previous next
[473]

XXX. progress of Secession.


the Convention of Virginia, whereof a great majority had been elected as Unionists, was, nevertheless, bullied, as we have seen, at the hight of the Southern frenzy which followed the reduction of Fort Sumter, into voting their State out of the Union.1 In order to achieve this end, it was found necessary to consent to a submission of the ordinance to a popular vote; and the 23d of May was appointed for the election. But, in utter mockery of this concession, the conspirators proceeded forthwith to act upon the assumption that the vote of the Convention was conclusive, and the State already definitively and absolutely out of the Union. Within twenty-four hours after the vote of the Convention to secede, and while that vote was still covered by an injunction of secrecy, they had set on foot expeditions for the capture of the Federal Arsenal, arms and munitions, at Harper's Ferry, as also for that of the Norfolk Navy Yard. So early as the night of the 16th, the channel of Elizabeth River, leading up from Hampton Roads to Norfolk, was partially obstructed in their interest by sinking two small vessels therein, with intent to preclude the passage, either way, of Federal ships of war. The number appears to have been increased during the following nights; while a hastily collected military force, under Gen. Taliaferro--a Virginia brigadier who reached Norfolk from Richmond on the 18th--was reported to be preparing to seize the Navy Yard and Federal vessels during the night of Saturday, the 20th. The Southern officers of the Yard, having done the cause of the Union all the harm they could do under the mask of loyalty, resigned and disappeared in the course of that day. The Navy Yard was in charge of Capt. McCauley, a loyal2 officer, but a good deal past the prime of life. A young Decatur or Paul Jones would have easily held it a week against all the Virginian Militia that could have been brought within range of its guns, and would never have dreamed of abandoning it while his cartridges held out. No man fit to command a sloop of war would have thought of skulking away from a possession so precious and important, until he had, at least, seen the whites of an enemy's eyes. For here were the powerful forty-gun steam frigate Merrimac, richly worth a million dollars even in time of peace, with the Cumberland, the Germantown, the Plymouth, the Raritan, the Columbia, and the Dolphin, beside the huge old three-decker Pennsylvania, the dismantled seventy-fours Delaware and Columbus, with nearly two thousand3 cannon, some thousand

1 April 17th, 1861.

2 That is to say: Capt. McCauley has never renounced the service, but still draws the pay of an officer of the U. S. Navy.

3 The Report to the Senate of its Select Committee, appointed to investigate this shameful transaction, made by Hon. John P. Hale, April 18th, 1862, says:

According to the returns received at the Ordnance bureau of the Navy Department, it appears that there were seven hundred and sixty-eight guns in the Yard. Other evidence, however, taken by the Committee, goes to show quite conclusively that there were in the Yard at the time of the evacuation at least two thousand pieces of heavy ordnance, of which about three hundred were new Dahlgren guns, and the remainder were of old patterns. Captain Paulding walked about among them on the 18th of April, and estimated that there were between two and three thousand. Captain McCauley, who must be supposed to have hag ample means of knowledge on the subject, thinks there were nearly three thousand pieces of cannon. Mr. James H. Clements, a reliable and intelligent man, testifies that he was familiar with the guns at the Yard, and thinks he speaks within bounds when he puts the number of them at eighteen hundred; and he explains very satisfactorily the discrepancy between the account in the Ordnance bureau and the estimates of the witnesses already mentioned, and of others who appeared before the Committee, stating the number of guns variously at from fifteen hundred to three thousand. Upon the whole evidence, the Committee are forced to the conclusion that there were as many as two thousand pieces of artillery of all calibers in and about the Yard at the time of its abandonment, comprising the armaments of three line-of-battle ships and several frigates.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
McCauley (3)
Baltimore Unionists (1)
Taliaferro (1)
Hiram Paulding (1)
Nathaniel Lyon (1)
Paul Jones (1)
John P. Hale (1)
Decatur (1)
James H. Clements (1)
Frank P. Blair (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
April 18th, 1862 AD (1)
April 17th, 1861 AD (1)
May 23rd (1)
April 18th (1)
16th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: