The Virginia's great fight on water.
From the Times-dispatch, December 23, 1906, and January 9, 1907.
Her last challenge and why she was destroyed.
Extracts from the account prepared and published by Mr. Joseph G. Fiveash
, of Norfolk, Va.
, of the career of the Confederate gunboat Virginia
, or Merrimac
, the first iron-clad warship the world has ever known.
The operations of General Burnside
in North Carolina
, in the rear of Norfolk
, and the transfer of General McClellan
's army from the neighborhood of Washington
to the Virginia Peninsula
, between the York
and James rivers
, in the spring of 1862, caused the Confederate
authorities to determine to evacuate Norfolk
and vicinity to prevent the capture of the 15,000 troops in that department.
As early as March 26th the commandant of the navy-yard was confidentially informed of the intended action, and ordered to quietly prepare to send valuable machinery to the interior of North Carolina
The peremptory order of General Joseph E. Johnston
for the abandonment of the navy-yard was communicated to Capt. S. S. Lee
by Secretary Mallory
, in a letter dated Richmond
, May 3, 1862.
The work of evacuation was expected to be accomplished in two weeks. The citizens at first would not believe the reports of the intended abandonment of the department, but they were soon convinced of their truth.
The work had been progressing several days when, on May 8th, an incident occurred that hastened matters and brought about results that were far-reaching in their importance.
Captain James Byers
, of the tug J. B. White
, had been instructed to proceed to Sewell's Point
early on the morning of the 8th, and tow to Norfolk
a barge containing the most valuable gun at that place, an 1-inch Columbiad.
He certainly made an early start, as the records show that he reached Old Point
before eight o'clock. By this desertion General Wool
learned that Norfolk
was being evacuated, and shortly after 12 o'clock the same day a