Archive for the ‘Andrew Sprowle’ tag
Civil War Trails
Gosport Navy Yard
Location: At the east end of Columbia St, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Visited: June 23, 2009, 3:15pm
Gosport Navy Yard
Birthplace of the CSS Virginia
Before you is the Gosport Navy Yard (Norfolk Naval Shipyard). Gosport is the oldest Navy shipyard in the nation. Here is where the USS Merrimack was burned and then transformed by the Confederates into the powerful ironclad ram, the CSS Virginia.
Gosport Navy Yard was first established in 1767 by British naval agent Andrew Sprowle. It was occupied by patriot forces in 1775 and operated as a shipyard by the Virginia State Navy. Gosport, the largest shipyard in America, was burned by the British in 1779 when they occupied Portsmouth.
In 1794 the yard was loaned to the U.S. Government and purchased by the U.S. Navy Department in 1801. The USS Chesapeake was one of a group of six frigates authorized by Congress to “Provide a Naval Armament,” and was the first ship built at Gosport Navy Yard in 1798 – 1799. On June 17, 1833, the 74-gun ship-of-the-line USS Delaware entered the newly completed Dry Dock No. 1. The Delaware was the first ship to enter a dry dock in America.
When Virginia left the Union, the U.S. Navy evacuated and burned the yard. Gosport was immediately occupied by local Confederates. Salvaged stores and equipment, including 1,085 cannons, were used to equip and fortify the many land batteries erected in the Tidewater region and at other locations throughout the South.
The steam frigate Merrimack, with 40 guns, had been under repair at Gosport and during the Federal evacuation was burned and sunk. The Confederates raised it, placed it in Dry Dock No. 1 and from designs drawn by Naval Constructor John L. Porter, a Portsmouth native, converted it into the ironclad CSS Virginia. While on its trial in Hampton Roads, Virginia sank the USS Cumberland and USS Congress on March 8, 1862. On the next day it fought the ironclad USS Monitor, proving that wooden warships were obsolete.
Gosport Navy Yard produced several other gunboats and part of another ironclad, the CSS Richmond. On May 10, 1862, the yard was burned again, this time by the evacuating Confederates and immediately reoccupied by the U.S. Navy. The Union controlled Gosport during the rest of the war.
My impressions: Again, I’m impressed by how much history, the Civil War Trails markers manage to include on one marker. They are full of context and details and color. They also appear to me to be well-written. I realize that this helped clear up some of my confusion around the Fort Nelson marker which speaks of how many times the fort was burned. But it seemed too passive to me. This marker, while discussing another site, explains the reasons why the installation was lost to fire. It doesn’t talk about how it “was burned,” it tells us who burned it and why, and makes a lot more sense to me than the guesses I was making as to the fire’s causes.
Markeroni status: Direct-logged and awaiting its proper code in the database.