On 7 May 1861, three weeks after the fall of Fort Sumter, the gunboat USS Yankee traded volleys with a York River shore battery at Gloucester Point, Virginia. Though but a minor engagement, the Battle of Gloucester Point marked some notable firsts: the Civil War’s first exchange of gunfire after Sumter, the first cannonade in Virginia during the war—and most germane to our interests, the first firefight between the Union Navy and Rebel forces. From that humble beginning at Gloucester Point, the naval story of the Civil War was off and running; the war at sea, in more ways than one, would be a crucial determinant of the outcome in America’s defining conflict.
On Our Scope
By Eric Mills