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afternoon of the 17th, and, finding a movement afloat to seize her, proceeded to the navy yard and placed herself under the guns of the yard.
On the 18th the custom-house officers came to seize her, but the commander of the yard refused to yield her.
On the 20th the Pawnee, under Commodore Paulding, arrived at Fort Monroe, took aboard the Third Massachusetts Regiment, and proceeded to the navy yard, where the officers had commenced destroying the public property to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy.
They had scuttled all the ships, the Cumberland being the only one in commission; they cut down the shears, &c. Preparations were made to make demolition complete.
The Pawnee, with the Cumberland in tow, assisted by the Yankee, started, and, after passing the navy yard, sent up a signal rocket, when a match was applied, and in an instant ships, ship-houses and store-houses were in flames.
So rapid were the flames that Commander Rogers, of the navy, and Captain Wright, of the engineers, were unable to reach the point of rendezvous, where a boat was waiting for them, and were left behind. Large quantities of provisions, cordage, machinery, and buildings of great value, were destroyed. The burning of the navy yard was done by Union men, who were in the majority, but comparatively unarmed.
When the Pawnee came up, the Cumberland and Merrimac lay broadside to, their guns loaded, thinking she was in the hands of the rebels. Similar opinion prevailed on board the Pawnee, and she was ready for action. The cheering aboard the vessels and on shore showed how satisfactory was the answer to our hail from the Cumberland, that she was the United States steamer Pawnee.
The Union men employed in the navy yard cut down the flag-staff so that it could not be used by the rebels. The guns in the navy yard were spiked.
The following letter from a private in the New Bedford company at Fort Monroe, describing the part he took in the destruction of the Norfolk navy-yard property, will be read with interest. The writer is well known, a rising lawyer of ability, and distinguished for his many virtues of character and patriotism:
“And so, brother, I am a soldier, and have already encountered a soldier's dangers. Let my enlistment and the journey here pass. Suffice it to say that I arrived here on Saturday, about eleven, A. M.
We were exhausted with poor fare, sea-sickness, want of sleep, and bad air. We expected to remain here and defend this fort. At about five in the afternoon, as we were expecting quarters and a good night's sleep, we were summoned into line, and ordered to the Norfolk navy yard, which was in immediate danger; and we were to defend it against the Virginians, or retake it if it had been captured by the Southern troops collected there. We had about a hundred regulars, the marines of the Pawnee. We, undisciplined and ill-conditioned as we were, went on board the Pawnee, just from Charleston. We trod for the first time a man-of-war ---- and her guns looked deathly. Our friends of the Fourth Regiment felt that they should see few of us again. We received our twenty-five cartridges and percussion caps apiece, and loaded our guns without putting the caps on. At or near Norfolk, we passed the frowning batteries of the secessionists. The marines had the cannon pushed forward, all ready to return a fire at any moment. Hot shot from the batteries could have sunk us; but they did not open, and we went safely on.
“We approached the navy yard about half-past eight in the evening. We were serious, but calm, and were ready for a fight. I held my percussion cap in my hand. We knew not whether the navy yard was in possession of our friends or enemies. But we found that it was still
As we came within almost pistol-shot of the Cumberland there, our boatswain saw that her men were just applying the matches to guns which would rake our bow, where our company was. If they had fired, our company would have been destroyed. She had mistaken our signal, and thought we were secessionists. Our boatswain cried out, again, “Pawnee! United States ship! and the mistake was discovered in time, and the men of the Cumberland, and also of the Pennsylvania, gave us a round of cheers, and their bands played ‘Hail Columbia. We disembarked, and at once were set to rolling several thousand shells and balls into the sea and laying powder trains; while the marines spiked or otherwise disabled the cannon in the yard. We went on board about half-past twelve o'clock at night, but the Pawnee did not leave till four o'clock in the morning.
“Soon after we left, the powder trains exploded ; the vessels, three or four of which we left behind, and the buildings, were all in a blaze, lighting the sea for a long distance. This loss of the munitions of war to Virginia is immense. On our return we passed the batteries, which we expected the exasperated Virginians would fire upon us, and the marines stood at their guns. The commander said we should have a warm time. Still, we were so exhausted, that we even lay down to sleep. The marines told us they did not see how we could sleep when we were likely to be sunk at any moment. For some reasons which we do not know, the batteries did not open on us, and we were happily preserved. Our men were calm, and for my own part, I felt only a little different from what I should in doing a responsible piece of law business.
“ It is singular to witness the elasticity of human nature, which adapts itself to almost anything. There was something almost sublime in the stoicism of the regulars. While we were at Norfolk the secessionists sunk vessels in the channel to prevent our return. They were under the direction of a Virginian, late a lieutenant in the ser
vice of the United States. We, however, passed through. We got back to the fort at about six o'clock, on Sunday forenoon. We were gladly welcomed by our friends of the Third Regiment, who expected to find our ranks thinned. Some of them hardly dared to meet us, expecting to find that many had fallen.”
John C. Breckenridge made a great speech at Louisville, Ky., denouncing the government. A great mass-meeting was held in New York. All parties for the Union. The United States arsenal at Liberty, Mo., was seized by rebels.
On the 20th, Governor Andrew received a dispatch from Brigadier-General Butler, requesting him to forward more troops, arms, and ammunition, as speedily as possible, in order that they could force a passage through to Washington. Active measures were immediately taken to comply with the request, and a special order was issued calling out the Light Artillery, in addition to the companies composing the Fifth Regiment.
The Somerville Light Infantry (Co. B, Fifth Regiment), Capt. Brastow, arrived, and proceeded to Faneuil Hall, where the Fifth Regiment was quartered. The company was composed of fine-looking men, and when they passed down State Street the crowd of spectators applauded heartily.
The Mechanic Light Infantry, of Salem (Co. B, Seventh Regiment), Capt. George H. Pierson, and the Salem City Guard (Co. H, Seventh Regiment), Capt. Henry F. Danforth, having been detailed to join the Fifth Regiment, left Salem in an extra train at nine o'clock on Saturday morning. Previous to their departure a beautiful silk flag was presented to the Mechanic Light Infantry by Perley Putnam, a veteran eighty-four years of age, and a former commander of the corps. The city government of Salem voted $15,000 for the benefit of the families of the volunteers.
The companies arrived at the Eastern Railroad depot, Boston, about ten o'clock, and marched to Faneuil Hall, where the commanders reported for duty to Col. Law
Every endeavor was made to have the regiment prop erly equipped and on the road by six o'clock in the afternoon; but it was found impossible to have the overcoats and under-garments in readiness before midnight. The Light Artillery, Major Cook, were ready to start very soon after receiving the order, with about one hundred and twenty men. The horses necessary for the company, seventy in number, were purchased of the Metropolitan Railroad Corporation. The full battery, six brass sixpounders, together with the horses, ten tons of powder, and a large quantity of shot, were sent on a train, at ten o'clock in the evening, to New York. At about half-past one o'clock the artillery company marched to the Worcester Railroad depot, and took their places in the train, where they waited until the Fifth Regiment arrived. About five o'clock, refreshments, in the shape of baked beans, were served to each man; and after they got through they amused themselves by throwing the plates out of the windows of the cars and smashing them.
The Fifth Regiment were not able to get all of their equipments until a very late hour. At four o'clock the different companies were ordered up, and, after receiving their rations, the regimental line was formed, and they marched to the Worcester depot. A large crowd was assembled to see them off, notwithstanding the unseasonable hour. The artillery company started in a train by themselves at about six o'clock, and the Fifth Regiment started about half an hour later. They were joined ai Worcester by the Third Battalion of Rifles, Major T. E. Devens.
On the night of the 20th, at the solemn hour of midnight, the writer of this work, in company with a gentle