Navy Department,

Richmond, April 2, 1862

Hon. George Randolph,

Secretary of War:

Sir: In reply to your letter of the 1st instant I have the honor to inclose herewith copy of the instructions of this Department to the commandant of the navy-yard, Norfolk, on the subject of placing obstructions in Elizabeth River.

Captain Sterrett was detailed to report to him to superintend the work.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. R. Mallory,

Secretary of the Navy




Navy Department,

Richmond, March 24, 1862

Capt. S. S. Lee,

Appointed to Command Navy-Yard, Norfolk, Va.:

Sir: You will take immediate steps to raise the Columbus and Delaware, in order to use them, if necessary, to close the approaches to Norfolk.

You will immediately place the Germantown or Confederate States, or both, if necessary, in such position as to enable you to sink one or both of them at short notice at the best point and in the best manner to obstruct the approach of the enemy’s ships to Norfolk. General Randolph thinks that either ship can be so placed to act like a swinging gate, to keep a passage open for our use and to sink the vessel at pleasure to close it against the enemy. The Virginia must not be shut in.

In these operations you must consult with General Huger, and as the completion of the iron-clad boat now in progress is a matter of vital interest, you will please avoid decreasing the contractor’s price in the operations necessary to this work.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. R. Mallory,

Secretary of the Navy


Flag-Officer’s Office,

Gosport, Va., March 28, 1862


Hon. S. R. Mallory,

Secretary of the Navy, Richmond:


Sir: In further response to your letter of the 24th instant, directing the preparation of the Germantown and Confederate States for service below the harbor in obstructing approaches, &c., I have the honor to inform the Department that the Germantown is in perfect readiness to be removed at any moment, and that the Confederate States requires only the removal of her own crew and the crews of the vessels composing the squadron under the command of Flag-Officer Tatnall, which are now quartered on board her, to their respective ships or to some other quarters, to render her also ready. This can be effected quite readily. Meantime I respectfully request, since these two vessels have been named by you for the purposes indicated, that authority be given me to prepare the Plymouth for use as a receiving ship in place of the Confederate States. The time and expense involved in the preparation of this latter vessel will be inconsiderable, as she is now nearly, if not quite, in condition for the purpose.

I shall not fail, as suggested by the Department, to invite a free conference with General Huger as to the manner in which these vessels can be disposed so as to accomplish the objects contemplated.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. S. Lee,





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, pp. 414-415

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 April 18