A watercolor and pen-and-ink drawing by Union private Robert Knox Sneden gives a detailed rendering of Fort Monroe, the only federal military installation in the Upper South to remain under United States control throughout the Civil War. Strategically located in Hampton Roads, on the Virginia peninsula overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, the fort was designed in the wake of the War of 1812 by the French military engineer Simon Bernard, a former officer under Napoléon. Construction on the massive stone and brick walls of the moated fort began in 1819 and continued for the next twenty-five years. The caption on the drawing notes that in 1862 the garrison was manned by 2,250 soldiers and that the fort had the following features: the granite walls were thirty-five feet high, the moat surrounding the exterior ranged in width from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty feet, and 371 guns ringed the walls of the fortress. Inside the enclosure was a church.
Early in the war, the fort became an outpost of freedom within the Confederacy when federal commanders gave refuge to large numbers of people fleeing enslavement.