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[121] alarm that the light of the conflagration had spread through the surrounding country. The Pennsylvania burnt like a volcano for five hours and a half before her mainmast fell. I stood watching the proud but perishing old leviathan as this sign of her manhood was about to come down. At precisely 91 o'clock, by my watch, the tall tree that stood in her centre tottered and fell, and crushed deep into her burning sides, whilst a storm of sparks flooded the sky.

As soon as the Pawnee and Cumberland had fairly left the waters, and were known to be gone, the gathering crowds of Portsmouth and Norfolk burst open the gates of the navy-yard and rushed in. They could do nothing, however, but gaze upon the ruin wrought. The Commodore's residence, left locked but unharmed, was burst open, and a pillage commenced, which was summarily stopped. As early as six o'clock, a Volunteer Company had taken formal possession in the name of Virginia, and run up her flag from the flag-staff. In another hour, several companies were on hand, and men were at work unspiking cannon, and by 9 o'clock they were moving them to the dock, whence they were begun to be transferred, on keels, to points below, where sand batteries were to be built. Notwithstanding the effort to keep out persons from the yard, hundreds found their way in, and spent hours in wandering over its spacious area, and inspecting its yet stupendous works, and comparing the value of that saved with that lost.

There was general surprise expressed that so much that was valuable was spared. The Secessionists forgot that it was only the immediate agencies of war that it was worth while to destroy. Long before the workshops and armories, the foundries, and ship-wood left unharmed can bring forth new weapons of offence, this war will be ended. And may be, as of yore, the Stars and Stripes will float over Gosport Navy-yard. All that is now spared will then be so much gained!

The Secessionists are excessively chagrined by this movement. The vessels were sunk in the entrance of the harbor expressly to catch the Cumberland and other valuable ships of war. The act was done by Gov. Letcher's order; and the despatch to Richmond, announcing the execution of the scheme, exultingly proclaimed: “Thus have we secured for Virginia three of the best ships of the Navy” --alluding to the Cumberland, Merrimac, and Pennsylvania.

But they have lost all, and ten millions of dollars' worth of property besides. The Cumberland has been piloted successfully between the seven sunken vessels, and now floats proudly in front of Fort Monroe, with her great war guns thrust far out of her sides, as if hungering and hunting for prey. It will be a hard thing for Norfolk and Portsmouth to fill their harbors with ships while she lies here in the gateway.

As usual when a set of people are foiled, the officer in command gets heaps of censure. It is so in this case. Gen. Taliaferro, who was put in command at Norfolk by Gov. Letcher, is riddled by sarcasm and ridicule. He is charged with being imbecile and a drunkard. It is said that he was dead asleep (or dead drunk) at 6 o'clock on Sunday morning, and with difficulty was aroused at that hour to be told that the Navy-yard was sacked and on fire! Gen. Taliaferro will be superseded immediately, or the Virginians here will revolt.

I will send you, in this letter, as there is no mail leaving here this evening, such accounts as the Norfolk papers of the morning may contain of this burning. It only remains to say that by 8 o'clock Sunday morning the Pawnee lay off comfortably near Fort Monroe, where towards night she was joined by the Cumberland, who took more time to get out. Your correspondent waited to see the dying embers of Gosport Navy-yard.

Much excitement has prevailed in Norfolk and Portsmouth all day for the following cause: Two officers from the Pawnee--one a son of Com. Rodgers and the other a Capt. Wright of the Massachusetts Volunteers--were left in the Navy-yard, and were to come to the ship in a small boat. From the quickness and fierceness of the fire they were cut off and bewildered, and made to the Norfolk shore. It was broad daylight when they landed, and being in uniform they were instantly arrested as prisoners. It was with difficulty their lives were saved from the populace. It was stated during the day that Com. Paulding had sent up word if they were not released he would come up and blow the towns to pieces. This appalled the timid, and many fled to the woods; but the mass remained and went bravely to work planting cannon below the towns to oppose the ships. The prisoners are not surrendered.

--N. Y. Times, April 26.

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