previous next


Shortly after passing these harmless obstructions in their pathway, the line of march for the city was again taken up, the spires and prominent points of which could be occasionally seen through the thick foliage of the trees. When about a mile from the suburbs, Mayor Lamb, of Norfolk, accompanied by one of the city councilmen, approached the advancing column, bearing a flag of truce, when a halt took place,

The Mayor informed Gen. Wool that Gen. Huger and the rebel troops had evacuated the city and restored the civil authorities; that there were no troops at that time within some miles of Norfolk or Portsmouth; and that, under all circumstances, he was prepared, on the part of the people, to give to the Federal troops quiet and peaceable possession; all that he asked in return was that private property should be respected, and peaceably disposed citizens allowed to follow their usual vocations.

A halt was then called, and the men bivouacked on the field for the night, outside of the limits of the city, and Gen. Wool, accompanied by Secretary Chase, and Gen. Viele and his staff and mounted body-guard, with a corps of gentlemen of the press, advanced to the city with the Mayor, and found a large throng of citizens assembled at the Court-House. Here the Mayor stated to the people the subject of his interview with Gen. Wool, and repeated the assurance that he had given him of protection to personal rights and private property. This assurance was received with cheers by the people — not very enthusiastic, but nevertheless cheers.

The harbor of Norfolk looked most beautiful, and the green foliage of the trees gave a summer aspect to the whole landscape, as we lay on the broad expanse of water between the two cities. After cruising about for some time among the fleet we landed at the wharf, and took a stroll through the city. It being Sunday, of course all places of business were closed, and the city presented a quiet aspect. The wharves were crowded with blacks, male and female, and a goodly number of working people, with their wives and children, were strolling about. Soldiers were stationed on the wharves, and picketed through the city, whilst the flag of the Union floated in triumph from the cupola of the Custom-House. The houses through the city were generally closed, especially most of those of the wealthier classes.

The President lay off in the steamer Baltimore for about an hour in front of the city, and then steamed back to the Fortress. Secretary Chase returned with him, whilst Secretary Stanton remained until a late hour for consultation with Gen. Viele and Gen. Wool.

True to the spirit of secession, the <*>re, which threw a broad glare across the heavens on Saturday night, proceeded from the destruction of the Portsmouth navy-yard, which was done by order of the rebel commandant. It is now almost a mass of ruins, scarcely anything being left but black walls and tall chimneys. Even the immense stone dry-dock, which cost nearly a million of dollars, was mined and damaged, and it is said that the engine and pump belonging to it were removed to Richmond.

Whilst the Union men of Norfolk are reserved and fearful, those of Portsmouth, on.the contrary, gave the most enthusiastic testimony on Sunday in behalf of the faith that is in them. The destruction of the navy-yard has given great dissatisfaction, and as we steamed along the wharves quite a number of flags could be seen suspended from private residences. Small boys were parading the streets with flags, evidently manufactured by their mothers, and there was every evidence that with a better supply of bunting there will be no lack of the disposition and determination to give it to the breeze. The possession of a concealed Federal flag was deemed an act of treason by the rebel authorities — all that could be found were destroyed; hence the present scarcity among the people.

While the navy-yard was being destroyed on Saturday night another party was engaged in going around and firing the shipping and steam-boats in the harbor. Among these was the Baltimore steamer William Selden, stolen at the commencement of the war, the Cayuga, the Pilot Boy, and other small craft. There were also two iron-clad gunboats, which were unfinished, set on fire and floated over towards Norfolk, probably for the purpose of destroying the city. The firemen, however, towed them out and extinguished them.

This work of destruction was accomplished on Saturday night, after the Federal troops had occupied Norfolk; and the incendiaries could be seen moving about in the darkness, with their pitch-pine flambeaux, like so many diabolical visitants. The scene strongly reminded the spectator of the panorama of the burning of Moscow, and with the immense flame that it threw forth made the scene one of terrible grandeur.

Letter from General Wool.

In a private letter to a friend in New-York, Gen. Wool wrote:

The whole affair of the capture of Norfolk was done in twenty-seven hours. My course was by water twelve miles, and by land thirty-six, on horseback. My friend D----will tell you I am a hard rider. I do not think he will care to ride <*>ith me again to Hampton and back.

I found by examination, on Friday morning, that I could land troops without much trouble at Ocean View, six miles from Fortress Monroe. The Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Chase, and my aid-de-camp, Col. Cram, were with me. We returned to the fort at two o'clock. I immediately organized a force of less than six thousand men, and embarked them during the night under the direction of Col. Cram.

The Colonel constructed a bridge of boats, and landed the troops at the point named early on Saturday morning. As fast as they could form, I put them in motion for Norfolk. Our route was by the New Bridge. On approaching the bridge the troops were fired on from a battery of three six-pounders.

The necessary halt enabled the enemy to fire

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.
John E. Wool (6)
Egbert L. Viele (2)
T. J. Cram (2)
S. P. Chase (2)
Edwin M. Stanton (1)
William W. Lamb (1)
Huger (1)
Wade Hampton (1)
William H. Chase (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: