Today in History:

22 Series I Volume II- Serial 2 - First Manassas

Page 22 OPERATIONS IN MD., PA., VA., AND W. VA. Chapter IX.

and that they were fast sinking. One of the objects of the expedition - that of removing those vessels and taking them to sea - was therefore frustrated.

On reporting to the commodore of the yard, I found him disposed to defend the yard and property to the last, and the troops were accordingly landed and some dispositions for defense taken. It was soon determined, however, by Commodore Paulding, who had come on the Pawnee form Washington, to finish the destruction of the scuttled ships, to burn and otherwise destroy, as far as practicable, the property in the yard, and withdraw with the brigade Cumberland, in tow of the Pawnee and a steam-tug which was lying at the yard.

To Commander John Rodgers, of the Navy, and myself was assigned the duty of blowing up the dry-dock, assisted by forty men of the volunteers and a few men from the crew of the Pawnee. The dock, which ia a massive structure of granite masonry, has a pumping gallery running along the back of on of the side walls, entering from the level of the bottom near the entrance gate, and terminating, as is understood, in the pumping-house, near the farther end of the dock. Under the circumstances of want of time for preparation and the darkness of night this gallery offered the only means for the establishment of a mine. Had the dock been full of water this advantage could not have been availed of, but we found in it a depth of only about two feet. We accordingly proceed to construct in this gallery a platform of such material as could be collected to a height above the surface of the water, and on this we placed the powder (2,000 pounds) which we had brought from the ship, established a train from the gallery to the outside, and connected with it four separate slow matches.

Everything being arranged, all the men were sent to the ship, except one of the crew of the Pawnee, who was retained to watch for the signal from the commodore for lighting the matches and returning to the ship. On the signal, the matches were lighted by Captain Rodgers and myself, and we made the best of our way towards the landing, but before we could reach it the flames of the burning buildings had become so intense, that the boats had undoubtedly been driven off, and, indeed, we could not approach it. After some delay we succeeded in getting out of the yard through the burning gateway, and seized a boat, in the hope of making our escape by the river. We had proceeded but a short distance, however, when several shots were fired at us from the Portsmouth side, and as the armed force was rapidly accumulating against us at a point below, where the river was narrow, and where we should have had to pass within effective musket range, we concluded to land on the Norfolk side and deliver ourselves up to the commanding general of the Virginia forces. He received us very kindly and courteously, and on giving him our parole he provided us with comfortable quarters at the Atlantic Hotel. This was on Sunday morning, about 6 o'clock. On Monday, at noon, he sent us with an officer to Richmond, were we were most kindly treated by the governor and his family, and by the gentlemen their present from the various parts of Virginia. We remained as guests of the governor, on parole, till Wednesday, the 24th, when we were released, and on Thursday morning we left for Washington.

To Governor Letcher our especial thanks are due fair the uniform kindness and consideration with which he treated us. Probably to protect us from any annoyance from the populace of Richmond he accompanied us to the cars at 6 o'clock in the morning, and to further shield us from possible annoyance along the road he detailed two officers of the Virginia forces to conduct us safe to Washington, where we arrived yesterday, between 4 and 5 o'clock p. m.

Page 22 OPERATIONS IN MD., PA., VA., AND W. VA. Chapter IX.