A Long Overdue Honor

As reported by Adam Goodheart in the most recent Disunion blog at the New York Times, yesterday, November 1, 2011, President Barack Obama designated Fortress Monroe as a national monument. This designation, which places the fort under the control of the National Park Service, is long overdue because it was at this place in May 1861 that General Benjamin Butler made what in retrospect was a key decision that put the nation on the road to emancipation–giving refuge to three slaves that had been working as forced laborers for the Confederate army. Although then an act of military calculation instead of principle, aimed at denying the enemy valuable labor, it began a flood of refugee slaves into the fort, a phenomenon that would be repeated at many times and locations during the Civil War. Without intending to, Butler made the Union army into a force for liberation. His action, ratified by Lincoln and his cabinet, would lead to the First Confiscation Act in August 1861, the Second Confiscation Act in July 1862, the Emancipation Proclamation (Preliminary in September 1862 and final in January 1863), and the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865.

About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at donald_shaffer@yahoo.com
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1 Response to A Long Overdue Honor

  1. Gil Wilson says:

    See the full Presidential Proclamation at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/01/presidential-proclamation-establishment-fort-monroe-national-monument. This also where the first slaves entered the English colonies, Chief Blackhawk was held, and Jefferson Davis was held after the War of the Rebellion. Here we have our first African-American President honoring this site….it’s almost too much!

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