Confederates. Butler's first care was to ascertain the practicability of a march upon and seizure of Richmond, then the seat of the Confederate government. Its capture was desired by the national government, but no troops could then be spared from Washington. Fort Monroe was firmly held by the Nationals during the war. It was then as now an important post, for it is the key to the principal waters of Virginia. Since the close of the Civil War the War Department has maintained a noteworthy artillery school at this post. See also Leavenworth, Fort; Riley, Fort; and Willett's Point.

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