Portsmouth, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Gosport Navy Yard
Birthplace of the CSS Virginia
—1862 Peninsula Campaign —
Gosport Navy Yard was first established in 1767 by British naval agent Andrew Sprowle. It was occupied by patriot forces in 1775 and operated as a shipyard by the Virginia State Navy. Gosport, the largest shipyard in America, was burned by the British in 1779 when they occupied Portsmouth.
In 1794 the yard was loaned to the U.S. Government and purchased by the U.S. Navy Department in 1801. The USS Chesapeake was one of a group of six frigates authorized by Congress to “Provide a Naval Armament,” and was the first ship built at Gosport Navy Yard in 1798 – 1799. On June 17, 1833, the 74-gun ship-of-the-line USS Delaware entered the newly completed Dry Dock No. 1. The Delaware was the first ship to enter a dry dock in America.
When Virginia left the Union, the U.S. Navy evacuated and burned the yard. Gosport was immediately occupied by local Confederates. Salvaged stores and equipment, including 1,085 cannons, were used to equip and fortify the many land batteries erected in the Tidewater region and at other locations throughout the South.
The steam frigate Merrimack, with 40 guns, had been under repair at Gosport and during the Federal evacuation was burned and sunk. The Confederates raised it, placed it in Dry Dock No. 1 and from designs drawn by Naval Constructor John L. Porter, a Portsmouth native, converted it into the ironclad CSS Virginia. While on its trial in Hampton Roads, Virginia sank the USS Cumberland and USS Congress on March 8, 1862. On the next day it fought the ironclad USS Monitor, proving that wooden warships were obsolete.
Gosport Navy Yard produced several other gunboats and part of another ironclad, the CSS Richmond. On May 10, 1862, the yard was burned again, this time by the evacuating Confederates and immediately reoccupied by the U.S. Navy. The Union controlled Gosport during the rest of the war.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 36° 49.992′ N, 76° 17.762′ W. Marker is in Portsmouth, Virginia. Marker is on Columbia Street east of Water Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Portsmouth VA 23704, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. In Commemoration of the Last Public Appearance of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); First Order Fresnel Lens from the Hog Island Light (about 600 feet away); The Elizabeth River (about 700 feet away); Seaboard Air Line Railroad (about 700 feet away); John Luke Porter (approx. 0.2 miles away); Home Site of William Crawford (d. 1762) Founder of Portsmouth (approx. 0.2 miles away); Naval Shipyard Museum (approx. 0.2 miles away); Cornwallis' Embarkation (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Portsmouth.
More about this marker. On the right is a drawing titled "Remodeling the Merrimack" by J.O. Davidson. An inset to the drawing is an illustration titled "View in the Harbor of Portsmouth" by Henry Howe.
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 27, 2009, by Kristin Rollins of Portsmouth, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,671 times since then. Photo 1. submitted on July 27, 2009, by Kristin Rollins of Portsmouth, Virginia. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.