Fort Norfolk History - 1861
THE UNITED ARTILLERY, COMPANY A, NINETEENTH VIRGINIA BATTALION, HEAVY ARTILLERY was organized in Norfolk several days before the burning of the Navy Yard by the Federal forces in April, 1861, but at the beginning of hostilities was not uniformed or armed. It was called into service on the 19th of April, to take part in the capture of the powder in Fort Norfolk. A detail was made to capture the gunner, Mr. Oliver, to prevent him from signaling to the Navy Yard, what was being done. The detail sent to capture Mr. Oliver was under command of Lieutenant W. Carter Williams, and the rest of the company 1anded at the wharf at the fort, in barges. The officers of the company at the time were:
Captain, Thomas Kevill.
First Lieutenant, James E. Berry; 2nd Lieutenant, Wm. Carter Williams; 3rd Lieutenant, Thaddeus E. Eisenbiess.
The company took its name from the old United Fire Company, of, which most of its men were members. A long habit of contending with the flames had inured them to dangers. Upon being mustered into service the company was stationed at Fort Norfolk and was furnished with muskets, and also was placed in charge of four light guns and drilled both as infantry and artillery. They also had charge of a battery of heavy guns, so that, during the year the company was at Fort Norfolk, the men became experts in all branches of the service except the cavalry.
In July, 1861, Lieutenant Williams was elected Captain of a company from Princess Anne county, which was attached to the 6th Regiment as Company B. Lieutenant Eisenbiess was promoted to 2d Lieutenant and Edward Lakin was elected 3d Lieutenant. Upon the organization of the 41st Virginia Regiment of infantry the United Artillery Company was attached to it as Company E.
In April 1861, Confederate troops seized control of the naval facilities in and around Norfolk. At Fort Norfolk, Confederate troops erected a battery of six large guns en barbette and also manned several smaller pieces in other parts of the fort (Clary 1990:99; RAGO, "Citations and references to Fort Norfolk"). Confiscated ammunition from the powder magazine was used by the ironclad CSS Virginia during its March 1862 encounter with the USS Monitor in Hampton Roads (Melchor 1986:21). Confederate troops were housed at Fort Norfolk and at the adjacent Randall & Brown warehouse. When the Confederates evacuated Norfolk, Augustine Morrell found that the second floor of his warehouse, which had been occupied by the Confederates, was a "mass of varied filth." A portion of the first floor bad been used as a stable and was "littered with an accumulation of manure" (OQMG Claims Commission brief, May 29, 1867). The buildings at Fort Norfolk may have been similarly used.
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Source of Information
A CULTURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PLAN OF FORT NORFOLK, NORFOLK, VIRGINIA prepared for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District by the College Of WILLIAM & MARY, November 1995 under Contract No. DACW65-94-Q-0075.
RECORD OF EVENTS IN NORFOLK COUNTY, VIRGINIA, FROM APRIL 19th, 1861 T0 MAY l0th,1862, WITH A HISTORY OF THE SOLDIERS AND SAILORS OF NORFOLK COUNTY, NORFOLK CITY AND PORTSMOUTH WHO SERVED IN THE CONFEDERATE ARMY OR NAVY. BY JOHN W. H. PORTER 1892
David A. Clary's Fortress America: The Corps of Engineers, Hampton Roads, and United States Coastal Defense (1990)
William Bradshaw and Julian Tompkins's Fort Norfolk, Then and Now (n.d.).
The Norfolk Public Library vertical file of recent newspaper articles on Fort Norfolk. Including articles by James Melchor of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that describe archaeological and architectural findings on the fort property.