tv American Artifacts Fort Monroe Casemate Museum CSPAN November 24, 2020 2:14pm-2:34pm EST
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the president. >> lectures in history every saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. lectures is history is also available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. the largest stone fort in the united states sits at the mouth of the chesapeake bay. fort monroe casemate museum director gives us a tour showcasing its history and its role in the civil war. >> we're inside the casemate music because we're inside a
casemate. it's a vault inside of a wall. kind of unique for museums in this day and time. we're going to walk you through the museum and talk about the interesting history that occurs here. some of our stories will deal with the indians, the africans that first arrived here. thousands and thousands of years ago, the natives of this land started to migrate. they migrated as far as -- as far west as mexico and the mississippi river valley. they migrated as far south as south america and central america. they migrated all the way here to point comfort where fort monroe is located today. they were hunters, gatherers and they lived a successful and prosperous life here. in 1607, the english would come here. by that time, the virginia
indians has learned and mastered the art of cultivation. the english would struggle the first few years, but they too would prosper. in 1619, negroes arrived here at point comfort. they were traded for goods. after that we see the evolution of laws and rules and regulations that will start to manage the african population here in hampton. next we're going to look at the war of 1812 and find out why this fort is now in existence and how it came about. why is the largest stone fort here today? the war of 1812 was a backdrop to that story. in 1812 the british invaded the united states. they arrived at the chesapeake bay.
there was no one here to stop them. they moved all the way up the chesapeake bay. they burned our capital city of washington, d.c., and they were finally stopped at a place called baltimore. the reason, fort mchenry. after the war of 1812, the president of the united states james madison said we need to establish fortifications all up and down our eastern seaboard. they recruited general simone barnard, a french engineer who helped us establish the third system forts today. fort monroe is an example of the largest and best of all of those forts. in 1819 it was decided that this location, point comfort, will be the location for fort monroe. they begin construction almost immediately and didn't finish until 1834. the model that we see today is exactly what it would look like
in 1834 when the first soldiers would come to populate this fortification and be the defense or the gibraltar of the chesapeake. the frenchman, general simone barnard was an intelligent engineer and created many facets that made it one of the strongest strongholds here in the united states. one of the things he did is that he had several angles on this fort. as the enemy approached the individual fort walls, there could be cross-fire on the enemy. it has a moat. it was designed to allow to move materials around the fort to help with its construction. after the fort was completed, the moat becomes another level of a fence for fort monroe. fort monroe, the largest stone
fort in the united states even today started its construction in 1819. it would take them all the way to 1834 to finish the construction of the fort. the original intention of the fort was to house artillery pieces to fire upon ships enter the chesapeake bay. it has a water exposure and didn't worry too much about the defense of the land behind it. fort monroe will remain the strong force of artillery might all the way up until the american civil war. we're looking at a 32-pound artillery tube. we know that this tube was built in 1846. every casemate would have one of these beasts inside of it to fire out through the fort's window at the approaching enemy
usually upon naval vessels. it would take anywhere from 9 to 11 men to load and fire a 32-pounder and it gets its name because it fired a 32-pound cannonball. this would be the workhorse of the military during the war of 1812, all the way up to the american civil war. in order to fire a 32-pounder, you would need a crew of about 9 to 11 individuals. let me point out some of the positions that they would hold. you would have a number one and a number two man. their responsibility was to make sure that the firing mechanism of this gun was in place. so they would punch the powder bag, they would set the fuse, and they would run the lanyard in order to fire this gun. at the front of the tube, you would have the men who would load the projectiles.
one man would be responsible of cleaning the tube out, ramming the projectile down to the back of this gun but also there to help load the ammunition from the men carrying the projectiles and powder up from their supply. so two men in the back, two men in the front. you would have a gunner who would be responsible for pointing the gun, not aiming the gun, towards whatever the military objective might be. sometimes you would have another commanding officer who would be responsible for a series of guns being fired at the same time. it would take anywhere from about a minute to 75 seconds to load and fire a 32-pounder. these 32-pounders that we're looking at today were the workhorse of the united states military all the way through the american civil war. fort monroe was a -- was one of the largest strongholds of the
united states military. but it never fell into confederate hands. the department of defense made sure that this fort was secure on the very eve of the american civil war. what you should know about these 32-pounders and what you should know about fort monroe, these guns were never fired in anger, this fort was never attacked and that speaks to its strength and how imposing it is to the enemy. what does slavery look like before the american civil war? slaves were used primarily for agriculture and this map gives us an indication of where that agriculture was taking place. if we look at the eastern seaboard, the darker the areas are indicates the more slavery there was. the commonwealth of virginia certainly was growing things like tobacco, cultivating cotton
and you can see how intense or how populist the slave and enslaved people were here in virginia at the time. let's go down to georgia. you can notice where they're growing rice and different things down here. once again, we have a concentration of enslaved individuals. the mississippi river valley, same thing. they're growing cotton and other cultivating cash crops that allow whites to be able to capitalize on that. once again, look at the concentration of enslaved people in the mississippi river valley. in may of 1861, there was a perfect storm, several things came together to create what we call today the contraband decision. the first thing that occurred is that abraham lincoln promoted and assigned major general
benjamin butler to come and take demand of ft. monroe. almost on the heels of that, the common health commonwealth of virginia who had been sitting on the fence finally made a decision and that decision was indeed they would join the few confederate government and invite the national capital to be removed to the city of richmond, virginia. butler takes command. virginia leaves the union. during all of this, three individuals, three brave individuals, baker, townsend, mallory, would steal a ship, row across the chesapeake bay, present themselves at the gate of the american soldiers and say, we're runaway slaves, seek to be refugees and protection. they were invited into the fort. the very next day, major general benjamin butler interviewed the
three individuals and found out that these individuals were being used for the use of the confederate army to build trenches and do chores around the confederate camp. that same day the owners of these individual slaves came to retrieve them citing the fugitive slave act which was the law of the land in the united states. if you had a runaway slave, you had to return them to their owners. benjamin butler, being the lawyer that he was in his former life said this, so you're quoting united states law. my understanding is that the state of virginia has left the union. the united states law no longer applies to you. if you want to swear allegiance to the united states, you can have your slaves back. if not, i'm going to seize them as contraband of war because you're using them against my soldiers and the united states army. i will seize them and keep them and you no longer can have your
slaves. this will create a mass of folks coming to ft. monroe to seek their freedom. what started out with three men become 10,000 by the end of the american civil war in four short years. jefferson davis' demand was a contradiction. he was a graduate from the united states military academy. he served on the frontier with the united states army. he was secretary of war under president pierce. he served the united states congress and he also served in the united states senate. and he and his wife were the hosts during james buchannan's administration in washington, d.c. when the south left and formed their own government, they invited jefferson davis to become its first and only president. jefferson davis would accept that invitation and become the
president of the confederate states of america. we're standing in the cell where jefferson davis was held at the conclusion of the american civil war. in 1865, jefferson davis received word from general robert e. lee that they no longer could hold the federal army back from attacking the city of richmond. with that news, jefferson davis adjourned his cabinet and sent his family on the road for their protection. jefferson davis soon after that was follow. he would finally catch up with his family right above the florida state line. it's here where a federal mounted unit was able to capture him and his family. jefferson davis was placed on a boat and moved back up here to ft. monroe and incarcerated in this very cell. some people asked why.
the main reason is that jefferson davis was indicted on three federal charges, one, for treason. two, complicit in the assassination of abraham lincoln, and, three, the mistreatment of federal soldiers imprisoned by the confederate states army. in order to answer those charges in federal court, he had to be in a place where his last residency occurred and that would be in richmond, the white house of the confederacy. it is here he will stay four months. he will remain incarcerated here for almost two years. he would never see his day of court. he would never be acquitted. and he would retire and write his memoirs and live to the age of 80. with the understanding that jefferson davis was charged with three federal indictments, many folks in the united states, men of wealth, men of influence, decided that that was not going
to be the best way to heal the nation, to try jefferson davis with the fear that he might be acquitted would cast a shadow over 3.2 million people going to war and over 750,000 of them losing their lives. at the conclusion of the american civil war, the priority of not only our congress and the president and the citizens of united states was to reunite the country, and make us once again a strong union. for this reason, many confederate officers would not be charged with the role of treason. in fact, we see many of those officers actually have roles and occupy positions within grant's administration. we're looking at the american flag of the united states. this flag is from the american civil war. and tradition has that this flag
actually young in jefferson davis' cell to remind him on a daily basis of the crimes that he had committed against his former federal government. the history of jefferson davis was a very complex one and one that we here at the casemate museum tries to look at all aspects of. this cell door is probably one of the most important artifacts from jefferson davis' incarceration here at ft. monroe. it's behind this very door that he would look out and realize that the american civil war was over and that the confederacy was no longer part of the historic narrative of the united states. we've taken you on the tour of the casemate museum all the way through the civil war. but there's so much more here to see. in the late 19 and early 20th century, it becomes an important trading ground for the united
states military. it's here that almost every ar artillerist for the u.s. military is trained. later, ft. monroe would become the center of training and doctrine command for the united states army. the rest of our museum talking about not only the military history that occurred here, but the social aspects of point comfort here at ft. monroe. it is here through the rest of our exhibits you'll learn how the social aspects of virginia merge with the military aspects of fort monroe. this is a living, breathing, viable community and would say that way until its closure in 2011. once a week watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website, c-span.org/history. you're watching american
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