Three enslaved men arrived at Fort Monroe from Sewell’s Point on 23 May 1861 seeking freedom. Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler put them to work on Union fortifications after learning that they had escaped from constructing batteries for Virginia forces. The following day when Virginia Maj. John B. Cary came to ask for the return of the slaves, citing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Butler refused to return property that he considered “contraband of war.” His decision soon became official Federal policy. By the war’s end many thousands of enslaved men, women and children had fled to Union lines seeking refuge.
Original Sponsor: Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Geographic Location: Hampton
Physical Description of Location: Proposed Location - Fort Monroe, gps location is a guesstimate, actual location will be updated when marker is installed.
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