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Four days after Virginia seceded from the Union, April 21, 1861, the Gosport Navy Yard on the Elizabeth River near Norfolk was burned and U.S. Navy ships destroyed by:

  • Rebel troops on the march toward Washington, D.C.
  • Mutinous sailors who decided to join forces with the rebels.
  • A lightning strike during a horrendous storm which started a fire.
  • An accidental fire in the ammunition dump that quickly spread.
  • Federal troops carrying out the orders of Commodore Hiram Paulding.