Wednesday, May 7, 2014

First Fire In Virginia

Flag Officer Garrett Pendergrast
The Battle of Gloucester Point in Virginia occurred on May 7th 1861 and is reported to be the earliest action of the Civil War to take place in Virginia.

In early May 1861 it came to the attention of the Union Navy that a Confederate leaning force was building fortifications at Gloucester Point, Virginia.  On May 7th 1861 Union Flag Officer Garrett J Pendergrast ordered an examination of the area.  He sent Navy Lieutenant Thomas O Selfridge Jr, who commanded the USS Yankee a converted steam tug, up the York River on a reconnaissance of the area.  As the Yankee pulled to within about 2,000 yards of Gloucester Point a shore battery fired a shot across the tug’s bow.  Selfridge continued his course and the guns on shore fired at them again.

The battery on the shore; manned by the Virginia State Richmond Howitzers under the command of Lieutenant John Thompson Brown, fired between 12 and 13 shots at the Union tug.  The Yankee returned fire on the battery, but couldn't get the elevation, and his guns were too small to have done much damage anyway.  After firing on each other, the Yankee turned around and headed back to its base near Fort Monroe.

There were no reported injuries.

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