Escaped Slaves at Fort Monroe
A Civil War–era envelope is emblazoned with the scene of Union general Benjamin F. Butler, commander of Fort Monroe, Virginia, coming to the defense of a slave fleeing his master, a man identified as "One of the F.F.V.'s" (first families of Virginia). The slave owner wields a cat-of-nine-tails and a ferocious dog in order to hunt down and punish his escaped slave.
When, in 1861, three slaves fled to Union lines at Fort Monroe, Butler declared them "contraband of war" and refused to return them to their owners. The result was a surge of African American refugees to Fort Monroe, which became known as "Freedom's Fortress." Eventually, the Union army established a policy of providing wages, food, and clothing to former slaves in contraband camps throughout the Confederacy. Thus, Fort Monroe was in many ways a staging ground for emancipation.