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Near sunset of the 20th of April the Pawnee passed the foot of High Street on her way to the navy yard. I see her now as vividly as I did at that hour. Her officers at their posts—her men at their loaded-guns and upwards of 400 marines and soldiers at quarters—all standing ready, on the least provocation, to give and to receive the order to fire. She moved with a firm steadiness and the silent majesty of authority. She seemed a living thing—with a heart beating to stirred emotions and sharing the hostile feelings and defiance of those whom she bore. Her power and readiness to do harm inspired a kind of terror in every breast. On her arrival at the yard the work of destruction received a new impetus. On every side were heard the vulcan sounds of destruction; on every side were seen the flames of burning buildings and blazing ships. Our forces were not sufficient to interfere and there seemed to be a mutual understanding on both sides—the result of weakness on our side and ignorace on that of the enemy—that the Pawnee, with the Cumberland in tow, at the end of the destruction of the yard, might leave without molestation.

The enemy left early in the morning of the 21st, and Col. Hodges, under the order of Gen. Taliaferro, entered the navy yard to take charge, to restore order and to protect what was left and to turn the yard over to the civil and naval officers of the State. This was done, and leaving one of his companies in the yard as a guard he took the other companies of his regiment to the naval hospital grounds and there threw up breastworks for protection against any United States vessel that should attempt to re-enter the harbor. It was a Sunday morning. We all remember the work of throwing up the breastworks. It was done with a will—with patriotic devotion. I did some spading on that work, citizens also helped, and the mothers and daughters of our city came down and cheered us in our work. All apprehension soon left us and we were exuberantly cheerful and happy. Troops from every quarter came pouring into our midst. Batteries were thrown up at every point of defense. We soon felt that the enemy could never again come into our harbor by land or water against our will.

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William B. Taliaferro (1)
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