The Defenses of Norfolk

The Confederates, who had approximately 9,000 troops in the area, held the southern side of Hampton Roads. They came under the jurisdiction of Major General Benjamin Huger, commander of the Department of Norfolk, although in theory Flag Officer Buchanan was the senior officer there. Huger was also supposed to work in concert with the 12,000 troops screening the Union forces around

Fort Monroe and Newport News, who were commanded by Major General John B. Magruder. In reality, Huger was an independent commander, and the lack of communication between the Confederate Army and Navy in Norfolk would have severe repercussions. The Portsmouth-Norfolk-Gosport area was of major strategic importance to the Confederates, as the area housed the Confederacy's main naval base, and Norfolk was one of the largest cities in Virginia. It was, therefore, well defended, and Confederate batteries dominated the southern shore of Hampton Roads. These emplacements were sited on Seweil's Point, at the eastern mouth of the Elizabeth River, on Craney Island, blocking the river approaches to Norfolk, and further to the west, where the batteries protected both Norfolk and Suffolk. Further batteries lined the western shore of the Elizabeth River, between Seweil's Point and Norfolk. Magruder had his headquarters in the fortification immediately north of Norfolk. These troops manning the batteries and redoubts had an unobstructed view of the battle, and observers on Seweil's Point were ideally placed to watch both phases of the conflict, and to offer protection to the Virginia when required.


CSS VIRGINIA - Casemate Screw Ram (Armored)

Built: Boston 1855, converted Norfolk 1861-62. Commissioned: March 1862

Dimensions: 263ft (length) x 51ft 4in. (beam) x 22ft (draft)

Armament: 2 x 7in. rifles, 6 x 9in. smoothbores, 2 x 6.4in. rifles

Armor: 4in., with timber backing

Complement: 320

Speed: 8 knots

CSS PATRICK HENRY, CSS JAMESTOWN - Wooden Sidewheel Gunboats (Unarmored)

Built: New York, 1853 [both]. Commissioned: April 1861 Dimensions: 250ft x 34ft x 13ft. Displacement: 1,300 tons Armament: (Patrick Henry) 1 x 10in. smoothbore, 1 x 64-pdr. smoothbore, 6 x 8in. smoothbores, 2 x 32-pdr. rifles. Although details are unknown, the Jamestown was probably similarly armed, although she only carried 2 x 8in. smoothbores. Complement: 150 Speed: 12 knots

CSS TEASER - Wooden Screw Tug (Unarmored) Built: Philadelphia, c.1855. Commissioned: 1861 Dimensions: 80ft x 18ft x 7ft. Displacement: 65 tons Armament: 1 x 32-pdr. rifle Complement: 25 Speed: 10 knots

CSS BEAUFORT - Wooden Screw Tugboat (Unarmored) Built: Wilmington, DE, c.1854. Commissioned: July 1861 Dimensions: 85ft x 17ft 6in. x 7ft. Displacement: 85 tons Armament: 1 x 32-pdr. rifle Complement: approx. 25 Speed: 9 knots

CSS RALEIGH - Iron Screw Tugboat (Unarmored) Built: Not recorded. Commissioned: May 1861 Dimensions: 80ft x 18ft x 7ft. Displacement: 65 tons Armament: 2 x 6-pdr. howitzers Complement: approx. 20 Speed: Not recorded

A poster dedicated to Thomas F. Rowland of the Continental Iron Works gives a good impression of the difference in size between the two ironclads. Commissioned almost four decades after the battle, it emphasized the new spirit of unity in the nation by honoring the participants of both sides. (Hensley)


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