The fires of Norfolk.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Aug 25, 2012
The fall of Norfolk and the material recovered helped the Confedercy a great deal. This did great damage to the Federal Navy. Was there anything the Federal government could have done to hold Norfolk, move more material out of Norfolk, or do a better job of destroying the material? The Merrimack had steam up and might have been able to leave port. Many people blame Commodore McCauley for he whole mess, is this criticism fair? I am not sure McCauley had the forces necessary to hold Norfolk and I am not sure if enough Federal forces could have been sent to him.


Forum Host
Nov 27, 2018
Chattanooga, Tennessee
When Norfolk fell, as far as I remember the Union men that were loyal were not fully keen on firing upon their fellow men. I know the dry dock that had been set to explode didn't happen due to a faulty fuse, or something similar. I am not sure who should stand to blame. The confederates had thought out a good plan of action, and succeeded in it.


Feb 18, 2017
HG Wright was ordered on the 19th to proceed to Norfolk VA picking up all the disposable troops at Fort Monroe, and to try and secure the naval yard and materiel there for the United States.
The disposable troops consisted of one regiment, 370 men strong, which boarded ships on the 20th. By the time he arrived that evening the burning had already begun.

Some of the men in question were actually captured, and had an interaction with the general commanding the Virginia forces. I suspect the Confederates may have simply mustered more force than the Union could get down there in time to defend the Navy Yard.