Plate 18. Ruins of Norfolk Navy Yard

Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by James Gardner, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
On Sceaturday [sic], the 23rd of April, 1861, the questionable policy of destroying this Navy Yard was enforced. The crews of the Cumberland and Pawnee, assisted by some volunteers, landed at nine o'clock, threw the shot and small arms into the river, spiked the guns, and made arrangements for firing the shops and warehouses, extending over a space of nearly two hundred acres. The marines, as early as ten o'clock, had evacuated and fired their barracks, and soon after two A.M. the whole yard was in a blaze, as well as the old three-decker, the Pennsylvania, the Ohio, New York, &c. The Cumberland and Pawnee, proceeded to Hampton Roads, the former shortly to go down before that formidable iron-clad, the Merrimac, which was fitted out at this yard. When the Merrimac was blown up, and Norfolk evacuated by the rebels, they did what additional damage they could to the Navy Yard and its docks.
Its accessibility made it a most convenient place as a depot for the North Atlantic blockading fleets, the James River flotilla, and Gen. Graham's army gunboats.
Some of the shops were rebuilt, and the place presented a curious spectacle of industry in the midst of ruin; while the constant arrivals kept the adjacent waters filled with vessels, including magnificent frigates and sloops-of-war, renowned in many exploits, as well as gun-boats and purchased vessels of every build and tonnage, not to mention hosts of sharp Clyde-built blockade runners, long, low, and raking, brought here by their successful captors, previous to being taken North for adjudication and translation into ships-of-war for the capture of their fellows.
Currently not on view
Object Name
albumen photograph
date made
Gardner, Alexander
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 9 in; 17.78 cm x 22.86 cm
place made
United States: Virginia, Norfolk
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Gardner's Sketchbook
Civil War
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Gardner's Sketchbook
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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