Digital Repository

Ruins of Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, 1864

“A curious spectacle of industry in the midst of ruin,” was how the photographer Alexander Gardner described this Norfolk Navy Yard scene in his monumental, two-volume documentation of the Civil War. On May 9, 1862, when Confederate troops were forced to abandon the city, they destroyed as much of the yard as they could. Because the area was strategically located, however, the occupying Union forces rebuilt some of the shops and continued to use the yard. In 1864, James Gardner, brother of Alexander and a member of his photographic team, depicted Harper’s Weekly illustrator Alfred Waud as he contemplated the yard’s devastation.

Ruins of Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, 1864. Albumen silver print by James Gardner. From Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War. P1984.30.18, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas