A Walking Tour of Norfolk, Virginia
a walking tour in the Look Up, America series from walkthetown.com
by Doug Gelbert
published by Cruden Bay Books at Smashwords
Copyright 2010 by Cruden Bay Books
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the Publisher.
Few American cities have been as repeatedly shaped by war as Norfolk.
During the American Revolution the town, that had been incorporated in 1705 and granted a Royal charter as a borough in 1736, was a Loyalist stronghold mostly concerned with keeping its trade routes to England filled. This didn’t prevent the British from shelling the city in 1776. When eight hours of bombing ended almost two-thirds of the city was in flames. Local patriots destroyed the remaining buildings for strategic reasons.
British warships returned in the War of 1812 and again attacked the bustling port that had rebuilt in the previous 30 years. This time batteries at Fort Norfolk and Fort Nelson repulsed the invaders. Half a century later the War between the States brought a new series of disasters. After Virginia departed the Union, departing Federal troops burned the navy yard in Portsmouth. The ironclad CSS Virginia gained the Confederacy’s greatest naval victory when it sank the USS Cumberland and Congress on March 8, 1862, in Hampton Roads. When the Virginia set sail the next morning it was with the full expectation of finishing the destruction of the wooden Union fleet. Instead, it met the USS Monitor, another ironclad. People gathered on shore to watch the battle that would forever change naval warfare. After three hours, the Virginia retired, the battle a draw. Two months later, in May 1862, Mayor William Lamb surrendered Norfolk to General John E. Wood and Union forces. The city would remain under martial law for the duration of the war.