Thursday, September 22, 2011

First Shots in Anger: Action at Gloucester Point, Va. 1861

From the April 29th Daily Press.

Three weeks after Virginia seceded, the Confederate government became alarmed at the increasingly aggressive patrols by Union gunboats and ordered a company of the Richmond Howitzers to man colonial-era earthworks at Gloucester Point.

They had been in place only a few hours when they fired on the USS Yankee, the first shots fired in defense of Virginia.

It is not sure who started the fight.

Union Lt. Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr., fired the Union's first shots in Virginia. Later, he also served aboard the first ship sunk by an ironclad ship, first Union submarine and first US warship to be sunk by a torpedo (mine). He had a very interesting war record, worth checking out.

Reports have the Confederates initiating the fight when Selfridge steamed to within 2000 yards from shore. Others say Selfridge started it.

The USS Yankee was a 148-foot long tug mointing two 32-pdr. guns.

After the action, the Confederates began building forts by the shore.

Nearby Fort Monroe gave the Union anchorage for the fleet and a path to Richmond. Plus, the defense of Norfolk and the Gosport Navy Yard was so important that famed railroad engineer Major Walter Gwynn, who designed and constructed the Charleston batteries vs. Fort Sumter, came to the area.

Build Them Forts. --Old B-Runner

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