NORFOLK NAVY YARDMarcus W. Robbins, Historian & Archivist
Copyright. All rights reserved.
Birth of the Gosport Yard & into the 19th Century
History of the United States Navy-Yard at Gosport, Virginia
 CHAPTER X.
Condition of the Yard at the Breaking-out of the Rebellion—Its Partial
Destruction and Abandonment.
The following is a list of the buildings and structures in the yard, as taken from the annual report of the commandant dated November, 1860, and is given as a recapitulation, as nearly all have been mentioned before. The numbers given refer to the approved plan," (Plate II.)
Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 39. Dwelling-houses for the commandant and four other officers.
No. 9. Blacksmiths' shop.
No. 11. Iron and copper store, paint-shop, and blacksmiths' finishing-shop.
No. 12. Joiners' shop and timber-house.
No. 13. Dispensary, galley-store, and furniture-room.
Nos. 14,15, and 16. Store-houses.
Nos. 17, 30, 31, 32, 34, and 35. Timber-sheds.
No. 19. Rigging-loft, armory, and offices.
No. 28. Mast-house.
No. 29. Boat-shop and boat-house.
No. 33. Cooperage and store-house for tanks and staves.
Nos. 36,37, and 38, (one building.) Machine-shop and engine-house for dock-pumps.
On site 41. A foundry, not on plan. To northward of machine-shop, a boiler-shop, not complete, not on plan.
No. 51. Sail-loft.
A, B, and 48. Ship-houses, (the last temporary,) with launching-slips.
A masonry dry-dock.
A timber or wet dock.
One launching-slip at north end of yard.
Besides the above, there were the following buildings not on the approved plan, viz:
One large ordnance-building, with an engine-house, a coal-house, and a small building containing a steam-box attached. This was located just east of No. 12.
A clothing and provision store on new-made ground just south of the entrance of the timber-dock.
A stable and lime-house just west of the timber-dock.
To the southward and in line with No. 33, a burnetizing-house, with a culvert leading into the timber-dock.
A saw-mill with engine-house and coal-shed on site 44.
 A timber-slip was in process of construction, to be used with the sawmill.
A timber-shed just west of the saw-mill, and two others near the west wall, between the angle and building No. 34.
Two large reservoirs for collecting-rain water, with pipes leading to various parts of the yard.
A system of pipes for conducting illuminating-gas to the yard and buildings.
Two carpenters7 shops near the dry-dock.
Shears, cranes, temporary sheds and shops, a railway, anchor-racks shot-platforms, gun-skids, &c.
There was also being constructed, just south of the provision-store, a house for storing masts and spars.
Some improvements had been made in Saint Helena, and considerable more were in contemplation.
There was also a fine hospital, with ample grounds about it, outside the navy-yard.
A large quantity of stores of all kinds, and particularly of ordnance stores, were on hand at the yard, it being regarded at the time as one of the most important stations in the country.
The disturbed condition of the country during the early months of 1861 did not put a stop to the work of improvement and repairs at the yard. Everything went on, under the current appropriations, as if no interruption was anticipated; though at the same time those of the inhabitants who favored the secession movement were actively preparing for civil war. Men were organized into companies and drilled on every hand. Officers of the Navy resigned their commissions; some as the States in which they resided passed the so-called ordinances of secession; others on their arrival in the United States from abroad; and many of those who remained in the service to the last moment talked rebellion in greater or less degree; and for a time it was difficult for commanding officers or for the Department to know exactly upon whom to rely. It was, therefore, not at all strange that the veteran officer in command at Gosport yard should not only have been very ill-advised, but that the dangers surrounding his position should have been greatly exaggerated; and particularly was he cautioned by his counselers against committing any act which, being regarded as hostile, should "inaugurate civil war.
On the 1st of April, 1861, there were, at the yard or in the stream, the following ships and vessels of war, viz:
Ship of the line Pennsylvania, 120 guns, receiving-ship.
Ship of the line Columbus, 74 guns, in ordinary.
Ship of the line Delaware, 74 guns, in ordinary.
Ship of the line New York, 74 guns, on the stocks.
Steam-frigate Merrimack, 40 guns, under repairs.
Frigate United States, 50 guns, in ordinary.
 Frigate Columbia, 50 guns, in ordinary.
Frigate Raritan, 50 guns, in ordinary.
Sloop Plymouth, 22 guns, ready for sea.
Sloop Germantown, 22 guns, ready for sea.
Brig Dolphin, 4 guns, ready for sea.
In addition to these, the U. S. Cumberland, 24, the flag-ship of Flag-Officer Pendergrast, commanding the home-squadron, was also lying off the yard, fully manned.
On the 10th of April the following confidential letter was addressed to Commodore McCauley by the Secretary of the Navy:
"NAVY DEPARTMENT, April 10,1861.
"Sir: In view of the peculiar condition of the country, and of events that have already transpired, it becomes necessary that great vigilance should be exercised in guarding and protecting the public interests and property committed to your charge. It is, therefore, deemed important that the steamer Merrimack should be in condition to proceed to Philadelphia or to any other yard, should it be deemed necessary; or in case of danger from unlawful attempts to take possession of her, that she should be placed beyond their reach.
"Indeed, it is desirable that all the shipping and stores should be attended to; and should you think an additional force necessary, or that other, precautions are required, you will immediately apprise the Department. In the mean time exercise your own judgment in discharging the responsibility that rests upon you.
"It is desirable that no steps should be taken to give needless alarm; but it may be best to order most of the shipping to sea or other stations.
"Please keep the Department advised of the condition of affairs, and of any cause for apprehension, should any exist.
"I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
" Secretary of the Navy.
"Capt. C. S. McCAULEY, "Commandant of Navy-Yard, Norfolk, Va."
On the same day, i. e., the 10th, a telegraphic order was sent to Commodore McCauley by the Chief of the Bureau of Construction to prepare the Merrimack promptly for temporary service under steam alone, and to report by telegraph the earliest day that she could be ready. The following was his answer:
"NORFOLK, April 11,1861.
"Chief of Bureau of Construction:
"Mr. Danby, chief engineer, says it will take one month to prepare the Merrimack's engines for the service contemplated.
"CHAS. S. McCAULEY,
 On the 11th Commander James Alden (now rear-admiral) was ordered to proceed to Norfolk to take command of the Merrimack, and as soon as she could be gotten ready to proceed in her to Philadelphia, and turn her over to the commandant of that station. Four engineers, one of whom was Mr. Danby, were also ordered to the ship.
After the receipt of the above telegram, the Department dispatched the Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. Isherwood, to Norfolk, to aid in repairing the Merrimack for removal; he was also made the bearer of the following letter to Commodore McCauley:
"NAVY DEPARTMENT, April 12,1861.
"Sir: The Department desires to have the Merrimack removed from the Norfolk to the Philadelphia navy-yard with the utmost dispatch. The Engineer-in-Chief, Mr. B. F. Isherwood, has been ordered to report to you for the purpose of expediting the duty, and you will have his suggestions for that end carried promptly into effect.
"I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
"Secretary of the Navy.
"Commodore CHAS. S. McCAULEY,,
"Commandant Navy-Yard, Portsmouth, Va."
Mr. Isherwood arrived at Norfolk on the 14th, and (as he reports under date of April 18) sought the chief engineer, Mr. Danby, and with him called upon the commandant, to whom he presented his orders and the letter above quoted, and by whom he was directed to take whatever measures he* deemed proper for expediting the work. On leaving the commodore, Mr. Isherwood went on board the Merrimack and made a careful examination of her machinery. The engines were in a wretched state, all the braces were out of the boilers, having been removed with a view to the substitution of other and larger ones, and the entire machinery was in a disabled condition. After the survey was* completed, and the amount of work ascertained that was required to be done (which was considerable) to put the machinery in a state to steam to Philadelphia, the foremen of the boiler-makers and machinists were directed to employ, in the course of the day, as many men as could work upon it, and to commence on Monday morning, which was done; and the work continued to be steadily urged, day and night, without an hour's intermission, until Wednesday afternoon, the 17th, when everything was ready.
On the 16th Commodore McCauley reported by letter to the Department that the necessary repairs upon the hull of the Merrimack would be completed by the following evening, when the ship might be taken and used for temporary service.
On the same date the following letters were written by the Secretary of the Navy to Commodores McCauley and Pendergrast, respectively,  though they appear not to have been dispatched until three days later being conveyed by Commodore Paulding:
"NAVY DEPARTMENT, April 16,1861.
"Sir: The events which have transpired since my confidential communication to you of the 10th instant impose additional vigilance and care in protecting the public property under your charge, and placing the vessels and stores, if necessary, beyond jeopardy. Referring to my letter of the 10th, you will continue to carry out the instructions therein contained. The engineer-in-chief, B. F. Isherwood, who was dispatched to Norfolk to aid in putting the Merrimack in condition to be moved, reports that she will be able to take her departure on Thursday. It may not be necessary, however, that she should leave at that time, unless there is immediate danger pending. But no time should be lost in getting her armament on board; and you will also place the more valuable public property, ordnance-stores, &c, on shipboard, so that they can at any moment be placed beyond the reach of seizure. With diligence on your part, it is not anticipated that any sudden demonstration can be made which, will endanger either the vessels or stores. The Plymouth and Dolphin should, however, be placed beyond* danger of immediate assault at once, if possible. The German town can receive on board stores and ordnance from the yard, and be towed out by the Merrimack if an assault is threatened. Men have been ordered from New York to man and assist in moving the vessels; but recent demands have left an insufficient number to meet the requisition. Under these; circumstances, should it become necessary, Commodore Pendergrast will assist and co-operate with you in carrying the views of the Department into effect. As it is difficult, at this distance, to give instructions in detail, the Department has thought proper to dispatch Commodore Paulding to Norfolk, who will be the bearer of this communication, and explain to yourself and Commodore Pendergrast the views and purposes of the Department. You will be pleased to advise with him freely and fully as to your duties and the interests of the Government in the present threatening emergency. The vessels and stores under your charge you will defend at any hazard, repelling by force, if necessary, any and all attempts to seize them, whether by mob violence, organized effort, or any assumed authority.
"I have the honor to be, very respectfully, yours, &c,
"Secretary of the Navy.
"Commodore C. S. McCAULEY,
"NAVY DEPARTMENT, April 16,1861.
"Sir: A state of things has arisen which renders the immediate departure of the Cumberland, as originally intended, inexpedient, Events of recent occurrence, and the threatening attitude of affairs in some parts of our country, call for the exercise of great vigilance and energy at Norfolk. Confidential communications have been heretofore made to Commodore McCauley on these subjects, which he will submit to you, and Commodore Paulding, who brings this letter to you, will verbally, and more in detail, explain the views of the Department. Please to advise freely and fully with these gentlemen, and co-operate with them in defending the vessels and public property at the navy-yard. As there is an insufficiency of men in the service at that station for moving the vessels, it may become necessary to render assistance from the force under your command.
"Until further orders the departure of the Cumberland to Vera Cruz will be deferred. In the mean time you will lend your assistance, and that of your command, toward putting the vessels now in the yard in condition to be moved, placing the ordnance and ordnance-stores on board for moving, and, in case of invasion, insurrection, or violence of any kind, to suppress it, repelling assault by force, if necessary. The Cumberland can render effective service, and it is deemed fortunate that the Government is enabled to avail itself of your services and that of your command at this juncture at Norfolk.
"I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
"Secretary of the Navy.
"Commodore G. J. PENDERGRAST,
"Commanding U. S. Sloop Cumberland, Norfolk, Va."
In the mean time every preparation had been made by Commander Alden to start with the Merrimack for Philadelphia; he had even procured the services of a pilot; the coal and engineer stores had been taken on board and forty-four firemen and coal-heavers engaged for the trip. The following, the concluding paragraphs of Mr. Isherwood's report, are quoted as giving the most interesting items of the next two days' proceedings:
"On Wednesday afternoon, at 4 o'clock, I called, in company with Chief Engineer Danby, on Commodore McCauley, reported the machinery ready for steam, informing him that forty-four firemen and coal-heavers had been engaged and were ready to go on board, and asked him if I should fire up at once. He replied not that afternoon, and adding that if I had steam on the next morning it would be time enough.
"Accordingly a regular engine-room watch was kept during the night and the fires were started at day-break:
"About 9 a. m. I called upon the commodore, and reported the engineer department ready for leaving; that the Chief Engineer Danby, the assistant engineers, the firemen, and the coal-heavers were all on board, with steam up and engines working at the wharf. The only thing wanting was his order to cast loose and go. He then, to my great surprise and dissatisfaction, informed me that he had not yet decided to send the vessel, but would let me know further in the course of a few hours. I called his attention to the fact that the instructions of the Department  were peremptory to send her, and expressed the opinion she would pass any obstructions the enemy could have placed in the channel without feeling them, adding that if he delayed a few hours the vessel would have to remain another day, and that during the night the obstructions would doubtless be increased. To this he replied as before, that he would determine in the course of the day.
"On leaving him, I requested Commander Alden to go on board with me, and pointing out to him the engineers, firemen, and coal-heavers, assembled in the engine-room, steam being up and the engines working at the wharf, I told him that so far as the engineer department was concerned, the vessel was ready to go, and that my part was done. About 2 p. m. I again called on the commodore, when he informed me that he had decided to retain the vessel, and directed me to draw the fires. I once more asked his attention to the peremptory nature of the orders of the Department, and expressed my conviction that the vessel could then be taken out with perfect safety, volunteering earnestly my advice that the attempt should be immediately made, and with the sloop of war Germantown in tow. He replied by reiterating his previous declaration that he should retain the vessel.
"Nothing then remained for me to do but to request him to put his indorsement on my orders, which he did, and to return to Washington and report the facts."
On the 18th of April the following order was given by the Secretary of the Navy to Commodore Hiram Paulding, then on duty in the Department:
"NAVY DEPARTMENT, April 18,1861.
"Sir: You are directed to proceed forthwith to Norfolk and take command of all the naval forces there afloat. With the means placed at your command, you will do all in your power to protect and place beyond danger the vessels and property belonging to the United States. On no account should the arms and munitions be permitted to fall into the hands of the insurrectionists, or those who would wrest them from the custody of the Government; and should it finally become necessary, you will, in order to prevent that result, destroy the property.
"In carrying into effect these orders, you are invested with full power to command the services of the entire naval force, and you will, if necessary, repel force by force in carrying out these instructions. It is understood that the War Department will detail Col. Richard Delafield, or some other competent officer, with a command, to aid and assist in protecting and guarding the yard and property at Gosport and vicinity, and you will co-operate with that officer in this object.
"I am, sir, respectfully, &c,
"Secretary of the Navy.
"Commodore HIRAM PAULDING,
" Washington, D. C."
 Verbal instructions, more at length, were given to Commodore Paulding. Authority was given him to direct such officers as were in the vicinity to report to him at once. The United States steam-sloop Pawnee, Commander S. C. Rowan, one of the very few vessels in commission at the time, and' which was lying at Washington, was placed at his disposal, though it could be ill spared at the time, and he was enjoined to cause its return at the earliest possible moment, as its presence was necessary for the defense of Washington. Commodore Paulding dispatched officers to Philadelphia and New York to charter steamers.
On the 19th Commodore Paulding, with the other officers detailed to assist him, embarked on board the Pawnee, received one hundred marines from the marine barracks, and proceeded to Fortress Monroe, where he arrived on the afternoon of the following day, i. e., the 20th. Captain Wright, of the United States engineers, who had been sent instead of Colonel Delafield, waited on Colonel Dimmock, the commandant Fortress Monroe, and obtained the services of Colonel Wardrop's regiment of Massachusetts volunteers, who embarked at once, and at 6:45 p. m. the Pawnee's head was turned toward Norfolk.
The following detail had been made of officers to take charge of the vessels which it was intended to remove, (the others at the yard being in a dismantled condition,) viz: steam-frigate Merrimack, Capt. C. Wilkes, Commander Sands, Lieuts. H. A. Wise and Johnson, Chief Engineer J. W. King, and fifty men; sloop of war Germantown, Commander Walke, Lieuts. Phelps and Morris, and forty men; sloop of war Plymouth, Commander John Rodgers, Lieuts. Gibson and McGary, and thirty men; brig Dolphin, Commander Alden, Lieut. J. H. Russell, and twenty men.
We will now return to the navy-yard, where the history of that and the previous two days' occurrences is thus given by Commodore McCauley, in his report written after his arrival in Washington:
"WASHINGTON, D. C., April 26,1861.
"Sir: I beg leave to detail to the Department the events which preceded the evacuation and destruction of the Government property at the Gosport navy-yard on the night of Saturday, the 20th of April. On Thursday night Flag-Officer Pendergrast learned that obstructions had been sent down to be placed in the river; he promptly had two boats manned and armed to prevent it, but owing to the thickness of the weather his intentions were foiled. On Friday, the 19th instant, I understood that Virginia State troops were arriving at Portsmouth and Norfolk in numbers from Richmond, Petersburgh, and the neighborhood; and not having the means at my disposal to get the Merrimack, Germantown, and Plymouth to a place of safety, I determined on destroying them, being satisfied that with the small force under my command the yard was no longer tenable. I did not, however, carry that act into execution until the next day, before which I discovered that the insurgents were throwing up batteries immediately in front of the yard,  when I sent Lieutenant Selfridge, of the Cumberland, to General Taliaferro, commanding Virginia troops, with a message that if they continued to menace me by placing batteries opposite the yard I should consider it an act of war, and fire upon them.* Colonel Heath, the aid-de-camp of the general, returned with Lieutenant Selfridge, and assured me that the general disclaimed all knowledge of such batteries. I then commenced scuttling the Germantown, Plymouth, Dolphin, and Merrimack, destroying the engine and machinery of the latter, cutting away the large shears,t spiking the guns in the yard and on board the ships in ordinary, including the Pennsylvania, and destroying such arms of the old and obsolete pattern as could not be placed on board the Cumberland, and throwing them overboard; making the destruction of other things, with the exception of the public buildings, as complete as possible. By this time it was quite dark; my officers, with few exceptions, had all deserted me; even the watchmen had thrown off their allegiance, and had taken pare with the secessionists; so I determined on retiring to the Cumberland, and in the morning act as circumstances might require.
"With the Cumberland I could have destroyed Norfolk and Portsmouth, and had batteries opened upon the ship these cities would have been at my mercy. Before I had carried out my intentions of embarking aboard the Cumberland, Flag-Officer Paulding arrived in the Pawnee. As he had special instructions from the Department, which he substantially communicated to me, and to which I gave entire assent, I took no further active part in the matter, and embarked on board the Cumberland; but I can bear testimony to the gallant manner in which Flag-Officer Paulding and his brave associates executed his orders. Toward morning Flag-Officer Paulding embarked with his force, and the Cumberland and Pawnee, the former assisted by the steamer Yankee from New York, stood down the river unmolested.
"The Cumberland was detained some hours by the obstructions placed in the narrows near Sewell's Point, but finally overcame them, and anchored in Hampton Roads by 8 o'clock p. m., Sunday.
"In making this, my report to the Department, it gives me great pleasure to report the gallant and meritorious conduct of those officers true to their allegiance. I cannot speak in sufficiently high terms of Flag-Officer Pendergrast for the many valuable suggestions I received from him. To Captain Marston and officers of the Cumberland I feel very much indebted.
* The writer has been informed by a trustworthy person, then living at Norfolk, that every effort was made to induce the belief, on the part of Commodore McCauley and his officers, that a much larger force menaced them than was really the case; though the actual number was by no means inconsiderable. Among other expedients, trains of cars were sent out empty, from the station at the water-side, and at a short distance from the city were filled with troops which had gone out for the purpose, and ¦were then brought back, landing the men in plain sight of the ships, and this was
repeated many times a day, of course conveying the impression that fresh troops were constantly arriving.
† The shears when cut away fell across the deck of the Germantown, cutting her down to the water-line.
 "Lieutenant Selfridge bore a message to the commanding general under great personal risk.
"I have to thank Commander Livingston, Lieutenants Semmes, Donaldson, and Irwin, for gallant and efficient services, and to Lieut. Col. Edelin, of the marines, my thanks are particularly due.
"I am, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
C. S. McCAULEY,
"Late Commandant of the Navy-Yard at Gosport.
"Hon. GIDEON WELLES,
"Secretary of the Navy."
From an officer who was at the time attached to the Cumberland, the writer is indebted for the following additional information in regard to some of the facts mentioned by Commodore McCauley:
On the night of the 14th, at 11.30 p. m., the Cumberland being then anchored off the naval hospital, the officer of the watch, Lieutenant Selfridge, observed a tug steaming past the ship, and as it went by the hospital-light he saw that it had two light-vessels in tow. Of their destination he, of course, knew nothing, as up to that time no rumor had reached the Cumberland of any intention to, obstruct the channel; however, conjecturing that something was wrong, he remained on deck after being relieved at midnight, and about a half-hour later another tug passed having a third light-vessel in tow. Mr. Selfridge now obtained permission from Captain Marston to follow the tugs with an armed boat, and find out, if possible, what was about to take place. The night was very dark and rainy, and so thick that he was unable to see a boat's length off, and after pulling down as far as Craney Island without being able to discover anything, he returned to the ship, which he reached at about 4 a. m. At 8 a. m. the tugs returned, when it was ascertained that three condemned light-vessels, which had been lying up at Norfolk, had been taken possession of by a body of armed men, forming part of a so-styled "vigilance committee," carried down to a position in the narrowest part of the channel off Sewell's Point, and there scuttled and sunk. On Monday, the 15th, the Cumberland was moved from her anchorage off the naval hospital to a position off the navy-yard, and there moored "head and stern." Lieutenant Selfridge now offered to take the brig Dolphin down off Craney Island, and with her to prevent any further attempts at obstructing the channel; his proposition was cordially approved by Commodore Paulding, (who was at the time on a visit to the yard to ascertain the condition of affairs,) and was consented to by Commodore McCauley, but after the departure of Commodore Paulding the permission was withdrawn. During the remainder of the week several schooners, lighters, &c, were towed down from Norfolk to be sunk in the channel, and it was an open boast that the Cumberland should never be permitted to leave the harbor.
Commodore McCauley was now, and had been for a month previously,  in almost daily receipt of anonymous letters, threatening personal violence to himself. He was at the same time surrounded by officers in whom he confided, believing them, up to the very hour that they resigned, to be Union men, and who were advising him to adopt and continue the temporizing policy which was pursued. In reference to the Merrimack, when that vessel was all ready to go, and only waited his order to start, it was urged upon him that permitting her to leave might have an unfavorable effect upon the action of the convention then in session at Richmond.
On Friday night a party of officers from the Cumberland assisted Lieutenant Semmes in spiking the guns in the different parks in the yard. For want of better means, this was done with common wrought nails, of course forming but a temporary obstruction. At the same time a large quantity of ordnance-stores were put on board the Cumberland, as is mentioned in Commodore McCauley's letter above quoted, making the ship literally a floating magazine, adding greatly to the danger she would have been placed in had the oft-repeated threat of sending fire-ships down upon her been carried into execution.
The batteries spoken of by Commodore McCauley as being thrown up opposite the navy-yard were distinctly seen from the mast-head of the Cumberland, though screened from sight below by the intervening trees and bushes.
The feeling among the people of Norfolk against the United States officers had been so strong that no communication had been allowed with that place since the previous Thursday, as it was extremely probable that any officer who visited the place would be forcibly detained. For this reason, Lieutenant Selfridge, in carrying Commodore McCauley^ message to General Taliaferro, was directed to carry a flag of truce.
It will be seen by Commodore McCauley's letter that succor was almost at hand when the ships were scuttled; in fact, the Pawnee had already reached Fortress Monroe, but fourteen miles off. Had the commodore been aware of the fact, not only might much valuable property have been saved, but the subsequent history of the war in that vicinity would probably have been quite different. Not only would the United States have been saved the actual damage afterward committed by the Merrimack, but also the moral effect produced by so formidable a vessel in the hands of the enemy, as well as the use for other purposes of the force employed to keep her in check.
As stated by Commodore McCauley, nearly all the officers under his command had resigned or deserted on the forenoon of that very day. There remained on duty at the yard, besides himself, only Commander J6hn W. Livingston, who had just reported; Lieut. A. A. Semmes, temporarily in charge of the Dolphin; Lieut. Col. Edelin, of the marines; and Lieut. T. B. Edelin, United States Army; on board the receiving-ship Pennsylvania, Lieut. Edward Donaldson, Lieut. John Irwin, just reported, Lieut. W. N. Allen, Dr. J. Rudenstein, and Sail-Maker Thomas.
 At 8 p. m. of April 20, less than two hours after leaving Fortress Monroe, the Pawnee appeared in sight from the yard and the ships. The Cumberland was moored in the channel off the yard, and the Pennsylvania just out. of the channel and some little distance below. As the Pawnee steamed up, of course both vessels went to quarters, not knowing what might be the character of the approaching vessel, whether friend or foe. She was hailed from the Cumberland, but as the wind was blowing quite fresh down stream, her answer "United States ship Pawnee," though distinctly heard from the Pennsylvania, did not reach the Cumberland, and the hail was repeated, with no better success. At that moment the voice of the officer who commanded the forward pivot-gun on board the Cumberland was heard asking, "Shall I fire, sir?" It may be imagined what an anxious moment it was on the crowded decks of the Pawnee, as well as on board the Pennsylvania, where, of course, every soul was watching for the result, expecting in an instant that the Pawnee would be raked by an 11-inch shell, which would have committed terrible havoc. At that moment Lieutenant Allen, of the Pennsylvania, by a happy inspiration, called to the commanding officer, saying, "Donaldson, let us give her three cheers." "Good," said Donaldson, instantly giving the order, which was scarcely uttered before the rigging was manned, and three rousing cheers rang out across the waters, being taken up by the Cumberland, and as heartily responded to by the Pawnee.
The Pawnee proceeded to the wharf at the yard, where Commodore Paulding learned to his great chagrin the fatal mistake that had been made, and that the ships that he had expected to save, and with which he might have held and defended the station, were rapidly sinking at their moorings. An examination was at once made to see whether it was possible to arrest the leaks and save the vessels, but it was found to be too late.
The only alternative left to Commodore Paulding was to complete the destruction of the property, as he had not the means at his disposal to defend it. Nor was there at that time any prospect of further aid from the Government. It was imperatively necessary to send the Pawnee to Washington. The channel had already been seriously obstructed in two places, one off Craney Island and the other off Sewell's Point, and the work was still going on under the orders of the governor of Virginia. Had the four scuttled ships been saved, it was Commodore Paulding's intention to anchor them at different points in the channel, and thus control the passage from the navy-yard to Sewell's Point; this was now, of course, impossible. He was not long in deciding what course was necessary; and details of officers and men were immediately made, as follows: one hundred officers and men from the Cumberland were sent to destroy or render unserviceable all the guns in the yard; of these it was estimated that there were two thousand, three hundred of which were of the latest patterns of Dahlgren guns of various cali-  bers; they had already been spiked, as above mentioned, but as that was but a temporary expedient, it was attempted to knock off with sledge-hammers a trunnion of each gun. Such was the tenacity of the iron, however, that after a labor of several hours not a single trunnion had been broken.
Commander John Rodgers, and Captain Wright, of the engineers, were detailed to blow up the dry dock with powder. A detachment of forty men from Colonel Wardrop's regiment were sent to carry powder, tools, boards, &c. Lieut. J. H. Russell and Chief-Engineer J. W. King also accompanied them. Commander Alden was directed to prepare the store-houses, work-shops, &c, for destruction; Commander Sands, the ship-houses and their contents. Lieutenants Wise, Phelps, Gibson, McGary, and Morris were detailed to distribute combustible materials on board the various ships, and to prepare them for firing. Each officer, as soon as ready, was to report to Captain Wilkes, to whom was given the general charge of the work.
While these preparations were being made, a flag of truce came to Commodore Paulding, from General Taliaferro, commanding the Virginia State troops in the vicinity, with a message, the purport of which was, "That to save the effusion of blood, the general would permit the Cumberland to leave the port unmolested, if the destruction of public property should be discontinued." To this Commodore Paulding replied that any act of violence on their [the Virginia troops] part would devolve upon them the consequences.
At 1:45 a. m., of Sunday, Commanders Rodgers, Alden, and Sands reported that all was ready. Trains bad been laid on board the Plymouth, Merrimack, Germantown, Raritan, Columbia, Dolphin, and Pennsylvania in the order in which they lay moored ; the Delaware was left out on account of the distance she lay off, and the United States,* which was so far decayed as to be worthless.
Orders were now given to embark immediately all the men who could be spared, retaining only those necessary to ignite the material prepared for the purpose, when the signal should be given, and which was to be a rocket fired from the Pawnee by order of Commodore Paulding. As the boats were about to shove off, a young son of Commodore McCauley came down to the landing, and, with tears in his eyes, reported that his father declined to vacate his post, refusing all inducement to do so. Commander Alden was directed to wait upon the commodore and inform him that the yard was to be fired immediately, and that his life must be lost if he persisted in remaining; he was
* This old frigate not only escaped destruction at this time, but also on the subsequent abandonment and further destruction of the yard by the rebels in May, 1862. She had been taken by them and sunk in the channel off Craney Island, where she was found on the repossession of the yard by our forces. As there was where she lay but little more than her natural draught of water, she had not sunk very far, and was easily raised by Captain Livingston by simply pumping her out. She was taken to the yard, and broken up in 1864.
 finally prevailed upon, with great reluctance, to remove on board of the Cumberland.
All the shore-parties having been withdrawn, two boats from the Cumberland remained alongside the quay, one in charge of Lieutenants Wise and Phelps, to fire the ships; and the other with Captain Wilkes and Lieutenant Russell, to bring off the officers and men left on shore ; this boat took position near the end of the eastern ship-house, where, as each party accomplished their duty, they were to join her ; the parties consisted of Commander Rodgers, Captain Wright, and John Reynolds, ordinary seaman; Commander Alden, and one man; and Commander Sands, with two men; in all, eight persons. Commander Rodgers and Captain Wright had placed several barrels of powder in one of the culverts of the dry-dock, and to it, from the chamber of the dock, had laid a train of powder upon boards, carefully placed; they had arranged in a box three pieces of slow-match, of a sufficient length to burn twenty minutes, passing the ends out of auger-holes in the side of the box, against which was heaped loose powder, communicating with the train; the fuses were to be lighted from the interior of the box.
Commander Rowan, of the Pawnee, with his officers and men had assisted in the preparations in every way possible, and is thanked with the other officers, for his efforts, by Captain Wilkes in his report of the proceedings.
At 2:25 a. m. the Pawnee left the wharf, and passed hawsers to the Cumberland, and at 4 a. m. the tide serving, the Cumberland's moorings were slipped, and the two vessels, assisted by the chartered tug Yankee, started down the river. At 4:20 the signal-rocket was fired, and the torch was immediately applied to the ships and buildings. In a few minutes the flames commenced to shoot up in dense, heaving masses The whole area of the yard seemed to be a sea of fire; the ship-houses, the line of stores, and the Merrimack were being rapidly consumed. Commanders Alden and Sands, with their men, soon joined Captain Wilkes, when all eyes were turned toward the direction whence Commander Rodgers and his companions were expected to appear. As minute after minute passed, and they did not come, while the conflagration was making rapid strides, the smoke becoming more blinding, and the heat more intense at every instant, it soon became apparent, as Captain Wilkes states in his report, that no one could pass through the fire to the quay. Captain Wilkes at last, when he had waited until he believed that no chance remained of their coming, and when in fact the safety of the boat seemed to demand it, reluctantly gave the order to shove off, leaving Commander Rodgers, Captain Wright, and John Reynolds on shore, where it was believed they had been cut off by the fire, or so bewildered in the smoke as to be unable to reach the point of rendezvous. As Captain Wilkes and party emerged from the smoke,  they caught sight of Lieutenant Wise's boat, which appeared to be passing through the flames.
After picking up their boats, the Cumberland and the Pawnee, the former in tow of the latter, passed down the river and on to Fortress Monroe.
General Taliaferro probably concluded that it would not be prudent to bring upon himself "the consequences of any act of violence committed by him," as he offered no opposition to the passage of the ships out of the harbor.
In passing Sewell's Point, the Cumberland struck upon the obstructions which had been placed in the channel, and hung for several hours, being finally dragged off, with the assistance of the chartered steamers Keystone State * and Yankee.
Arrived at Fortress Monroe, Colonel Wardrop's regiment was lauded; the Cumberland was anchored in the roads; and the Pawnee and Keystone State proceeded to Washington.
In the mean time, Commander Rodgers and his companions, having been delayed longer than they expected in lighting and placing their fuses, (all three of which unfortunately went out without communicating fire to the train,) ran as fast as they could, having nearly the whole length of the yard to go to the place of rendezvous, which they succeeded in reaching, only to find that the boat had gone without them. It now became a question how they should escape from the yard, as they were not enough acquainted with it to know of any exit except through the main gate? which they supposed to be locked, as usual at night. Passing up the yard and nearing the flagstaff, they came upon three men who were trying to hoist a small rebel flag. Instantly concluding that wherever these persons found ingress they could find egress, Commander Rodgers went up to them, and, with great presence of mind, assumed a tone of authority, and demanded to know how they got into the yard. The men, evidently very much surprised at seeing the officers, and no doubt supposing the yard to be still occupied, answered quite respectfully that they came in by the main gate. Overjoyed at this intelligence, but of course not desiring to show it, Commander Rodgers exclaimed, "Who left that gate open?" and moved toward it followed by his companions. Passing out of the gate and down by the water-side, where Commander Rodgers remembered to have seen some shore boats, they fortunately found one, which they entered and shoved off. As they did so, they were hailed by some men in another boat, who asked who they were and where they were going. To this they answered that it was none of the questioners?, business, and went on. By this time the whole populace had been roused up in all directions, and of course were greatly excited and maddened by the burning of the yard, the more so as labor in it had been to a
* The Keystone State was one of the vessels which had been chartered by Commodore Paulding's order. Lieutenant Woodhull had proceeded to Philadelphia, chartered the steamer, manned and armed her, and had arrived at his station within forty-eight hours from the time he received his orders in Washington.
 large portion of them a means of livelihood. The country for miles around was as light as if the noonday sun were shining. Shots commenced to be fired at the fugitives, and it soon became apparent that all hope of escape was gone. Commander Rodgers therefore concluded that the only chance of saving their lives was for the party to surrender themselves to the military authorities. Seeing a company drawn up on shore, just opposite the yard, and dressed in the uniform of riflemen, they pulled on shore and going to it informed the commanding officer that they wished to see the commanding general at Norfolk. The officer received the party very politely, and told them it was very fortunate that they turned as they did, for one of his men had just drawn a bead upon them." Placing them in charge of an escort, he sent them in boats to Norfolk, where he would not permit them to land until he had sent for a company called the "Norfolk Grays," who came down to the landing, and escorted the party to General Taliaferro's headquarters. Had it not been for these precautions there is no doubt that the excited citizens would have made the death of the party the penalty for the destruction of the yard.
Commander Rodgers and his companions were not unkindly received by General Taliaferro, who kept them at once his prisoners and his guests for four days, when he sent them to Richmond; he also permitted Commander Rodgers to telegraph to his family that he and Captain Wright were well. Arriving at Richmond, they were received by Governor Letcher, who, following the example of General Taliaferro, kept them at his own house for a few days, when he sent them to Washington, intrusting to Commander Rodgers a message to the Secretary of State of the United States, to the effect that should United States troops cross the Long Bridge, he, Governor Letcher, should regard the act as a declaration of war against Virginia by the United States. This message Commander Rodgers communicated for what it was worth.
 CHAPTER XI.
Occupation of the yard by the Rebels—The Evacuation and Further Destruction
by them—Re-occupation by the United States—Restoration of the Yard—Conclusion.
The occupation of the yard by the rebels; the raising and rebuilding of the Merrimack as an iron-clad under the name of Virginia, though to the public always known by her old name; the destruction by her of the frigates Congress and Cumberland; the opportune arrival of the Monitor under Lieutenant Worden, (now rear-admiral,) by which the Merrimack was driven back to Norfolk, and afterward held for mouths blockaded in the Elizabeth; and the capture of Norfolk by the United States forces-under the immediate direction of President Lincoln in May, 1862, are all well-known matters of history.
The vessels of Admiral Goldsborough's squadron participated in the attack on Norfolk by shelling the batteries at Sewell's Point. The ironclads Monitor and Stevens, with some wooden steamers to act as rams, endeavored to draw out the Merrimack, but without success, she declining to engage.
The city of Norfolk was surrendered by the civil authorities to General Wool on the 10th of May, 1802. Early on the following morning the Merrimack was blown up by her own people, to avoid capture by Admiral Goldsborough's squadron. The navy-yard was fired and abandoned at the same time. The following is the admiral's report of the occurrence:
"UNITED STATES FLAG-SHIP MINNESOTA,,
"Hampton Roads, Va., May 12,1862.
"Sir: In the surrender of Norfolk by its civil authorities, day before yesterday, to the forces of our army under General Wool, which landed at Willoughby's Point, nothing but the city itself was given up. Early yesterday morning I witnessed an awful explosion in the direction of Craney Island, and inferred immediately that either the works on that island or the Merrimack had been blown up. A few minutes afterward an officer from the guard-ship Dakota came on board and informed me that the Merrimack no longer existed, for from the Dakota they had seen her blown to pieces. Supposing from this that Craney Island and all the rest of the exterior defenses of Norfolk were about to be abandoned, or, if not, that they might be subdued, I immediately ordered the Monitor, Stevens, Susquehanna, Dakota, Seminole, San Jacinto, and Mount Vernon to get under way, and gave them such orders as I judged necessary in the premises. Before they could get off, however, I had dispatched my aid, Lieutenant Selfridge, in a tug, to proceed off Sewell's Point, and as far above it as he could get with safety, in order to ascertain the real condition of things. He landed at Sewell's Point and hoisted  our flag on the works, which he found had been abandoned, but the guns were not spiked. Commander Case, captain of the fleet, went on to Craney Island in another tug, and there hauled down two rebel flags and hoisted our own in their places. Our ships proceeded on to Norfolk unmolested, and there the Susquehanna, Seminole, Dakota, and San Jacinto now lie, immediately off the town and in close proximity with it.
* * * * * *
"I accompanied the President and Secretaries Chase and Stanton yesterday to Norfolk on board the Baltimore, but I did not return with the party.
"In the afternoon I visited the navy-yard, and went all over it. It is still burning in very many places. Nearly everything is destroyed. Of the buildings, the officers' quarters alone remain intact. There are a large number of iron tanks, however, apparently in perfect condition; a good deal of mast and other timber; a number of old and generally worthless guns; and considerable machinery of one kind and another. The dock-gates are all destroyed, and the pier-ends connected with the gates have been blown up to a partial degree, but otherwise * the dock itself seems uninjured.
"The President said to me verbally that he wished all the guns at the forts and dock-yards to be removed to Fortress Monroe, and unless he should think proper to communicate to you otherwise, I presume I am to have this work done.
"On returning from Norfolk I left our naval forces there under the command of Captain Lardner, an officer in whose discretion and good sense I have great confidence. I gave him full directions as to intercourse, &c., with the shore; but I shall have to go there again to-day or to-morrow, and for several days afterward, on matters of importance.
"I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"L. M. GOLDSBOROUGH,
"Flag-Officer, commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron,
"HON. GIDEON WELLES,
" Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C."
Admiral Goldsborough immediately moved his flag-ship to Norfolk, anchoring off the naval hospital. By his order, sanctioned by the President, the forts along the shores of the Elizabeth, and as far down as Sewell's Point, and also those for some distance up the Nansemond, which had been erected by the rebels, were dismantled and blown up. Lieutenant Selfridge was charged with the work of destroying the former, and Lieutenant John Watters the latter.
Admiral Goldsborough took possession of all the naval property in the vicinity, including the yard, the magazine, and the naval hospital. By his order a careful examination of the yard was made by Lieutenant Selfridge, who, under date of May 19th, reported substantially as , follows:
 The only buildings uninjured by fire were five brick dwellings, the boiler-shop, the foundery, and one wooden timber-shed. He found and collected about the yard a quantity of chain-cables, sheet and bolt copper, fifteen old ships' galleys, smiths' tools, and detached pieces of machinery belonging to the smithery, a quantity of cordage, a diving-bell, a large quantity of oak-timber, some pine planks and fifty pieces' of spar-timber, one hundred and fifty barrels of pitch, fourteen 32-pounder guns, two 100-pounder rifles, one hundred and forty old guns, worthless, and three 32-pounder gun-carriages, a number of water-tanks, great quantities of old iron and of pig-ballast, a number of iron plates punched for bolting, thirty anchors, and a number of kedges. He found some of the machinery in the machine-shop in good condition, and some injured.
On the 20th of May, 1862, Capt. John W. Livingston was ordered to the yard as commandant. He at once commenced the work of putting the yard in as good order as its ruined state would permit, and of gathering up the public property, a large quantity of which was found outside of the yard in various places. Many articles were restored by the citizens, or pointed out so that they could be taken possession of. A considerable quantity of timber, three fire-engines, and a number of guns were among the things so restored. Two diving-bells, anchors, shot, shell in boxes, and many other articles were recovered from the water, having been thrown overboard from the quay and the wharves.
Repairs were commenced as soon as possible, particularly upon those shops which were most immediately needed. The machine-shop was put in working order in a very short time. An appropriation was made to restore the dry-dock; this the rebels had temporarily disabled by destroying the gates. They had attempted to blow up the dock by powder, which was placed in the capstan-chambers. The damage done by this, however, was not as great as they had hoped. The dock, at the time of the evacuation, was partly full of water, and the pumping-engines were out of order, so that they were unable to reach the lower part of the chamber or the discharge-culverts, or they would have damaged the structure much more than they did. The caisson was burned as low as fire would reach, it being in place at the time. It was made sufficiently water-tight by boarding up to make it possible to pump out and examine the dock, which was done in February, 1863. New gates were constructed and the dock put in working-order during that year.
Considerable appropriations for the fiscal years ending July, 1865, 1866,1867, respectively, were made by Congress for restoring the various workshops, stores, wharves, shears, cranes, and machinery in the yard. The objects most needed to make the yard a repairing and refitting station were first attended to, in order that the immediate requirements of the service might be met.
The arrangement of store-houses was systematized, in which, by the way, this yard set the example to most of the others in the country; separate buildings or parts of buildings were assigned to the different departments, whose heads were made responsible each for his own stores. By this means the public property was much better cared for and preserved than under the old system, the accountability much more perfect, and the facility for handling and issuing stores vastly increased.
The restoration of the yard has been steadily progressing under the current appropriations, which, however, have been very small since 1867, and only under the head of "repairs of all kinds."
The following is a list of the buildings which have been repaired or rebuilt; the numbers refer to the sites as given on the "approved plan," though in some instances the purposes to which the buildings are devoted have been changed from those originally designed; the new arrangement is here given, viz:
No. 9. Smithery, &c.
No. 11. Construction store-house.
No. 13. Equipment-store.
No. 14. Provisions and clothing store. This building was substituted in 1870 for the victualing-house, which had been rebuilt on the new-made ground just south of the entrance to the timber-dock, but which commenced to settle and became in danger of falling; to prevent which the building was taken down.
No. 15. Steam-engineering store-house.
No. 16. Ordnance-building.
No. 17. Yards and docks store-house.
No. 18. This number has been given to a ship-carpenters' shop, just north of the dry-dock, and does not refer to the number 18 on the plan.
No. 19. (One of the entrance-buildings,, so-called.) Contains offices, draughting-rooms, court-martial-room, cordage-store, navigation-store, and marine guard-room.
No. 57. (The other entrance-building.) Rigging-loft and sail-loft.
Nos. 20 to 25, both inclusive, as marked on the plan, have never been built upon, and some of the numbers have been reassigned, viz:
No. 21. Sawmill, in the south part of the yard.
No. 22. Foundery.
No. 23. Boiler-shop.
No. 28. Mast-house and house-joiners' shop.
No. 29. Boat-builders' shop, boat-house, block-makers' and ship-joiners' shops.
No. 30. Timber-shed and furniture store-room for the construction department.
No. 31. Timber-shed, paint-shop, and sail store-rooms.
Nos. 36, 37, and 38. Machine-shop. These constitute one building, and have recently been so extended as to join them with the foundery.
No. 37. This number is now given to a small building on part of the foundation of the former ordnance-building, just south of No. 9; it is used as a plumbers' shop.
 The officers7 quarters are now lettered, viz: A, commandant's; B, executive officer's; 0, surgeon's house; and the two houses on the site marked 39 are lettered D and E.
No. 39. This number is now used to designate a new building, which has been constructed as a workshop for the department of yards and docks. It is built of the materials of the victualing-house, which was taken down in 1870, and is located south of No. 12. In excavating for the foundations of this building, a number of human remains were found, to account for which several theories were advanced. By consulting a very old plan of the yard, which is without date, but which was made about the year 1816, it is found that a burying-place existed on that spot at that time, it was near the bank of the stream or creek, a part of which now forms the timber-basin. The remains are, therefore, no doubt those of United States sailors and marines.
In addition to the buildings above mentioned, there are in the yard, stables, sheds, tar, pitch, lime, and oil houses, watch-houses, offices, &c,, in various parts of the yard. The car-tracks have been restored, wharves repaired, new shears have been erected, and a large lifting-crane. The reservoirs for rain-water, with their system of pipes leading to various parts of the yard, are in good condition.
A contract was entered into by the Government with companies of wreckers, by which, on terms advantageous to the Government, nearly all of the hulks of the vessels destroyed at the yard, as well as of the Merrimack, have been raised and broken up, thus clearing the channel.
Dredging has been carried on from time to time, and is going on now, for deepening the channel off the yard, the design being to gain twenty-four feet of water at least. The earth removed is used for filling in where needed in the yard.
The following have been the commandants of the yard since the repossession by the United States, viz:
Capt. John W. Livingston, from May 20,1862, to November 16,1864; Capt. John M. Berrien, from November 16, 1864, to October 7, 1865-Commodore Robert B. Hitchcock, from October 31,1865, to August 7,1866; Rear-Admiral S. O. Rowan, from August 7, 1866, to July 23, 1867; Commodore A. H. Kilty, from August 15, 1867, to October 1,1870; Rear-Admiral C. H. Davis, from October 1, 1870, to July 1, 1873 ; and Commodore Thomas H. Stevens, from July 1, 1873, to the present time.
Rear-Admiral Joshua R. Sands was appointed Port-Admiral at Norfolk in March, 1869, and hoisted his flag on board the line-of-battle ship New-Hampshire, which was also the receiving-ship. Admiral Sands was detached in August, 1870.
It is earnestly hoped, in view of its great importance, that Congress will make such appropriations for the continued improvement of the yard at Gosport as shall make it commensurate with the needs of a first-rate naval power.