Born in Westmoreland on a small tobacco plantation, James Monroe was educated at the College of William and Mary and enlisted into the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. As an 18 year old Lieutenant, Monroe crossed the Delaware, but not necessarily with George Washington as depicted in the famous painting, on Christmas night in 1776 where he was wounded at the Battle of Trenton. Leutze's famous painting of the crossing shows Monroe standing behind Washington clutching the American flag. Monroe spent a long, cold winter at Valley Forge and fought at the Battle of Monmouth. He returned to Virginia and served in the Virginia Militia for the remainder of the war while studying law with Thomas Jefferson.

Monroe served as Minister to France, England and Spain. He was a Governor of Virginia and Secretary of State and Secretary of War under James Madison. He negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Monroe served two terms as President of the United States during which he formulated the Monroe Doctrine and the Missouri Compromise and advocated the failed African colony of Liberia, a haven for freed slaves whose capital is named after Monroe.

james monroe statue at highland

Monroe's statue stands near his home.

Prior to moving to Highland, Monroe and his wife Elizabeth Kortright lived in Fredericksburg where the future President practiced law in the building that now houses the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library. Monroe was a slave owner, and the slave quarter at Highland plantation was reconstructed based on research and a photograph from 1908 and contains original and reproduction furnishings. Three families lived here with a downstairs kitchen and hearth and ladders leading to a sleeping loft. The men and women served as cooks, valets, maids and drivers for the Monroes.

The enslaved community at Highland grew wheat and corn and raised livestock. They worked at laundry, food preparation, blacksmithing, carpentry, cooking, spinning and gardening. Most were married couples with children. Some were trusted to travel away from Highland on plantation business. Yet, Monroe advertised rewards for runaways and sold a repeated runaway down to New Orleans. Eventually Monroe sold Highland and many of the slaves here were sold to a cotton plantation in Florida.

james monroe's' highland slave quarter

The reconstructed Slave quarter shows how several enslaved families would have lived and worked together.

james monroe's' highland slave quarter kitchen

Cooks would have prepared meals in the rustic kitchen at the lodgers house.

James Monroe's Highland offers daily guided and self-guided tours of the grounds and buildings. The lodgers house tour includes period and Monroe-family furnishings. The scenic grounds tour includes the active archaeology site of the ca. 1799 Monroe house as well as Monroe's statue, the lodgers house, kitchen, smoke house, slave quarter, overseer's house, ice house, and gardens. Highland offers seminars and concerts and is available for weddings and private events.

Pictured at the very top: The lodgers' house at Highland was long thought to be the Monroe family home until the recent discovery of the foundation of the Monroe family's true home at Highland.

james monroe's' highland johns garden

The scenic grounds tour at James Monroe's Highland includes Johns Garden.

james monroe's' highland archaeology site

The newly-discovered foundation of the Monroe's ca. 1799 home is now an active archaeology site.

james monroe's' highland event barn

The event barn at Highland is available for weddings and private events.

Historical Photo

washington crossing the delaware

Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware.  (Library of Congress) 

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