obtained this morning a permit to accompany
Gen. Wool and Gen. Mansfield and their stnifs to
Willoughby s Point, on the steamer Kansas, and
here I am on the sacred soil, within eight miles
of Norfolk. The point at which we have landed
is known as Point Pleasant, one of the favorite
drives from Norfolk.
The first regiment landed was the Twentieth
New-York, known as Max Weber s regiment, who
pushed on immediately, under command of Gen.
Weber, and were at eight o clock in the morning
ticketed within five miles of Norfolk.
The First Delaware, Colonel Andrews, pushed
forward at nine o clock, accompanied by Gen.
Mansfield and Gen. Viele and staff. They were
soon followed by the Sixteenth Massachusetts,
The remainder of the expedition consists of the
Tenth New-York, Col. Bcndix ; the Fifty-eighth
Pennsylvania, Colonel Bailey ; the Ninety -nintb
REBELLION RECORD, 1862.
New-York, Coast Guards ; Major Dodge s bat
talion of mounted rifles ; and Capt. Follett s
company (D) of the Fourth regular artillery.
Gen. Wool and staff remained to superintend
the landing of the remainder of the force, all of
whom were landed and off before noon. The
President, accompanied by Secretary Stanton,
accompanied Gen. Wool and staff to the wharf,
and then took a tug and proceeded to the Minne
sota, where the President was received by a na
tional salute. It is generally admitted that the
President and Secretary have infused new vigor
into both naval and military operations here. The
President has declared that Norfolk must fall,
the Merrimac must succumb to the naval power
of the Union, and that the Government property
at Norfolk must be repossessed, at whatever cost
it may require.
The point at which we are landing, with the
aid of a half-dozen canal-boats, furnishes quite a
fine harbor, and the troops and horses are land
ing with great facility. The beach is fine and
sloping, and a woods of thick cedar lines the
shores. A good road starts from here direct to
Norfolk, which is distant only seven miles, and
at noon our infantry advance had accomplished
half the distance without obstruction of any kind,
where they halted for the arrival of the artillery
and cavalry. They will, of course, proceed more
cautiously for the remainder of the route ; but
appearances would indicate that the evacuation of
Norfolk is steadily progressing.
I just learn that Gen. Max Weber has ad
vanced to within three miles of Norfolk without
meeting with any serious opposition. At Tan
ner s Creek a small picket was stationed, with a
howitzer, and a slight skirmish took, place with
out any damage on either side. The rebels fled
in great haste across the bridge, which they de
stroyed. Two prisoners were taken, who stated
there would be no resistance at Norfolk, which
was being evacuated, and that the determination
was not to make the "last ditch" at Norfolk.
Fires were burning all around the country, prin
cipally the destruction of barracks and camps.
FORTRESS MONROE, May 10, 1862.
I have just returned from Point Pleasant.
Large reinforcements of cavalry, infantry, and
artillery are being sent over, and we will soon
have quite a respectable force in the rear of Nor
folk to repulse the enemy if he should dispute
the possession of the city.
Whilst all these active movements are progress
ing toward Norfolk by the mainland, there is the
utmost quiet observable on the sea side. The
iron monster, the Merrimac, still remains moored
under the shore of the Craney Island battery, and
has not apparently budged a peg for the last
twenty -four hours. The Monitor has also re
mained quietly all day at her usual anchorage,
and our vessels of war. The quiet that now pre
vails must, however, be the prelude to a sudden
storm. If Norfolk should be evacuated and
possessed by our troops, what will become of the
Merrimac ? If the troops should reach the city
and the Merrimac should go back to shell them,
what will be the course of the Monitor and our
fleet ? Will they not follow the Merrimac and
give her a fire in the rear ?
NORFOLK, Sunday, May 11, 1862.
Here I am in the city of Norfolk, over which
floats the flag of the Union from the cupola of the
Custom-House, which has been " repossessed and
reoccupied " by the Government. From the
masts of five noble vessels-of-war, ranged around
the harbor, floats the same beautiful banner,
whilst the flag of Com. Goldsborough floats from
the Susquehanna, which lies directly in the cen
tre of this line of marine architecture. The guns
are protruding from the ports of their long line
of wooden walls, which are flanked on the right by
the Monitor and the Naugatuck, which are moored
in front of old Fort Norfolk. But I must proceed
to give you a narrative as to how all these events
In my last letter I stated that a force had been
landed at Point Pleasant, eight miles in the rear
of Norfolk, under command of Major-Gen. Wool,
with Brig. -Generals Mansfield, Max Weber, and
Viele. The first division of the troops landed at
the Point, (the Twentieth New- York, under Max
Weber,) immediately started forward, accom
panied by the Independent Lowell artillery com
pany of Capt. Davis, equipped and acting as in
fantry. They continued the advance for five
miles without any obstructions. On approaching
the bridge over Tanner s Creek, the rebels re
treated across, set it on fire, and with three small
howitzers opened a fire on our advance, which
was returned with rifles, without " aia
ing hurt" on either side. The bridge being
nearly a quarter of a mile long, so soon as it was
in flames, and pursuit foiled, the rebels fled to
A halt was here ordered, and the men rested
until Major-Gen. Wool and staff, with Gens. Yiele
and Mansfield, came up with Major Dodge s com
pany of mounted rifles, acting as the commanding
General s body-guard. A "native," who was
found on the road, was questioned as to the roads
to Norfolk, and it was ascertained that the city
could be reached by the Princess Anne road,
around the head of Tanner s Creek, by a march
of eight miles. On obtaining this information.
Gen. AVool ordered an advance, and, taking the
head of the column, the veteran soldier, "with
Secretary Chase riding by his side as a volunteer
aid, proceeded forward in line of march by the
new route, sending skirmishers in advance.
Nothing of interest occurred on the line of
march until the troops reached within three miles
of the city, when all the approaches were observed
to be extensively fortified by lines of earthworks
full three miles in length, mounted with heavy
guns. These works could have been defended
by five thousand men against an army of forty
thousand, but not a man was found within these
ramparts, and all the guns were spiked. The
ammunition from these works had mostly been
removed, and probably taken to Norfolk. Gen.
Viele was the first to enter, followed by the skir
mishers and body-guard and staff of Gen. Wool.
Shoi tly after passing these harmless obstruc
tions in their pathway, the line of march for the
city was again taken up, the spires and prominent
points of which could be occasionally seen through
the thick foliage of the trees. When about a
mile from the suburbs, Mayor Lamb, of Norfolk,
accompanied by one of the city councilmen, ap
proached the advancing column, bearing a flag
of truce, when a halt took place,
The Mayor informed Gen. Wool that Gen. Hu-
ger and the rebel troops had evacuated the city
and restored the civil authorities ; that there were
no troops at that time within some miles of Nor
folk or Portsmouth ; and that, under all circum
stances, he was prepared, on the part of the peo
ple, to give to the Federal troops quiet and peace
able possession ; all that he asked in return was
that private property should be respected, and
peaceably disposed citizens allowed to follow
their usual vocations.
A halt was then called, and the men bivou
acked on the field for the night, outside of the
limits of the city, and Gen. Wool, accompanied
by Secretary Chase, and Gen. Viele and his staff
and mounted body-guard, with a corps of gentle
men of the press, advanced to the city with the
Mayor, and found a large throng of citizens as
sembled at the Court-House. Here the Mayor
stated to the people the subject of his interview
with Gen. Wool, and repeated the assurance that
he had given him of protection to personal rights
and private property. This assurance was re
ceived with cheers by the people not very en
thusiastic, but nevertheless cheers.
The harbor of Norfolk looked most beautiful,
and the green foliage of the trees gave a summer
aspect to the whole landscape, as we lay on the
broad expanse of water between the two cities.
After cruising about for some time among the
fleet we landed ?.t the wharf, and took a stroll
through the city. It being Sunday, of course all
places of business were closed, and the city pre
sented a quiet aspect. The wharves were crowd
ed with blacks, male and female, and a goodly
number of working people, with their wives and
children, were strolling about. Soldiers were
stationed on the wharves, and picketed through
the city, whilst the flag of the Union floated in
triumph from the cupola of the Custom-House.
The houses through the city were generally closed,
especially most of those of the wealthier classes.
The President lay off in the steamer Baltimore
for about an hour in front of the city, and then
steamed back to the Fortress. Secretary Chase
returned with him, whilst Secretary Stanton re
mained until a late hour for consultation with
Gen. Viele and Gen. Wool.
True to the spirit of secession, the fire, which
threw a broad glare across the heavens on Satur
day night, proceeded from the destruction of the
Portsmouth navy-yard, which was done by order
of the rebel commandant. It is now almost a
mass of ruins, scarcely anything being left but
black walls and tall chimneys. Even the im
mense stone dry-dock, which cost nearly a million
of dollars, was mined and damaged, and it is said
that the engine and pump belonging to it were
removed to Richmond.
Whilst the Union men of Norfolk are reserved
and fearful, those of Portsmouth, on the contrary,
gave the most enthusiastic testimony on Sunday
in behalf of the faith that is in them. The de
struction of the navy-yard has given great dissat
isfaction, and as we steamed along the wharves
quite a number of flags could be seen suspended
from private residences. Small boys were parad
ing the streets with flags, evidently manufactured
by their mothers, and there was every evidence
that with a better supply of bunting there will
be no lack of the disposition and determination
to give it to the breeze. The possession of a con
cealed Federal flag was deemed an act of treason
by the rebel authorities all that could be found
were destroyed ; hence the present scarcity among
While the navy-yard was being destroyed on
Saturday night another party was engaged in
going around and firing the shipping and steam
boats in the harbor. Among these was the Balti
more steamer William Selden, stolen at the com
mencement of the war, the Cayuga, the Pilot Boy,
and other small craft. There were also two iron
clad gunboats, which were unfinished, set on fire
and floated over towards Norfolk, probably for
the purpose of destroying the city. The firemen,
however, towed them out and extinguished them.
This work of destruction was accomplished on
Saturday night, after the Federal troops had oc
cupied Norfolk; and the incendiaries could be
seen moving about in the darkness, with their
pitch-pine flambeaux, like so many diabolical visi
tants. The scene strongly reminded the specta
tor of the panorama of the burning of Moscow,
and with the immense flame that it threw forth
made the scene one of terrible grandeur.
LETTER FROM GENERAL WOOL.
In a private letter to a friend in New-York,
en. Wool wrote :
The whole affair of the capture of Norfolk was
done in twenty-seven hours. My course was by
rvater twelve miles, and by land thirty -six, on
horseback. My friend D will tell you I am
a hard rider. I do not think he will care to ride
with me again to Hampton and back.
I found by examination, on Friday morning,
.hat I could land troops without much trouble at
3cean View, six miles from Fortress Monroe.
The Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Chase, and
ny aid-de-camp, Col. Cram, were with me. We
returned to the fort at two o clock. I immedi
ately organized a force of less than six thousand
nen, and embarked them during the night under
the direction of Col. Cram.
The Colonel constructed a bridge of boats, and
anded the troops at the point named early on
Saturday morning. As fast as they could form,
[ put them in motion for Norfolk.^ Our routa
t vas by the New Bridge. On approaching the
bridge the troops were fired on from a battery of
The necessary halt enabled the enemy to fira
REBELLION RECORD, 1862.
the bridge. At this moment I arrived at the
head of the column, and by a countermarch pro
ceeded by the old road to Norfolk, where I arrived
safe at five o clock, when the Mayor and Common
Council met me and surrendered the city.
The enemy, three thousand strong, with Gen.
Huger, had tied but a short time before my ar
The intrenchments through which I passed
had twenty-one guns mounted, which, properly
manned, might have made an effective defence.
I turned the command over to Brig. -Gen. Viele,
and appointed him Military Governor of the city,
and then returned to the Fort and reported to the
President and Secretary of War.
I think it a fair inference that the occupation
of Norfolk caused the blowing up of the " dreaded
Merrimac," and thus secured to us the free use
of the James River. The army may, therefore,
claim at least some share of this much-desired
I have given you a hasty sketch of this move
ment, thinking "it would be interesting to my
friends in New-York.
In great haste, most truly yours,
JOHN E. WOOL.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE MERRIMAC.
OFFICIAL REPORT OF COMMODORE TATNALL.
RICHMOND, May 14, 1862.
SIR: In detailing to you the circumstances
which caused the destruction of the confederate
States steamer Virginia, and her movements a
few days previous to that event, I begin with
your telegraphic despatches to me of the fourth
and fifth instant, directing me to take such a
position in the James River as would entirely
prevent the enemy s ascending it.
Gen. Huger, commanding at Norfolk, on learn
ing that 1 had received this order, called on me
and declared that its execution would oblige him
to abandon immediately his forts on Craney Is
land, at Sewell s Point, and their guns to the
enemy. I informed him that, as the order was
imperative, I must execute it, but stated that he
should telegraph you and state the consequences.
He did so, and on the sixth instant you tele
graphed me to endeavor to afford protection to
Norfolk as well as the James River, which re
placed me in my original position. I then ar
ranged with the General that he should notify
me when his preparations for the evacuation of
Norfolk were sufficiently advanced to enable me
to act independently.
On the seventh instant Com. Hollins reached
Norfolk, with orders from you to communicate
with me and such officers as I might select in re
gard to the best disposition to be made of the
Virginia, under the present aspect of things.
We had arranged the conference for the next
day, the eighth ; but, on that day, before the
hour appointed the enemy attacked the Sewell s
Point battery ; and I left immediately with the
Virginia to defend it.
We found six of the enemy s vessels, including
the iron-clad steamers Monitor and Naugatuck,
shelling the battery. We passed the battery,
and stood directly for the enemy, for the purpose
of engaging him, and I thought an action certain,
particularly as the Minnesota and Vamlerbilt,
which were anchored below Fortress Monroe, got
under way and stood up to that point apparently
with the intention of joining their squadron in
the Roads. Before, however, we got within gun
shot, the enemy ceased firing, and retired witli
all speed under the protection of the guns of the
fortress, followed by the Virginia, until the shells
from the Rip Raps passed over her.
The Virginia was then placed at her moorings
near Sewell s Point, and I returned to Norfolk to
hold the conference referred to.
It was held on the ninth, and the officers pres-
sent were, Col. Anderson and Capt. - , of
the army, selected by Gen. Huger, who was too
unwell to attend himself; and of the navy, my
self, Com. Hollins, and Capts. Sterrctt and Lee,
Commander Richard L. Jones, and Lieuts. Ap
Catesby Jones and J. Pembroke Jones.
The opinion was unanimous that the Virginia
was then employed to the best advantage, and
that she should continue, for the present, to pro
tect Norfolk, and thus afford time to remove the
On the next day, at ten o clock A.M., we observed
from the Virginia that the flag was not flying on
the Sewell s Point battery, and that it appeared
to have been abandoned. I despatched Lieut. J.
P. Jones, the Flag-Lieutenant, to Craney Island,
where the confederate flag was still flying, and
he there learned that a large force of the enemy
had landed on Bay Shore, and were marching
rapidly on Norfolk ; that Sewell s Point battery
was abandoned, and our troops were retreating.
I then despatched the same officer to Norfolk, to
confer with Gen. Huger and Capt. Lee. He found
the navy-yard in flames, and that all its officers
had left by railroad. On reaching Norfolk he
found that Gen. Huger and all the other officers
of the army had also left, that the enemy were
ivithin half a mile of the city, and that the Mayor
was treating for its surrender.
On returning to the ship, he found that Craney
[sland and all the other batteries on the river had
It was now seven o clock in the evening, and
;his unexpected confirmation rendered prompt
measures necessary for the safety of the Virginia.
The pilots had assured me that they could take
the ship, with a draft of eighteen feet, to within
brty miles pf Richmond.
This the chief pilot, Mr. Parrish, and his chief
assistant, Mr. Wright, had asserted again and
again ; and on the afternoon of the seventh, in
ivy cabin, in the presence of Com. Hollins and
3apt. Sterrett, in reply to a question of mine,
they both emphatically declared their ability to
Confiding in these assurances, and, after con
suiting with the first and flag-lieutenants^ and
learning that the officers generally thought it the
most judicious course, I determined to lighten
the ship at once, and run up the river for the
protection of Richmond.
All hands having been called on deck, I stated
to them the condition of things, and my hope
that, by getting up the river before the enemy
could be made aware of our designs, we might
capture his vessels which had ascended it, and
render efficient aid in the defence of Richmond ;
but that to effect this would require all their en
ergy in lightening the ship. They replied with
three cheers, and went to work at once. The
pilots were on deck and heard this address to the
Being quite unwell, I had retired to bed. Be
tween one and two o clock in the morning the
firet lieutenant reported to me that, after the
crew had worked for five or six hours, and lifted
the ship so as to render her unfit for action, the
pilots had declared their inability to carry eight
een feet above the Jamestown Flats, up to which
point the shore on each side was occupied by the
On demanding from the chief pilot, Mr. Par-
rish, an explanation of this palpable deception,
he replied that eighteen feet could be carried
after the prevalence of easterly winds, and that
the wind for the last two days had been westerly.
I had no time to lose. The ship was not in
condition for battle, even with an enemy of equal
force, and their force was overwhelming. I
therefore determined, with the concurrence of the
first and flag-lieutenants, to save the crew for fu
ture service by landing them at Craney Island,
the only road for retreat open to us, and to de
stroy the ship, to prevent her falling into the
hands of the enemy. I may add that, although
not formally consulted, the course was approved
by every commissioned officer in the ship.
There is no dissenting opinion. The ship was
accordingly put on shore as near the mainland in
the vicinity of Craney Island as possible, and the
crew landed. She was then fired, and after
burning fiercely fore and aft for upward of an
hour, blew up a little before five on the morning
of the eleventh.
We marched for Suffolk, twenty-two miles,
and reached it in the evening, and from thence
came by railroad to this city.
It will be asked what motives the pilots could
have had to deceive rue. The only imaginable
one is that they wished to avoid going into battle.
Had the ship not have been lifted so as to ren
der her unfit for action, a desperate contest must
have ensued with a force against us too great
to justify much hope of success, and as battle is
not their occupation, they adopted this deceitful
course to avoid it. I cannot imagine another
motive, for I had seen no reason to distrust their
good faith to the Confederacy.
My acknowledgments are due to the First
Lieutenant, Ap Catesby Jones, for his untiring ex
ertions and for the aid he rendered me in all
Ihiugs. The details for firing for the ship and
landing the crew were left to him, and everything
was conducted with the most perfect order.
To the other officers of the ship, generall} r , I
am also thankful for the great zeal they displayed
The Virginia no longer exists, but three hun
dred brave and skilful officers and seamen are
saved to the Confederacy.
I presume that a Codrt of Ii.quiry will be or
dered to examine into all the circumstances I
have narrated, and I earnestly solicit it. Public
opinion will never be put right without it.
I am, sir, with great respect, your ob t servant,
Hon. S. R. MALLORY,
Secretary of Navy.
FINDINGS OF THE COURT OF INQUIRY.
C. S. NAVY DEPARTMENT, RICHMOND, June 11.
The Court of Inquiry convoked by the order of
this Department of the twentieth ultimo, whereof
French Forrest, Captain in the navy of the con
federate States, is president, and which court
convened at the city of Richmond on the twenty-
second day of May, 1862, to investigate and "in
quire into the destruction of the steamer Virginia,
and report the same, together with their opinion
as to the necessity of destroying her, and particu
larly whether any, and what disposition could
have been made of the vessel," have found as
The court, having heard the statement read
submitted by Flag-Officer Tatnall, was cleared
for deliberation, and, after mature consideration,
adopted the following report :
The court, after a full and careful examination
and investigation of the evidence connected with
the destruction by fire of the confederate States
Steamer Virginia, on the morning of May eleventh,
1862, near Craney Island, respectfully report that
it was effected by the order and under the super
vision of Flag-Officer Tatnall, after her draft had
been reduced to twenty feet six inches, and on
the representations of the pilots that in conse
quence of recent prevalent westerly winds, she
could not be taken with a draft of eighteen feet
as high as TVestover, near Harrison s Bar, in
James River, (whither he designed to take her,)
which they previously stated they could do.
1. The destruction of the Virginia was, in the
opinion of the court, unnecessary at the time
and place it was effected.
2. It being clearly in evidence that Norfolk
being evacuated, and Flag-Officer Tatnall having
been instructed to prevent the enemy from as
cending James River, the Virginia, with very little
more, if any, lessening of draft, after lightening
her to twenty feet six inches aft, with her iron
sheathing still extending three feet under water,
could have been taken up to Hog Island in James
River, (where the channel is narrow,) and could
then have prevented the larger vessels and trans
ports of the enemy from ascending. The court
is of opinion that such disposition ought to have
been made of her, and if it should be ascertained