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Memories of and hopes for Fort Monroe

August 23-25, 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in North America.

They arrived at Fort Monroe, Virginia, a place where I lived in junior high. Our house was inside the moat. I loved climbing the hill behind my house and looking at the moat. It was the only fort left in the U.S. that actually had water in its moat. I used to walk through the sally port and across the pedestrian bridge (in the photo by B.Payden Photography), unless, of course, my big brother was chasing me on our way to the school bus! Check out Payden’s Photography at:
https://bpaydenphotography.wordpress.com/category/history/fort-monroe/

Now, my 60-year-old memories are changed forever by this knowledge of the beginnings of European enslavement of Africans in the New World. I am deeply sorry to all those who were affected by this gruesome time in our history.

And I look forward to ongoing future commemorations honoring the many roles African men and women filled in building America—clearing the land, tilling the plantations, harvesting the crops, building the structures, developing solutions to difficult problems the new world presented, and so much more.

My hope is that their stories, along with stories of privation of the African population, will be told in American history classes across the country, so we will all have a deeper understanding of our history. And a commitment Never Again to Allow It Happen.

Special Memories of a Special Time

My first and only son was born in the hospital on Ft. Monroe in 1963. My husband had just shipped out suddenly for Germany and I was left to transport myself from our apartment in Hampton to the fort hospital as I went into labor the next day after his leaving. Needless to say this left unforgettable memories of Ft. Monroe. That was one of the most enjoyable posts that we lived on in our 26 years of service and I am looking forward to again visiting Ft. Monroe this autumn.

My Favorite Place on earth ..and I have traveled extensively.

My history began when my mother would drive me along the seawall IN UTERO ..1937 and those adventures continued throughout my childhood and until I attended the decommissioning of my BELOVED and “sacred” Fort Monore, VA. I took some of my first steps around The Gazebo, then known as The Bandstand, held my first federal job at age 17 in 1954 the Civ Pers Ofc, and advanced to Post Engineers u leaving in 1968. I met my husband of 62 years while he was stationed there we, as full time RVers, camped at The Colonies where we were on 9/11, my husband had a heart attack at The Colonies in 2001 and so much more. I was working in Post Engineers the calls during the infamous PIGEON infestation and also worked during the Ash Wednesday Storm which was a sight to behold from the second story window of The Post Engineer Building. My history goes back 82 years and has left profound and unprecedented memories of both the military and civilian venues at Fort Monroe, Virginia.

My Favorite Home as a Child

I loved living on Ft. Monroe. We lived on post at 96 Ingalls Rd. from 1978-1981, which included the last year Ft. Monroe Elementary School was open. I loved walking or biking around the moat to the school; getting on the bus to go to Bassett for two years was not nearly as much fun. We spent a lot of time at the Scout Hut for Girl Scouts and at the Casemate Museum, where my mom was a docent. My favorite place on post by far was the band gazebo and sea wall by the Chamberlain Hotel. I used to walk down there to watch ships come in and go out, especially from Norfolk Naval Station. If I could tolerate the summers, I’d find a way to move back to Ft. Monroe when I retire—not to relive my childhood, but to keep building experiences in an amazing place full of history.

BUT: even though I had 4th grade Virginia history in a classroom 1/4 mile down the coast from Old Point Comfort (if that), I was in my 30s before I discovered its link to the sale and purchase of human beings in the slave trade. I consider that a sad commentary on our inability to address the worst aspects of our American heritage.

Great place to work

Early in our marriage my husband and I lived in Newport News (1975), he worked at the shipyard and I later found a job at Fort Monroe. Even though I only worked there for a short time (I found out I was pregnant with our son), I was excited to be able to say that I worked in the fort. I had visited the fort and liked the casemates. The office where I worked was inside the moated area and I remember having to drive over a small narrow bridge to get there. Also we spent an early anniversary at the Chamberlain Hotel. We loved their indoor salt water pool! My father was stationed for a short time at Fort Monroe early in my parents’ marriage too.

Civil War Soldier Sawyer

Fascinating story is my ancestor who ended up at Fort Monroe at the end of the Civil War. I was born and raised here, started doing genealogy, and found a relative who served in the Civil War. Samuel Sawyer’s fascinating story is that he served from the beginning of the war to the end. He was in all the major battles including the Bloody Angle, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, and his 32nd NC Regiment came furtherest north to capture the capital. Col. Brabble bragged of the regiment’s bravery at Gettysburg and Robert E. Lee issued the Regiment with the 2nd Flag of the Confederacy because, “they were most worthy of carrying it”. Just days before the end of the war, Samuel was wounded and captured at Petersburg where he lost his right arm. He was sent to Fort Monroe May 17, 1865 and discharged on taking oath July 9, 1865. Upon, discovering this, I took my kids to tour Fort Monroe and enjoyed all of it. There was so much I had never known. The history here needs to be told. We are the beginning of America from Jamestown to the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Military & Shipyards, and beyond.

Daughter of a Retired Master Seargent

We were moved here to Hampton, VA when my father was stationed at Fort Monroe. My childhood was spent at baseball games my father umpired on the field where the new bowling alley was built and basketball games he refereed at the Y. Sitting up on the balcony in the Y, looking down on the game was exciting. My fondest memories involve the Chamberlain Hotel. My father was also the bartender in the small bar to the left as you entered the hotel from the staircase side of the building. Sitting on the bar stool, legs tucked under me so I could reach the Maraschino cherries and eating them till I was a little ill on the stomach. The NCO pool were we would swim, play and make friends all day. The hospital, where I went through years of allergy shots because of a reaction I had to a bee sting so many years ago. I still enjoy visiting the Fort, dining at the Deadrise and visiting the Chamberlain for happy hour with the Residents. It is still a place full of happy memories for me.

Growing up on Fort Monroe

I was born at the post hospital on March 9, 1948 and soon baptized at St Mary’s Star Of The Sea. My first home was the NCO quarters beside the Rectory. My father was career Army. We then left when my father was posted to Hong Kong but returned to Ft Monroe on his return. We lived on Pratt St until we were posted to Patch Barracks in Germany. Again on return to Ft Monroe we lived at 23 Murray St until my father retired in 1962. We then moved to Newport News while my father worked a civilian job at Ft Eustis, but returned to Hampton for me to be a part of the first class to graduate with 3 years at Kecoughtan High School. Many of my classmates were friends and kids who still lived at Ft Monroe. Growing up at Fort Monroe, and in the army in general, had to be the greatest experience a kid could have. I have an amazing amount of memories and stories of living on the post. My first marriage was even held at St Marys. And believe me when I say the history of the post has never been lost on me and provided a huge basis for my patriotism and love of country. This upbringing served me well during my own service during Viet Nam and during my multiple careers afterwards.

Haunted House

As an “Army Brat” I was lucky enough to spend my final 2 years of High School living at 36 Ruckman Rd,, inside the moat just adjacent to the beautiful Chapel of the Centurion. Loved the fact that according to a “Ghosts of Ft Monroe” pamphlet, our quarters had been reported as haunted in the past; and in particular my bedroom, upstairs at the back of the house. Never saw a ghost myself, but loved being part of that history! Hope Hampton residents continue to maintain this historic site.

Wonderful Duty Station

Stationed there from 1986 to 1991. Remember doing PT runs on the sea wall, past the NCO club and onto Dog Beach. We played soccer inside the moat for PT. Easter sunrise services were held in Continental Park with the sun coming up on the Chesapeake. I was in the CG’s (Gen Foss) Command Planning Group that had our offices in the first floor rooms of the old Chamberlin hotel along with the many liaison officers. We climbed out of our windows onto the roof to watch the US Navy battleships come back for the last time from the Gulf War. Great memories of people, events, and a very historic post! Feel so special to have a part in its history.