Battle of Sewell's Point

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Battle of Sewell's Point

18 May 1861


19 May 1861


Sewell's Point, near Norfolk, Virginia


Eastern Theater


Blockade of Chesapeake Bay



33 star flag.png
Conf Navy Jack.png

USS Monticello
USS Thomas Freeborn

Light Guard, 6th Georgia Reg.


Henry Eagle
Captain, USN
D.L. Braine
Lieutenant, USN

Walter Gwynn
Brigadier General, CSA
Peyton Colquitt
Captain, CSA


Two Union gunboats

Battery garrison



Wounded: 1


The Battle of Sewell's Point was a minor duel fought in May, 1861, between Union warships enforcing the Union blockade and a small Confederate battery mounted near the shoreline at Sewell's Point, part of a promontory of land just north of Norfolk, Virginia. This first battle of the American Civil War after Fort Sumter ended in a draw, with few casualties

Soon after the taking of the U.S. Naval shipyard in Norfolk, Confederate forces began to construct defensive batteries at key points within the Elizabeth River/Hampton Roads area. Sewell's Point, the northernmost promontory of the Norfolk area, received three smoothbore and two rifled guns within earthen fortifications; work had progressed rapidly when the gunboat USS Monticello under Captain Henry Eagle steamed over to see what was going on; he opened fire when he saw the purpose of the construction, and was soon joined by the armed tug Thomas Freeborn. The attack from both ships had caused some confusion and momentary shock, but the Confederates quickly recovered and fired back, Captain Peyton H. Colquitt hoisting the colors of Georgia in the absence of either a Confederate or Virginia flag. The fighting was put off due to darkness, and the next afternoon the bombardment from Monticello resumed, this time facing well-aimed fire from a breastworks that was hurriedly-completed during the night. The engagement ended at 6:45 PM on the 19th, when Monticello steamed back towards Fortress Monroe, bearing a few large holes in her hull.