Photograph of the Confederate Ram Altanta on James RiverThe Provisional Navy of Virginia was established by an ordinance of the Convention of Virginia on April 27, 1861. The ordinance called for the enlistment of two thousand seamen and marines to serve terms of three and four years respectively. As a result of a shortage of warships, most of these seamen were employed in the construction and manning of harbor and coastal defense batteries. Governor John Letcher issued a proclamation on 6 June 1861, transferring "all officers, seamen, and marines of the Provisional Navy of Virginia" to the Confederate States of America. Overall, nearly 6,000 men served in the Confederate States Navy. The most famous naval battle of the Civil War occurred off the coast of Hampton Roads between the ironclads known as the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor.

How to Search the Catalogs:

Conduct a keyword or subject search heading in the catalog using the following examples of Library of Congress subject headings.

Confederate States of America Navy
United States Navy History Civil War, 1861-1865
Merrimack (frigate)
Virginia (ironclad)

Selected Published Resources

Coski, John M. Capital Navy: The Men, Ships and Operations of the James River Squadron. Campbell, Calif.: Savas Woodbury Publishers, 1996.

Driver, Robert J. Confederate Sailors, Marines and Signalmen from Virginia and Maryland. Westminster, Md.: Heritage Books, 2007.

Jack, Eugenius Alexander. Memoirs of E. A. Jack: Steam Engineer, CSS Virginia. White Stone, Va.: Brandyland Publishers, 1998.

Miles, Barry W. Civil War Soldiers and Sailors of the Eastern Shore of Virginia: Confederate & Union. Eastville, Va.: Hickory House, 2006.

Park, Carl D. Ironclad Down: The USS Merrimack–CSS Virginia from Construction to Destruction. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2007.

Scharf, J. Thomas. History of the Confederate States Navy from its Organization to the Surrender of its Last Vessel. New York: Rogers & Sherwood, 1887. Reprinted as The Confederate States Navy. 2 vols. Salem, N.H.: Ayer Co. Publishing, 1988.

Tucker, Spencer C. Blue and Gray Navies: The Civil War Afloat. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2006.

Selected Online Collections

Confederate Navy Index (Click Here for Database)
This collection pertains to Virginians who served in the Confederate States Navy. The information was compiled primarily from 1924 to 1925 by Captain W. H. McElroy, Navy Department, United Confederate Veterans. While this is not a comprehensive source, it contains considerable information about each sailor’s service. The information source is noted and ranges from printed and documentary material to the testimony of other veterans.

Selected Manuscript Collections

Martha Buxton Porter Brent. Reminiscences. Accession 26501.
Reminiscences of Martha Buxton Porter Brent of Portsmouth, Virginia, written in 1934. Topics include Porter family genealogy, her Methodist upbringing, childhood in Portsmouth, Virginia, and Pensacola, Florida, her education, relationships with the family slaves, the 1856 presidential election, her father’s career in the Confederate States of America Navy, including his work on rebuilding the Merrimack-Virginia Frigate, the capture and evacuation of Richmond, Virginia, in 1865, relationships between the Union soldiers and Richmond citizens after the war, and her marriage to Brent in 1883. Also includes notes and a drawing of the Merrimack by John Porter and a copy of his parole.

Confederate States of America. Navy Dept. Office of Provisions and Clothing. Letter Book, 1864–1865. Accession 37082.
Letter book, 29 December 1864–1 April 1865, of the Office of Provisions and Clothing containing copies of outgoing letters of the paymaster in the Office of Provisions and Clothing in the Confederate States Navy, located in Richmond. The letters were signed by John de Bree, paymaster, or John Mellen, clerk. The second half of this volume was used as a scrapbook, 1877.

Douglas French Forrest. Journal and Diary, 1863–1865. Accession 24771.
Journal and diary, 26 November 1863–25 June 1865, of Douglas French Forrest (1837–1902) as an assistant paymaster of the Confederate States Navy during his stay in Calais, France, as an officer of the CSS Rappahannock. The diary begins with the abortive attempt of the Rappahannock's officers to board her off the coast of Calais and continues through the majority of their detention while awaiting clearance to sail. Of interest are Forrest's reactions to French society's morals and mores, and the maneuverings of the Confederate representatives to gain permission to sail.

Douglas French Forrest. Memorandum Book and Travel Diaries, 1862–1865, 1871. Accession 31505.
Memorandum book, 1862–1865, and travel diaries, 1871, of Douglas French Forrest (1837–1902). The memorandum book includes accounts, 28 October 1862–1 February 1863, and journal entries, 27 May–9 September 1863 and 14 December 1864–24 February 1865, documenting Forrest's service in the Confederate States Navy, including service on the commerce raider CSS Rappahannock, based in Europe. The travel diaries consist of four volumes documenting his trip to Europe and the Holy Land in 1871.

French Forrest. Letter Books, 1863–1864. Accession 24769.
Letter books, 1863–1864, of French Forrest (1796–1866) of the Confederate Navy commanding the James River Squadron and Station concerning day-to-day operations of the squadron, including personnel, supply, and ordnance matters. Also orders and correspondence concerning the observation of the movements of the United States Army and Navy up the James River.

Military Commission of French Forrest, 1861French Forrest. Order Books, 1861–1862. Accession 24768.
Order books, 1861–1862, of French Forrest (1796–1866), commandant of the Confederate States Navy Yard at Gosport, Virginia, containing orders and correspondence concerning the day-to-day operations of the Navy Yard and the Naval Hospital, including movement of supplies and personnel, coordination of efforts with the army and civilian authority, and patrols to watch the Union navy. Forrest also exercised general supervision over alterations to the USS Merrimac, which transformed it into the ironclad CSS Virginia. Both books contain indexes and the second volume is a letterpress book.

Payroll of the Steamer Jamestown, 1861Virginia. Navy Department. Records of the Navy Department, 1861–1862. Accession 36794. (Click Here for Finding Aid)
Records, 1861–1862, of the Virginia Navy Department including accounts, correspondence, payrolls, transfer rolls, requisitions, returns, vouchers, and other sundry items dated between 1861 and 1862. The records document expenses accrued by the Provisional Navy during the early part of the Civil War, primarily between April and June 1861. Vouchers are the most prevalent and provide the name of the vendors and list the supplies along with the quantity and cost. Some vouchers include an abstract that provides a summary of all the vouchers submitted during a specific time. The number on the abstract corresponds with the number of the voucher. Whenever an abstract exists for the vouchers, those vouchers are arranged in order by voucher number. Unnumbered vouchers are simply arranged in chronological order. The vouchers document a wide variety of expenses, but are mostly for supplies, pay, rations, transportation, ammunition, and other items.

Samuel Gilbert Webber. Papers, 1863. Accession 39597.
Papers, 1863, of Samuel Gilbert Webber (1838–1926), including correspondence, photographs, and a biography. Includes a letter, 27 January 1863, from Samuel Webber, Norfolk, Virginia, to his wife in Massachusetts. Topics include his visit to Norfolk and a drawing of the Norfolk Naval Hospital, religious services, troop movements, and family. Included is a transcription of the letter. Also included are photographs and a biography of Samuel Webber.

A. O. Wright. Collection of Confederate Navy Service Records, 1922–1925. Accession 20976. (Click Here for Finding Aid)
Collection, 1922–1925, of A. O. Wright (1844–1928) of St. Augustine, Florida, containing correspondence, reminiscences, questionnaires, and lists relating to his efforts to obtain military records of men who served in the Confederate States Navy. This collection pertains to Virginians who served in that branch.

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