Portsmouth, Virginia

Marcus W. Robbins, Historian & Archivist
Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

The Norfolk Navy Yard into the 20th Century


and Representative Citizens

Col. William H. Stewart
Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, IL

pp. 443 - 453.


The Evacuation and Destruction of the Navy Yard by the Federals—Occupation by the State Authorities—Turned Over to Confederate Government—Evacuation by the Confederates.

Burning of the Gosport Navy Yard by the United State Authorities.
The New York Illustrated News, May 11, 1861.
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The following accounts of Commodore McCauley, Captain Wright, U. S. Navy, log of the U. S. S."Pawnee" and of Captain Sinclair, C. S. Navy, and William H. Peters, Esq., C. S. Navy, agent, and of the Norfolk Herald give full particulars of the abandonment of the Navy Yard by the Federals, its occupation by the Confederates and its evacuation by the latter. The discovery of Commodore McCauley "that the insurgents were throwing up batteries immediately in front of the yard" was all in the imagination, and the report of the arrival of State troops grew out of the strategy of Col. William Mahone in ordering trains to be run back and forth over the Norfolk & Petersburg Railroads so as to give the appearance of military forces being thrown into Norfolk with great expedition. The Commodore made his report after his retreat to the Capital of the United States.

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 inst., I understood that Virginia State troops were arriving at Portsmouth and Norfolk in numbers from Richmond and Petersburg, and the neighborhood; and not having the means at my disposal to get the "Merrimac," "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 aide-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 "Merrimac," destroying the engine and machinery of the latter, cutting away the large sheers, 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 part 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 [444] 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.

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 Lieutenant-Colonel 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.

Capt. H. G. Wright, U. S. Engineer Corps, made the following report of the destruction of the Navy Yard: "On reaching the yard it was found that all the ships afloat except the 'Cumberland' had been scuttled, by order of Commodore McCauley, the commandant of the yard, to prevent their seizure by the Virginia forces, and that they were fast sinking. One of the objects of the expedition—that of removing those vessels and taking them to sea—was therefore frustrated. On reporting to the Commodore of the yard, I found him disposed to defend the yard and property to the last, and the troops were accordingly landed and some dispositions for defense taken. It was soon determined, however, by Commodore Paulding, who had come on the 'Pawnee' from Washington, to finish the destruction of the scuttled ships, to burn and otherwise destroy, as far as practicable, the property in the yard, and withdraw with the frigate 'Cumberland' in tow of the 'Pawnee' and a steam tug which was lying at the yard.

"To Commander Rodgers and myself was assigned the duty of blowing up the dry-docks assisted by 40 men of the volunteers and a few of the crew, of the 'Pawnee.' The dock which is a massive structure of granite masonry has a pumping-gallery running along the back of one of the side-walls, entering from the level of the bottom near the entrance gate, and terminating as is understood, in the Dumping-house near the farther end of the dock. Under the circumstances of want of time for preparations and the darkness of night, this gallery offered the only means for the establishment of a mine. Had the dock been full of water, this advantage could not have been availed of, but we found in it a depth of only about two feet. We accordingly proceeded to construct in this gallery a platform of such materials as could be collected to a height above the surface of the water, and on this we placed the powder (2,000) pounds) which we had brought from the ship, established a train from the gallery to the outside, and connected it with four separate slow-matches. Everything being arranged, all the men were sent to the ship, except one of the crew of the 'Pawnee,' who was retained to watch for the signal from the Commodore for lighting the matches and returning to the ship. On the signal, the matches were lighted by Captain Rodgers and myself and we made the best of our way toward the landing, but before we could reach it the flames of the burning buildings had become so intense, that the boats had undoubtedly been driven off, and indeed we could not approach it. After some delay, we succeeded in getting out of the yard through the burning gateway, and seized a boat in the hope of making our escape by the river. We proceeded but a short distance, however, when several shots were fired at us from the Portsmouth side, and as the armed force was rapidly accumulating against us at a point below, where the river was narrow and where we should have had to pass within effective musket-range, we concluded to land on the Norfolk side and deliver ourselves up to the commanding general of the Virginia [445] forces. He received us very kindly and courteously, and on giving him our parole he provided us with comfortable quarters at the Atlantic Hotel. This was on Sunday morning about 6 o'clock. On Monday, at noon, he sent us with an officer to Richmond, where we were most kindly treated by the Governor and his family, and by the gentlemen there present from the various parts of Virginia, we remained as guests of the Governor on parole till Wednesday, the 241th, when we were released, and on Thursday morning we left for Washington." Evidently the Virginia officers did not know at the time they were treating those two United States officers with such marked consideration and courtesy, that they had been engaged in lighting slow-matches to explode a ton of powder almost in the midst of thousands of unoffending women and children without a moment's warning.

The following is an abstract from the log of the U. S. S. "Pawnee," April 20, 1861:— * * * * At 6:45 (P. M.) steaming up toward Norfolk. Passed the obstructions in the channel without difficulty. Kept men at quarters, guns loaded. At 8 P. M. ran alongside of the Navy Yard wharf, to the northward of first ship-house. Hailed by the U. S. S. 'Pennsylvania' who greeted our arrival with three cheers. The flag-ship 'Cumberland' did likewise. At 8:10 Lieutenant Commanding Donaldson, of the receiving-ship 'Pennsylvania' came aboard and informed us that all the vessels at the yard had been scuttled and the machinery of the 'Merrimac' completely disabled this afternoon to prevent their falling into the hands of the insurgents, who had for some time past been making demonstrations against the public property at the Navy Yard. Flag-Officers McCauley and Pendergrast came on board. Sent parties to various parts of the yard to secure, remove or destroy public property liable to fall into the hands of the insurgents. A large party went ashore to knock trunnions off guns; succeeded in breaking a few off. Received from the 'Pennsylvania' four boxes of arms; also a detachment of 34, rank and file, of marines with bags and accoutrements. Sent the Massachusetts volunteers ashore in the Navy Yard. Sent marines brought from marine-barracks at Washington to relieve marines belonging to the yard; the latter transferred to the 'Cumberland.' Placed guard at the main entrance to the yard and others patrolled the yard. April 21. Commences and till 4 A. M. making preparations for setting fire to the ship-houses, ships, and storehouses, and destroying the dry-dock. Landed all turpentine, powder and waste received on board from the 'Anacosta' on Friday last. Re-embarked the marines and the Massachusetts regiment. Sent parties in charge of Captain Wilkes, Commanders Sands, Rodgers and Alden, and Captain Wright, of the U. S. Engineers, for carrying on the preparations above-mentioned. At about 2 A. M. the marine-barracks were set fire to. At 3:30 hauled off from the wharf and prepared to take the flag-ship 'Cumberland' in tow. At 4:15 A. M. the 'Cumberland,' having the steam-tug 'Yankee' alongside, succeeded in getting a hawser to this ship and slipping her cable. We got under way and commenced steaming down to Hampton Roads. At 4:20 sent up a rocket, and the ships, buildings, etc., were fired. Sent all hands to quarters opened the magazine and shell-rooms and manned the starboard battery, the marines being all on deck under arms. Steaming slowly down, passed by the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth unmolested, the flames of the burning buildings at the yard illuminating the vessels and the town perfectly. Steaming slowly to allow the boats to come alongside. Captain Wilkes and Commanders Sands and Alden and their parties returned on board, but reported their inability to bring off Commander Rodgers and Captain Wright, U. S. Engineers. At 6 approached barriers in the channel, and found new obstructions placed there since we passed last evening. Determined to anchor the 'Cumberland' and examine the channel, which was done. This ship [446] passed obstructions without touching anything.

Captain George T. Sinclair's telegram to the Secretary of the Confederate States Navy, Hon. S. R. Mallory, in regard to the destruction of the Navy Yard, dated April 22, 1861, in part is as follows: "* * * * The 'Pennsylvania,' 'Merrimac,' 'Germantown,' 'Raritan,' 'Columbia' and 'Dolphin' are burned to the water's edge and sunk. The 'Delaware,' 'Columbus,' and 'Plymouth' are sunk. All can be raised; the 'Plymouth' easily, not much injured. The 'Germantown' crushed and sunk by the falling of sheers. Her battery new and complete uninjured by fire, can be recovered. * * * * * Destruction less than might be expected. The two lower ship-houses burned, with the 'New York' line-of-battle ship on the stocks. Also the rigging-loft, sail-loft, and gun-carriage depot, with all the pivot-gun carriages and many others. No other buildings burned. The metal work of the carriages will be recovered; most of it good. About 4,000 shells thrown overboard can be recovered. The 'Germantown's' battery will be up and ready for service tomorrow. In ordnance building all small arms broken and thrown overboard will be fished up. The brass howitzers thrown overboard are up. The 'Merrimac' has 2,200 10-pound cartridges in her magazine in water-tight tanks. The flag of Virginia floats over the yard.

"Only eight guns, 32-pounders, destroyed; about 1,000 or more from 11-inch to 32-pounders taken and ready for our cause. Many of them are ready in batteries. We saved about 130 gun-carriages, all saved at St. Helena (Va). Many thousands of shell and shot from 11 inch to 32-pounders safe. All the machinery uninjured. Magazine captured with 2,000 barrels of powder and vast numbers of shells and quantities of fixed ammunition. An attempt made to blow up the dry dock failed. Everything broken that they could break. Private trunks broken open and officer's clothing and that of their wives stolen. * *

The Virginia flag mentioned by Captain Sinclair as floating over the yard is at this time the property of Stonewall Camp, Confederate Veterans, and decorates their meeting-room in the City Hall of Portsmouth.

Destruction of the United States Navy Yard at Norfolk, Virginia, by Fire, by the United States Troops, on April 20, 1861.
Destruction of the United States Ships at the Norfolk Navy Yard, by Order of the Government.

Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War, pp. 94 & 95.
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We copy from the Norfolk Herald of April 22, 1861, its story of the evacuation and attempted destruction of the Navy Yard by the Federals:

"On Saturday and Sunday the greatest excitement prevailed in the city. Troops were hurrying to and fro and everyone anxious to know what was to be done, but unable to obtain the desired information. The rumor was that the 'Cumberland' was about to sail from the Navy Yard and preparations were made to prevent her.

"At 12 o'clock an officer came from tin-yard bearing a flag of truce and was conducted to General Taliaferro's headquarters at the Atlantic Hotel, where a consultation was held, which resulted in a promise from the commandant of the yard, Commodore McCauley, that none of the vessels should be removed nor a shot fired except in self-defense.

"This quieted the excitement, but it was renewed at a late hour when it was ascertained that the 'Germantown' and 'Merrimac' had been scuttled, and that the heavy sheers on the wharf at which the 'Germantown' was lying had been cut away and allowed to fall-amidships across her decks, carrying away the main topmasts and yards.

"It was also perceived that the men were busily engaged in destroying and throwing overboard side and small arms, etc., and boats were constantly passing between the 'Pennsylvania,' 'Cumberland' and other vessels. The assurance of the Commodore, given by his officers at the truce interview, however, tended to allay the apprehension of an immediate collision. But the continued stirring movements at the yard soon rendered it certain that it was the intention of McCauley to destroy all the buildings and other property there, and it was, therefore, with not much surprise that about midnight, after two or three slight explosions, [447] the light of a serious conflagration was observed at the yard. This continued to increase, and before daylight the demon work of destruction was extended to the immense ship-houses known as 'A.' and 'B.' (the former containing the entire frame of the 'New York, 74,' which had been on the stocks unfinished for some 38 years), and also to the long ranges of two-story offices and stores on each side of the main gate of the yard.

"The flumes and heat from this tremendous mass of burning material was sent by a southwest wind directly toward the line of vessels moored on the edge of the channel opposite the yard, and nearly all of these too were speedily enveloped in flames.

"The scene at this time was grand and terrific beyond description. The roar of the conflagration was loud enough to be heard at three or four miles distance, and to this were added occasional discharges from the heavy guns of the old 'Pennsylvania' ship-of-the-line, as they became successively heated. These guns, it is asserted, were double-shotted and directed at different parts of the yard for the purpose of insuring its complete destruction. This, however, is certain that if all her guns had been thus prepared and directed, the 'burnt' district could not have been more completely cleared of its appurtenances.

"As soon as the torch had been successfully applied to the ship-houses, the 'Pawnee,' which had been kept under steam from the moment of her arrival about midnight on Saturday, was put in motion and taking the 'Cumberland' in tow, retreated down the harbor out of the reach of danger, freighted with a great portion of valuable munitions, etc., from the yard, and the Commodore and other officers who had won for themselves the inglorious distinction of destroying devils in accomplishing such a vandal work. The ships proceeded as far down as the barricades at the narrows, where the 'Cumberland' was left at anchor, and the 'Pawnee' continued on to Fort Monroe.

"As far as we could judge from a cursory observation, the property destroyed embraced besides the ship-houses and contents, the range of buildings on the north line of the yard (except the Commodore's and Commander's residences which were unhurt), the old marine-barracks and one or two workshops, the immense lifting-sheers, (the ships 'Pennsylvania,' 'Merrimac,' 'Raritan,' 'Columbia' and brig 'Dolphin' burnt to the water's edge; the sloop 'Germantown', broken and sunk, the 'Plymouth' scuttled and sunk even with her deck, and a vast amount of small arms, chronometers, and valuable engines and machinery in the ordnance and other shops, broken up and rendered utterly useless.

"Appearances indicated that it was intended to cripple this admirable and useful work (the dry dock) by blowing up the gates, but from some cause this was not done, and the dock was found to be altogether unhurt. We cannot bring ourselves to believe that any officer of a navy distinguished hitherto by a high sense of honor and chivalrous courage, could willingly condescend to such an inglorious mode of warfare as this. We rather regard it as an emancipation from the wretched cabal at Washington, and a practical carrying out of the tactics laid down by the villainous Sumner and other orators of the Black Republican party. Burn, sink and destroy is the word with them.

"Yesterday morning Lieutenant Spottswood of the navy, a Virginian by birth, ran up to the flag-staff in the Navy Yard the flag of the Old Dominion with its well-known arms, the figure of Liberty trampling on Tyranny, with the glorious motto—'Sic Semper Tyrannis'—and there it continues to flutter in the breeze.

"A fort had been erected at the Hospital Point and old Fort Norfolk put in regular fighting order by the secessionists. A fort has also been erected at Sewell's Point, 12 miles from Norfolk, opposite Old Point Comfort.

"The authorities yesterday waited upon the surgeon at the Hospital and compelled that officer to resign his position.

"The Navy Yard with all the vessels of war except the 'Cumberland,' which has been [448]
towed into Hampton Roads by the steamer 'Pawnee,' was burned.

"The Naval Hospital had been given up by the government officials. The United States steamer 'Pawnee' landed about 500 men at the Navy Yard to assist in the destruction of government property.

"All the spirit stores were destroyed, but the citizens secured immense quantities of provisions, guns, powder and ball. All the guns at the Navy Yard were spiked by the government officials, but in such a bungling manner that all but 8 or 10 have already been made good for service by the citizens, and many of them mounted at prominent points for defense.

"The 'Pawnee' has sailed for Washington, and on Monday evening the 'Cumberland' was lying opposite Old Point.

"A steamer supposed to be the 'Baltic,' arrived off Old Point on Monday evening with about 1,000 Northern troops on board."

IN MAY, 1862.

(By William H. Peters, Navy Agent, C S.)

At about 2 o'clock P. M. on April 20, 1861, the late William H. Spooner came to my place of business in Portsmouth and said the Navy Yard gate had been closed and that none but those having special permits were allowed to enter the yard. He also said it was rumored that the authorities of the yard were making preparations to destroy that establishment with fire.

To satisfy ourselves as to the truth of these rumors, Mr. Spooner and myself procured a boat and sailed in it up to and in front of the yard as far as the timber-dock. We saw enough to satisfy ourselves as to the truth of all we had heard. We found that the ships alongside the wharves had been scuttled and were slowly sinking. Men were engaged in cutting away the standing rigging of the sloop of war "Germantown." Her upper masts were tottering. It was seen that a force of workmen was at work breaking off the trunnions of cannon.

On our return in passing the brig-of-war "Dolphin" and receiving-ship "Pennsylvania," we observed small guns on the poop-decks of those vessels which, no doubt, had been recently mounted there to repel some apprehended attack.

Our people already much excited became alarmed at the situation of affairs at the Navy Yard and the reported destruction of that vast establishment. It was feared that the burning of the Navy Yard would involve the destruction of Portsmouth. A meeting of the citizens was at once called to consider what was best to be done under the circumstances.

At this meeting a committee composed of Capt. Samuel Watts, Capt. James Murdaugh and myself, was appointed to wait on the commandant and endeavor to prevail on him to abandon his purpose of firing the yard.

This committee proceeded to the main entrance, but was refused admittance. While waiting at the gate a reply to our written request for an interview with the commandant, General George Blow, in command of the State militia of the district, Lieut. John T. Maury and Paymaster John DeBree came out at the gate. The two last-named officers, having resigned from the U. S. Navy, had just left their ship, the frigate "Cumberland," then lying abreast the Navy Yard. These gentlemen said to us that we need not wait, that Commodore McCauley declined to see us; and then added that it was useless to ask any questions of them as to what was going on inside as they were not at liberty to talk on the subject.

The Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Virginia, was fired and abandoned that night, April 20, 1861, by the Federal forces. The story of which and the folly of the act are told in history. Happily a few houses only in the city and those of but little value took fire and burned.

On April 21 1861, Capt. Robert B. Pegram, then just resigned, from the U. S. Navy and [449] commissioned a captain in the Virginia Navy, appeared, and acting under authority from the Governor assumed command of the Navy Yard in the name of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

On April 22, 1861, Commodore French Forrest, who had also just resigned from the U. S. Navy and been commissioned a commodore in the Virginia Navy, relieved Captain Pegram of the command of the Navy Yard and station.

On the same day, viz:—April 22, 1861, the writer, who had been commissioned as paymaster, Virginia Navy, and assigned to duty at the Navy Yard, reported and took charge of the "Provision and Pay" department. His official connection with the yard in this and other capacities continued until the evacuation by the Confederates on May 10, 1862. The statements contained in this paper may therefore be accepted as facts of which the writer has personal knowledge.

The condition of the Navy Yard at Portsmouth as it appeared on the 21st and 22nd of April, 1861, was melancholy to look upon. On the morning of the 20th of April, 1861, this establishment was the best equipped and in all respects the most complete navy yard in the country. On the morning of the 21st of April, 1861, it was almost a mass of ruins.

The exterior row of buildings on the north front of the yard, which contained large quantities of manufactured articles and valuable material, was totally destroyed together with the contents of the buildings. The two ship-houses "A" and "B," which were immense structures, and in one was the line-of-battle ship "New York" on the stocks, were also burned, as were also other buildings.

The destruction of the stone dry dock was attempted, but was not successful. Twenty-six barrels of powder, a quantity sufficient to have destroyed not only the dry dock but every building at the south end of the yard, were found distributed in the culvert on its north side and across the head of the dock. These barrels of powder were connected by a train which continued on the inner steps at the bottom of the dock, where it is supposed slow-matches were placed for ignition at a prearranged moment.

The plan, however, was happily discovered in time to frustrate it. Lieut. C. F. M. Spottswood, to whom the discovery was reported early in the morning of the 21st, promptly directed the gates to be opened, when the dock was flooded and thus saved from destruction.

The destruction of every ship at the yard except the old frigate "United States", was attempted and in great part accomplished.

The line-of-battle ship "Pennsylvania," the frigate "Columbia" and the brig "Dolphin" were burned to their floor-heads.

The frigate "Raritan" was burned and sunk out of sight. The steam frigate "Merrimac" was sunk and burned to her copper-line and down through to her birth-deck, which with the spar and gun-deck were also burned. The sloop-of-war "Germantown" was sunk and burned to her bulwark on the port side. The sloop-of-war "Plymouth" was scuttled and sunk. The line-of-battle ships "Delaware" and "Columbus" were scuttled and sunk at their moorings.

Many heavy cannon were spiked and for the time rendered useless, some had their trunnions broken off.

The abandonment of Portsmouth Navy Yard and its partial destruction by the Federal authorities was a most unaccountable procedure. It was hard to believe that such a step was in contemplation, even after it was known late in the day of April 20, 1861, that some of the ships at its wharves had been scuttled and were sinking. Virginia it is true had just passed the ordinance of secession, but had not yet joined the Confederate States of the South; which latter it is not denied was in a state of quasi war with the Federal government. Virginia had not, nor as a matter of fact had the Confederate government, the means of capturing, or of even seriously menacing the Federals in their possession of this vast establishment. For let it be remembered that the frigate "Cumberland" with a full crew and [450] fully equipped, and also the receiving-ship "Pennsylvania," with batteries and men sufficient to work them, lay abreast the yard in position to effectually protect it and destroy the city of Portsmouth in case of an attempt to capture, or on the slightest demonstration against the yard.

The total destruction of the Navy Yard at Portsmouth though attempted was not accomplished, owing doubtless to the haste with which the Federals left; some of the storehouses and other buildings were consumed, together with large quantities of valuable store materials, etc. But many buildings remained intact; and very large quantities of costly materials, naval supplies, etc., were found uninjured.

The writer of this paper, by direction of the Governor of the State, made an inventory and report of all public property in the port of Norfolk and Portsmouth taken on the 21st of April, 1861, in the name of Virginia. His report, which is embodied in public document No. 25 of the proceedings of the Virginia Convention of 1861, shows the number and description of buildings that were left unharmed. Among these there were the commandant's dwelling, the commanders', surgeons', lieutenants' and masters' dwellings.

The foundry and its dependencies; the machine shop, and its adjuncts; five large stores, used for the storage of naval supplies; several substantial structures used as workshops and other buildings, together with the dry dock, timber-dock and quay-wharves, cost, as shown in that report, $2,944,800.

The ordnance left by the Federals in their hurried departure consisted of 1,085 pieces of heavy cannon with gun-carriages, breeching's, blocks and tackle, and a large number of shells and stands of grape and various other articles of ordnance, equipment and stores; in large quantities, including 250,000 pounds of powder, in all costing, as shown in that report, $341,000.

Of provisions left, there were 11,089 pounds of bread, 991 pounds of pork, 674 barrels of beef, flour, rice, sugar, coffee, tea, etc., costing $38,763.

Of clothing and small stores there were pea-jackets round-jackets, trousers, jumpers, shirts, blue flannel, Barnsley sheeting, etc., which cost $50,296.

General naval supplies and materials of various kinds and descriptions, in large quantities and of great value in time of war. Their cost is reported at $1,488,223. Among the valuable supplies, there were large quantities of timber and timber materials of all kinds. Copper in sheets and in bolts. Iron in sheets and in bars. Anchors and chains, canvas, and a vast amount of miscellaneous articles in great variety and of inestimable value.

On July 1, 1861, Virginia having by compact become one of the Confederate States of America, Governor Letcher directed the transfer of the Portsmouth Navy Yard, with everything therein and thereto belonging, to the Confederate government, and this was accordingly done as of July 1, 1861.

In the interval between April 21 and July 1, that is to say during the period Virginia exercised control of the Navy Yard, the expenditures of supplies were very large, especially in ordnance and ammunition, as will be seen by reference to the inventory report above referred to.

I consider it proper to record these expenditures; and in doing so I deem it best to give the same in detail rather than in gross, because it may be interesting to future readers to know the particular points in the State and elsewhere that were fortified with guns sent from the Portsmouth Navy Yard. The ''Inventory Report" shows that during the period the Navy Yard was officered and controlled by Virginia, there were sent from that yard the following ordnance and ordnance supplies, viz:

To Battery at Naval Hospital.

5 32-pounders of 51 cwt.
8 32-pounders of 57 cwt.
2 8-inch guns of 55 cwt.
With carriages and other equipments and ammunition.

To Battery at Craney Island.

4 32-pounders of 51 cwt.
8 32-pounders of 57 cwt.
10 8-inch guns.
7 9-inch guns.
1 10-inch gun.
With carriages complete.

To Battery at Naval Magazine, Fort Norfolk.

8 9-inch guns of 91 cwt., with carriages complete.

To Battery at Boush's Bluff.

5 32-pounders of 42 cwt., with carriages, etc., complete.

To Battery at Pinner's Point.

7 32-pounders of 57 cwt., with carriages, etc., complete.

To Battery at Pig Point.
4 32-pounders of 42 cwt.
8 32-pounders of 55 cwt.
2 8-inch guns of 57 cwt.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To Richmond Virginia.
10 9-inch guns of 91 cwt.
4 8-inch guns of 63 cwt.
42 32-pounders of 33 cwt.
2 32-pounders of 27 cwt.
6 9-inch guns of 91 cwt.
2 32-pounders of 57 cwt.
12 42-pounders of 27 cwt.
6 8-inch guns of 63 cwt.
15 32-pounders of 61 cwt.
2 9-inch guns of 91 cwt.
2 32-pounders of 27 cwt.
32-pounders of 47 cwt.
6 9-inch guns of 91 cwt.
32-pounders of 61 cwt.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To Richmond, Virginia, for General Beauregard.

8 32-pounders of 27 cwt.
1 32-pounder of 42 cwt.
5 32-pounders of 57 cwt.
1 32-pounder of 47 cwt.
1 32-pounder of 91 cwt.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To Capt. R. G. Robb at Fredericksburg, Maryland.
4 32-pounders of 27 cwt., with carriages, etc., complete.

To Kempsville, Virginia.
1 12-pounder brass gun.
1 9-pounder brass gun.
With field carriages and ammunition.

To Seaboard & Roanoke Railroad.
1 27-pounder of 32 cwt., with carriage, etc., complete.

To General Beauregard at Charleston, South Carolina.
12 32-pounders of 61, cwt.
12 42-pounders of 80 cwt.
12 32-pounders of 57 cwt.
3 old English guns, 10,304 lbs.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To Savannah, Georgia.
10 32-pounders of 80 cwt, with carriages, etc., complete.

To Captain Thomas at Baltimore, Maryland.
20 24-pounders of 33 cwt.
20 32-pounders of 61 cwt.
With shot, shell, etc.

To Pensacola, Florida.
10 32-pounders of 80 cwt., with carriages, etc., complete.

To R. P. Pugh at Memphis, Tennessee.
5 32-pounders of 33 cwt., with carriages, etc., complete.

To Commander Rousseaur at New Orleans, Louisiana.
8 8-inch guns.
13 32-pounders of 47 cwt.
2 9-inch Dahlgren guns.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To Tennessee.
32 32-pounders of 61 cwt., with carriages, etc., complete.

To Lieut. George T. Sinclair and by him sent to Army South.
8 8-inch Dahlgren guns of 63 cwt.
1 9-inch Dahlgren gun of 91 cwt.
6 32-pounders of 27 cwt.
10 32-pounders of 61cwt.
9 42-pounders of 70 cwt.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To General Gwynn and taken to North Carolina.
4 32-pounders of 27 cwt.
2 32-pounders of 42 cwt.
26 32-pounders of 61 cwt.
[452] 10 32-pounders of 46 cwt.
10 8-inch guns of 63 cwt.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To Norfolk City.
3 32-pounders with fixtures and ammunition.
To Battery at Sewell's Point.
6 9-inch guns.
5 32-pounders of 57 cwt.
3 32-pounders of 27 cwt.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To Battery at Lambert's Point.

6 32-pounders of 57 cwt., with carriages, etc., complete.

To General Gwynn to be taken to North Carolina.
13 32-pounders of 61 cwt.
29 32-pounders of 41 cwt. —Shubrick guns.
1 4-pounder, numbered 90.
1 32-pounder, numbered 6.
1 32-pounder, no mark.

To General Gwynn to be taken to Fort Macon, Georgia.
10 32-pounders,—Shubrick guns.
6 32-pounders of 51 cwt.
1 32-pounder of 61 cwt.
1 32-pounder of 27 cwt. With carriages, etc., complete.

To General Gwynn to be taken to North Carolina.
73 32-pounders of 61 cwt.
6 32-pounders of 57 cwt.
10 32-pounders of 47 cwt.
1 8-inch gun of 63 cwt.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To Battery at Burwell's Bay
5 32-pounders of 57 cwt.
1 9-inch gun.
With carriages, etc., complete.

To Battery at Powell's Point.
4 32-pouaders of 42 cwt., with carriages, etc., complete.

To City Point.
1 32-pounder of 51 cwt, with fixtures, etc., complete.

On or about April 30, 1862, Capt. Sidney Smith Lee, C. S. Navy, who had succeeded Commodore Forrest in the command of the Portsmouth Navy Yard, notified me that the Secretary of the Navy, accompanied by the Secretary of War, would arrive from Richmond on that day at about 1 P. M. At about 2 P. M. a message that the Secretary wished to see me came from the commandant. At that time I occupied the position of C. S. naval storekeeper, and as such had in charge all the naval supplies in the yard except ordnance and ordnance stores.

I met the Secretary of the Navy, Hon. Stephen R. Mallory, at the door of the commandant's dwelling and on his invitation proceeded with him to a private room in the commandant's house, when the Secretary at once communicated to me the startling intelligence, that it had been determined to evacuate Norfolk, Portsmouth and the Navy Yard, adding that his visit here was for the purpose of communicating this important fact to Captain Lee and myself, and to consult as to the removal of the naval supplies to some place of safety. The Secretary stated that the evacuation of Norfolk became necessary because of the movements of the two great confronting armies on the Peninsula. General McClellan in command of the Federals had assembled a large army in front of General Johnston, who commanded the Confederates and whose forces were in numbers greatly inferior to McClellan's. That on this account and also for strategic reasons, General Johnston had decided to fall back slowly to within a few miles of Richmond and would begin his retrograde movement on that day, April 30th. The Secretary continuing said General Johnston calculated that in about three weeks McClellan would reach a point on the James River where he could easily throw a force across on the south side of the river and thus effectually cut off Norfolk. General Huger's troops, 15,000 strong, were stationed at and around Norfolk and Portsmouth. They would be needed by Johnston in the battle he proposed to make with General McClellan when the proper time arrived. It was necessary therefore that Huger should retire before the [453] movement of McClellan across the James River could be accomplished and thus save his army for service with Johnston.

In the meantime, that is to say from that day, the 30th of April, and the day on which Huger under orders from Johnston should retire from Norfolk, he wished the naval supplies of the station, or as many of them as could be removed, sent forward to some safe place in the interior. He states that both General Huger and the commandant of the yard would afford me all the transportation facilities at their command. For obvious reasons, Charlotte, North Carolina, was selected as the place for the stooge of these supplies and for the distribution of the same as needed to other points in the South. Shipments to Charlotte of these supplies were immediately begun and were continued day and night; care being taken to ship first such articles as were considered essential in time of war and of which the Confederates stood most in need. On the 10th day of May, 1862, the Confederates were forced to anticipate the time fixed by General Johnston's plans for the evacuation, and on that day the last train of cars containing naval stores and also the officers of the yard left the outer depot at Portsmouth. The officers proceeded via Weldon to Richmond and the writer continued on the supply train to Charlotte.

The incident that compelled the evacuation on May 10, 1862, is known in history. Early in the morning, before sunrise, James Byers, master of the steam-tug "J. B. White," a boat that had a short time previously been employed by Maj. James F. Milligan, C. S. Signal Corps, deserted to the enemy at Fortress Monroe. Byers, it was not doubted, would reveal the situation of affairs in and around Norfolk to the enemy, who seeing his opportunity would be sure to lose no time in landing troops at some advantageous point and proceed to capture Norfolk, Portsmouth and the Navy Yard. General Huger, the commanding general, in anticipation of such a movement by the Federals, and realizing the fact that he was then in no condition to successfully resist an attack, concluded to evacuate with all possible dispatch. Orders to this effect were accordingly given and as before stated the last train of cars with naval supplies left Portsmouth on that day. And thus the evacuation by the Confederates begun April 30th and was ended May 10, 1862.


Portsmouth, Va., October, 1891.
John W. H. Porter, in his history, says, referring to the situation after the Federal evacuation: "In the Navy Yard everything was activity. Hundreds of skilled mechanics who had enlisted in the army were detailed to work there. Work was commenced on the 'Merrimac' on the 12th of July, 1861, and several other vessels were being built. The 'Richmond,' an iron-clad, to carry four guns, built with slanting roof like the shield of the 'Merrimac,' but with ends above the water-line and protected like the shield, was launched, as were the 'Hampton' and 'Nansemond,' two 2-gun boats, and the 'Escambia' and 'Elizabeth,' two light-draft, iron-protected gunboats, to carry two guns each, were also commenced, and later another of the same character, called the 'Yadkin'. Some work was done on the 'Germantown' and 'Plymouth' also,—towards fitting them out the machine-shops and foundries were being run to their utmost capacity. Numerous 32-pound Dahlgren guns were rifled and banded, the ones with which Captain Fairfax so successfully contended against the frigate 'Savannah,' and were sent to different batteries around the harbor and to other localities."


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