Gloucester Point in Gloucester County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
On to Richmond!
McClellan Invades the Virginia Tidewater
The York River Confederate defenses were tested early in the Civil War. A large Union force, the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George B. McClellan, steamed down the Chesapeake Bay from Washington D.C. in March, 1862. McClellan, called “Little Mac” by his adoring troops, intended to use the York and James Rivers to capture Richmond. The general had created a world class army but was a cautious field commander.
A spirited defense of the James River turned McClellan toward the York. His Union army faced strong forts at Gloucester Point and Yorktown. When the Union navy refused to attack the Gloucester guns on April 5, the Army of the Potomac settled in for a siege on the Yorktown side of the river.
General McClellan was befuddled by a daring Confederate army, one-third the size of his own force. He spent a month bringing in huge mortars and siege guns. A few days before he was ready to begin his massive bombardment, the Confederates withdrew and moved to defenses closer to Richmond. Only the Gloucester Point artillery kept firing. Thomas J. Page, boldly commanding the Confederate cannons, finally ordered a retreat on May
The Search for Dependable Siege Guns
In the 1860s, rifled and large cannons were revolutionizing siege warfare. Firing artillery, however, could be as dangerous for the crew as their intended target. Bags of gunpowder and projectiles were still loaded at the muzzle and giant cast iron guns often blew up. The nearby gun breech belongs to a Parrott Rifle that fired a rifled shell. It was a new style cast iron cannon, invented by Robert Parrott in 1860, and featured a heavy band added to reinforce the breech. The reason this gun exploded is lost to history.
Erected by Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.
Location. 37° 14.99′ N, 76° 30.133′ W. Marker is in Gloucester Point, Virginia, in Gloucester County. Marker can be reached from Vernon Street near Riverview Street. Touch for map. The marker is on the Tyndallís Point Park Walkway. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1376 Vernon Street, Gloucester Point VA 23062, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Where North Meets South (here, next to this marker); Classic Camp Life (within shouting distance of this marker); Still Defending Virginiaís Shores The British Safety Valve (within shouting distance of this marker); Gloucester Point (within shouting distance of this marker); Attacking with “Decisive Vigor” (within shouting distance of this marker); A Vital British Outpost at Gloucester Point (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Gloucester Point (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Gloucester Point.
More about this marker. On the lower left is a watercolor with the caption, “A Union observation balloon goes up during the month long 1862 Siege of Yorktown. The balloonist has a good view of the Confederate forts, with flag flying, at Gloucester Point across the York River.” Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.
On the lower right is a photo with the caption, “A Confederate smoothbore cannon on a naval carriage lies silent after the 1862 Yorktown siege. Soldiers look out at the Union fleet in the York River from the captured Gloucester Point water battery.”
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 8, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 680 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on May 8, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.