Lying at the Gosport Navy-Yard
at Norfolk, Virginia
, were some of the navy's strongest, most formidable, and most historic ships — the steam frigate Merrimac
, of forty guns, that was soon to make the world ring with her name; the sloop-of-war Germantown
, of twenty-two guns; the Plymouth
, of the same number, and the brig Dolphin
There were, besides, the old sailing vessels whose names were dear to the country: to wit, the Pennsylvania
, a line-of-battle ship; the United States, Columbus, Delaware, Raritan
, and Columbia
. There was also on the stocks, and unfinished, a ship of the line, the New York
There is not time or space in this short preamble to enter into the reasons for what happened, but through blunders and a feeling of panic, the fiat went forth that the navy-yard and all it contained should be destroyed.
On the night of April 20th, this order was carried into effect, and over two million of dollars' worth of Federal property was destroyed, besides vast stores and ammunition.
Thousands of cannon fell into the hands of the new-born Secessia.
It was a bitter chapter for the cooler heads to read.
All along the coast of the Southern States
, other vessels which could not be removed from docks or naval stations were seized by the Confederate Government or destroyed by orders from Washington
As if suddenly recovered from the fever of apprehension that had caused so much destruction, the Federal Government
soon recognized its necessities, and the Navy Department awoke to the knowledge of what would be required of it. Immediately, the floating force was increased by the purchase of great numbers of vessels of all kinds.
Of these, thirty-six were side-wheel steamers, forty-two were screw steamers, one an auxiliary steam bark, and fifty-eight were sailing craft of various classes.
These vessels mounted a total of five hundred and nineteen guns, of which the steam craft carried three hundred and thirty-five.
In addition to these, the navy-yards were put to work at the building of new vessels, twenty-three being