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Ruins of Norfolk Navy Yard

Ruins of Norfolk Navy Yard

Publisher: Alexander Gardner

Medium: Photographic print

Shelfmark: 1784.a.13.1_f040r

Scale: Millimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photographer: James Gardner

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The Ruins of Norfolk Navy Yard was taken by Gardner’s brother James in December 1864. The photograph vividly shows the damage done to the shipyard’s buildings which had been home to the United States Navy from the Colonial period. The federal government lost control of the yard at the start of the war and it fell into Confederate hands, along with numerous supplies of ammunition which had been stored there.

The Confederates used the yard to build their ironclad ships as well as provide a save port for blockade runners. The Union Navy recaptured Norfolk Navy Yard in May 1862. Before leaving, the Confederate commanders ordered the shipyard to be destroyed, burning anything that would be deemed valuable to the Union forces, including military supplies and information about the seceded states. The Union had attempted similar destruction in 1861, which Gardner’s description calls a 'questionable policy'.

As this photograph shows, even two and a half years after its recapture, the Norfolk Navy Yard remained scarred by the conflict.

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