Hampton Roads Naval Museum Educator
|"Destruction of the Mosquito Fleet." (Harper's Weekly Archives)|
|Elizabeth City, North Carolina, appears the upper left of this 1850 survey map of the Pasquotank River. (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration)|
|Stephen C. Rowan. (Naval History and Heritage Command)|
Unbeknownst to Lynch, the Union flotilla commander, Stephan C. Rowan, also faced a shortage of ammunition. His fourteen ships, though, carried 37 guns, almost two and a half times the number of pieces the Confederates had at their disposal. Because of this shortage, Rowan elected to ignore and bypass the Confederate battery altogether and concentrate on the main target of the Union offensive, the ships of the “Mosquito Fleet.” The Union commander also directed his ships to fire judiciously and, if possible, sink or disable the vessels by ramming or boarding.
After spending a day at anchorage north of Roanoke Island, the Union flotilla weighed anchor and got underway at dawn. The Cobb’s Point battery, manned by North Carolina Militia and gunners from the CSS Beaufort, were the first ones to engage the oncoming Union warships. Their shots were ineffective and poorly aimed, and this issue was compounded by the fact the militiamen abandoned their post as soon as the action began. Lieutenant Commander William Harwar Parker, commanding the battery, watched helplessly as his shots splashed wildly around the Union flotilla that was slowly heading towards the Confederate gunboats beyond.
|USS Commodore Perry. (Naval History and Heritage Command)|
|The armed tug Fanny, seen here after her capture by Union forces in the James River, bore a strong resemblance to CSS Beaufort. (Harper's Weekly Archives)|
With the capture of Roanoke and with the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds firmly in Union control, the flow of supplies to Norfolk dwindled to a trickle. The Confederates would try to break the blockade with the CSS Virginia, but with the arrival of USS Monitor, this would also prove unsuccessful. The Confederates, knowing their position was untenable, began to leave Norfolk, and by May it was completely abandoned. The Confederates attempted to move Virginia up the James River, but her 22-foot draft made it impossible to cross the sand bars at the mouth of the James. The Union Army entered the city on May 10th, 1862, and it stayed in Federal hands for the remainder of the war. CSS Virginia, having lost her home port and with no options for escape remaining, had her cannons removed and was blown up off Craney Island in the early morning hours of May 11th, 1862.
|A mass-market postcard from the early 1900s showing the scuttling of CSS Virgina. (HRNM Collection, HR98-2870-001)|