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[30] favorable as the President, accompanied by the Secretary of War, had arrived at Fort Monroe on that very day; they had set out on hearing of the capture of Yorktown, and were coming to congratulate the army of the Potomac upon that success. Being apprised by the columns of smoke which rose in the horizon that the propitious moment had arrived, Wool proposed to the President to undertake an expedition against Norfolk. Max Weber's brigade was speedily embarked, and, to protect his descent, Commodore Goldsborough's fleet was ordered to escort it. But the Confederate batteries, not having yet been abandoned, fired a few shots in reply, while the Virginia, which, since the wounding of the brave Buchanan, had been commanded by Commodore Tatnall, showed her formidable shell (carapace), and the expedition was countermanded. Two days more were consumed in waiting. Finally, on the morning of the 10th, Weber disembarked east of Sewall's Point. This time the enemy's artillery was silent. There was found an entrenched camp mounting a few guns, but absolutely deserted; General Wool reached the city of Norfolk, which had been given up to its peaceful inhabitants the day previous, and hastened to place a military governor there. The President, who had made his entrance into the newly-conquered city with Wool, announced this cheaply-bought success to the American people in a special bulletin, while he forgot the words of encouragement so justly due to the soldiers who had just fought important battles.

Meantime, the evacuation of Norfolk was followed by an event destined to influence military operations to a considerable extent, of which the President was yet ignorant, and the merits of which General Wool could not appropriate to himself. The Virginia was no longer in existence. That formidable vessel had been abandoned and destroyed by her crew. On the 9th of May she was the last to come out of that port of Norfolk, whence, during two months, she had held the whole Federal fleet in check. Was she to make a desperate attempt to steam into Hampton Roads, and thence either to gain the open sea or run the risk of being surrounded by the debris of that fleet and perish? Or was it not better to reascend the James River, so as to keep the Federal navy away from Richmond? Tatnall adopted the latter course.

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