Union troops advanced on Norfolk, Virginia on May 10th 1862. The CSS Virginia was steam powered and not made for sea travel, nor was she able to retreat up the James River do to her draft, and was stuck. The Virginia’s crew attempted to reduce her draft by dumping all the supplies and coal, but this exposed her unarmored hull and didn’t reduce the draft enough. With no safe port the Virginia’s captain Josiah Tattnell ordered her destroyed. The task fell to the last man off the Virginia after all her guns had been removed.
Early on the morning of May 11th 1862 Lieutenant Catesby Roger Jones set fire to the Virginia, after running her aground off Craney Island. When the fire reached the magazine she exploded.