Sunday, May 29

This Week in The Civil War: Sunday, May 29

Lincoln's troops off Virginia, shots fired

President Abraham Lincoln, moving to enforce a previously declared blockade on Southern seaports, bolsters Union forces at Fort Monroe near Hampton, Va., one key to his strategy to cut supply lines to secessionists and dominate the coast between Virginia and the Carolinas.

Both sides are on edge. A correspondent for The Associated Press reports from Fort Monroe in late May that the area bristles with Union troops: "A force of 7,500 men, including a few regulars and 4 pieces of artillery, formed to-day ... near the mouth of the James River, about ten miles from Fortress Monroe." The dispatch adds: "The rebel battery fired four shots ... and though over three miles distant, the shot fell but little short, indicating that the guns of the rebel battery are of the heaviest calibre."

Other dispatches report a number of runaway slaves are streaming to the fort from the Virginia countryside and Union commanders are holding them as "contraband of war." One escaped slave is quoted in a May 27 dispatch of the Boston Journal as saying: "We heard that if we could get in here we should be free, or, at any rate, we should be among friends."

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