WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 29, 2013) -- The Army has transferred back to the state of Virginia the most historic areas of Fort Monroe, including Freedom's Fortress.
The Army sent the quitclaim deed for the 312.75 acres to the Commonwealth of Virginia on Thursday, said Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.
The deeds for the land date back to 1838.
"The Army has spent a significant amount of time surveying and refining property boundaries, so that as this property reverts to the state of Virginia, it can be appropriately handled by the state, whether it's going to be sold or leased or used for other purposes," Hammack told participants of a conference call on Thursday.
The Army will continue to provide caretaker status for the next 60 days to ensure the buildings are maintained and provide a smooth and orderly transition to the state of Virginia's management, she said.
Hammack said there are several smaller properties that need environmental assessments. She said those studies are expected to be completed shortly. She said that property, about 38 acres, will be reverted to the state in the future.
A portion of property at Fort Monroe will be transferred to the National Park Service, Hammack said. However, those 122 acres are still under evaluation.
The land for Fort Monroe was deeded to the Army for use as a military reservation and to be reverted back to the Commonwealth of Virginia when it is no longer used for military purposes.
Fort Monroe was closed as part of the BRAC 2005 process. The Army has been working with the state of Virginia and the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority to preserve the historical site
Construction began on Fort Monroe in 1819, after the British sailed up the Chesapeake Bay in 1814 and burned Washington D.C. That action demonstrated a need for coastal defenses.
The unique seven-sided fort, which is surrounded by a moat, was designed by Gen. Simon Bernard, who was once an aide to Napoleon Bonaparte. Lt. Robert E. Lee was among the young engineers who eventually worked on the project. He supervised construction of the moat.
Later, the fort played a prominent part in the Civil War, helping keep much of the coast under Union control. President Abraham Lincoln personally launched the Union's attack on Norfolk from inside Fort Monroe's walls.
During the course of the war, more than 10,000 escaped slaves were temporarily sheltered on Fort Monroe, and it later became the site of a cemetery for freed slaves.
After the war, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was held captive there for more than two years in the casemate dungeon. Later the post served for many years as the Army's Coast Artillery School.
Fort Monroe, located in Virginia's Tidewater region, became a National Historic Landmark in 1960. In 2011, President Barack Obama designated Fort Monroe a National Monument.