Old Point Comfort - Encyclopedia

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OLD POINT COMFORT, a summer and winter resort, in Elizabeth City county, Virginia, U.S.A., at the southern end of a narrow, sandy peninsula projecting into Hampton Roads (at the mouth of the James river), about 12 m. N. by W. of Norfolk. It is served directly by the Chesapeake & Ohio railway, and indirectly by the New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk (Pennsylvania System), passengers and freight being carried by steamer from the terminus at Cape Charles; by steamboat lines connecting with the principal cities along the Atlantic coast, and with cities along the James river; by ferry, connecting with Norfolk and Portsmouth; and by electric railway (3 m.) to Hampton and (1 2 m.) to Newport News. There is a U.S. garrison at Fort Monroe, one of the most important fortifications on the Atlantic coast of the United States. Old Point Comfort is included in the reservation of Fort Monroe. The fort lies within the tract of 252 acres ceded, for coast defence purposes, to the Federal government by the state of Virginia in 1821, the survey for the original fortifications having been made in 1818, and the building begun in 1819. It was named in honour of President Monroe and was first regularly garrisoned in 1823; in 1824 the Artillery School of Practice (now called the United States Coast Artillery School) was established to provide commissioned officers of the Coast Artillery with instruction in professional work and to give technical instruction to the non-commissioned staff. During the Civil War the fort was the rendezvous for several military expeditions, notably those of General Benjamin F. Butler to Hatteras Inlet, in 1861; of General A. E. Burnside, to North Carolina, in 1862; and of General A. H. Terry, against Fort Fisher, in 1865; within sight of its parapets was fought the famous duel between the "Monitor" and the "Merrimac" (March 9, 1862). Jefferson Davis was a prisoner here for two years, from the 22nd of May 1865, and Clement Claiborne Clay (1819-1882), a prominent Confederate, from the same date until April 1866. Between Fort Monroe and Sewell's Point is Fort Wool, almost covering a small island called Rip Raps. The expedition which settled Jamestown rounded this peninsula (April 26, 1607), opened its sealed instructions here, and named the peninsula Poynt Comfort, in recognition of the sheltered harbour. (The "Old" was added subsequently to distinguish it from a Point Comfort settlement at the mouth of the York river on Chesapeake Bay). On the site of the present fortification a fort was erected by the whites as early as 1630.

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