May 25, 1862 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr.

May 25, 1862

To: Sarah Keith, Galesburg, MI

From: Hiram Crawford, Portsmouth, VA

They have captured Norfolk. Saw the Merrimac blow up, was about five miles off and felt the shock.

1862-05-25 1862-05-25B 1862-05-25env

Entrenched Camp near Portsmouth Va

May 25th, 1862

Dear Sister

Your kind and welcome letter some two weeks since. I should have ansered it sooner but have been almost continually on the moove ever since.

We have at last accomplished what we have so long wished to viz: the capture of Norfolk but contrary to all expectation without striking a blow[1]. We left Newport News two weeks ago to day about 8 O’clock P.M. marched to Fortress Monroe. Eight companies embarked on a steamer[2] and landed at Ocean View[3] opposite the Fortress on this side the same night. The other two companies of which ours was one, stopped there until the next evening and came direct to Norfolk on the steamer thus saving us seventeen (17) miles of marching which suited us to the ___________. We have kept pretty generally on the move since we arrived. Our first camp was two an one half (2 1/2) miles north east of Norfolk. It was formily a Rebel camp splendidly entrenched mounting sixty five (65) guns. They left in such a hurry that they couldn’t destroy any thing but part of the Barrack. We _____ ______ twice while there. Was then ordered to report to Gen Viele at Norfolk, he sent us to the Marine Hospital to guard that institution and grounds. The Marine hospital is a splendid edifice built by the Government for sick and infirm Sailors. The Rebels tried to burn it but our troop was so close on their heels that they hadn’t time. We staid there two days. Was then ordered to what was the Camp of the 3rd Georgia Regmt about one mile from Portsmouth. Staid there until day before yesterday when we mooved here. Expect to start Monday morning for Pigs Point on the James River distance about seventeen miles from here.

The cities of Norfolk & Portsmouth are very pleasant and have been smart and enterpising places. For the first few days the sentiments of the people were decidedly secesh[4] but am happy to say that under the benign rule of Uncle Sam it is fast disappearing and a strong Union feeling is taking its place. The Gosport Navy Yard was almost wholly destroyed. It will cost the Government a heavy sum to rebuild it. This camp, an entrenched camp, mounting eighteen guns. The gun were partly dismounted. Our Regmt and in fact all of this division are enjoying good health. The Regiment having lost but eight (8) since we have been in the service.

I received a letter from Mother[5] but a short time ago. She was in tolerable good health. She talked of selling the place also of making you and some of the rest of the family to visit this summer. My love to Luke[6] and the Family. Tell Luke I shall be happy to receive that letter. I saw the Merrimac[7] blow up, was about five miles off and felt the shock perceptibly. Answer and believe me to be as ever.

Your Brother

H Crawford

Direct Norfolk VA

[1] With McClellan preoccupied with the siege of Yorktown, President Lincoln ordered an attack on Norfolk. The Indiana 20th Regiment was ordered to march to Fort Monroe in order to be transported across the James River

[2] The Nelly Baker. The steamer could not accommodate the entire Regiment, so Companies E (Hiram’s Company) and H remained at Fort Monroe

[3] The steamer, Nelly Baker, ran aground in its efforts to approach Willoughby’s Point across from Hampton Roads. After spending the night on board, the troops managed to disembark in the morning and march on Norfolk

[4] Presumably short for secessionist, or one who supported the secession of the Southern States from the Federal Union

[5] Nancy (Comfort) Crawford Betts

[6] Sarah’s husband, Charles Luke Keith Jr.

[7] On March 8 the Confederate ironclad vessel, the Virginia, which was made from the salvaged Merrimack, entered Hampton Roads, Virginia, at the mouth of the James River. A number of wooden men-of-war of the Union fleet were in the roads enforcing the blockade. The Virginia destroyed two ships and disabled another. The North was thrown into panic. The next morning, however, the Virginia was challenged by the Monitor, a Union ironclad. The two armored ships bounced shells off each other’s sides for four hours without doing any serious damage. Although the battle ended in a draw, the Virginia no longer controlled the area’s waters. Soon after, when the Confederates withdrew from Norfolk, they destroyed the Virginia to keep it from falling into Northern hands. McClellan continued with his plans for invading Virginia.


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  1. Trackback: May 25, 1862 letter to Sarah Keith from Hiram Crawford Jr. – Letters & Diary Entries From the 1860s

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