As soon as war had been declared it became evident that Virginia
would join the seceding States, and before the hasty and ill-advised evacuation of the great navy-yard at Norfolk
, the Federals
destroyed as much of the property as they could.
Six of the seven ships that were then in the Gosport yard
, on the 20th of April, when the destruction was commenced, were totally destroyed, but the seventh, the screw frigate Merrimac
, after being burned almost to the water-line, was saved after the Federals
had left, and the Confederate
authorities, under the direction of John M. Brooke
, late lieutenant
, United States navy, immediately started the reconstruction of the wreck on plans that were new to naval warfare.
On the 8th of March, in the following year, the armored Merrimac
, rechristened the Virginia
, raised the hopes of the Confederacy
, and closed the day of the wooden battle-ship by the sinking of the Cumberland
and the destruction of the Congress
in Hampton Roads, Virginia
The hopes she had roused, however, were shattered on the day following by the advent of Ericsson
A number of other Federal ships were seized after the opening of hostilities, among which were the revenue cutters Aiken
, and Bradford
All of these boats were fitted out for privateering as quickly as possible, and went to sea with varying fortunes.
was rechristened the Petrel
, and her career was soon ended by the United States
frigate St. Lawrence
, from which she was attempting to escape.
The treasury of the Confederacy
was soon supplied with enough currency to start operations, and with the share allotted to it the Navy Department commenced to make its small fleet as formidable as possible.
All the shipyards that had been taken possession of or could be secured from private parties were equipped to handle the work of construction and refitting.
Every ship that could be found that might answer any of the purposes of the navy was purchased, and before the close of the first year of the war thirty-five steamers and