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Researchers dig for Contraband Slave Graves at Fort Monroe

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Published on Jul 6, 2010

Built sometime between 1819 and 1834 Fort Monroe protected Hampton Roads during the Civil War. From here General Benjamin Butler made his famous "contraband" decision, which states slaves who escaped from the confederate south would not be returned to their owners.

(NATURAL SOUND OF DIGGING)
As part of the Base Realignment and Closure decision of 2005 to close Fort Monroe, scientists from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center's Construction Engineering Research Laboratory with the assistance of employees from the Norfolk District are looking for unmarked grave sites (NAT SOUND POP) that could possibly contain contraband or freed slaves dating back to the Civil War.

Paul Presenza, "One of the activities they will be doing is looking for possible contraband cemetery here on the post. We've done some archival research; we've done a number of other things and including ground penetrating radar magnetometer studies to see if there is anything out there."

That data showed anomalies that could possibly be grave site since the findings were positioned parallel to one another and similar in length. The archeologist picked several different sites to investigate so they would have a variety of samplings.


Rob Reali, "All of the graves here at the post cemetery were picked up and moved in the early twentieth century and there is no documentation of any contraband of free slaves being buried here, but we are doing the archeological dig investigating to see if there are any remnants of freed slaves or contraband."

After a two week investigation no grave sites were located, but some broken pottery was found.

A report of the findings will be made available in August. Go to www.monroe.army.mil and click on the BRAC Information link and navigate to the Section 106.

From Fort Monroe Virginia, David Kidd.

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