View of Rocketts and the James River from Libby Hill
Confederate naval shipyards can be seen on the beaches across the James River in this view from Libby Hill, just east of the Confederate capital of Richmond, near Manchester. Ironclads such as the James River Squadron's CSS Virginia II were built here using metal provided by the nearby Tredegar Iron Works, and the elevated ways on the point of land near the river's bend suggest that a torpedo boat may have been under construction prior to when this photograph was taken in April 1865.
The site was first flagged by the British explorer Christopher Newport on May 24, 1607, and took its name in 1730 from the ferry operator Robert Rocketts. By the time of the American Revolution, it was one of the colonies' busiest ports. During the Civil War, in addition to shipyards, it was the site of tobacco warehouses, which were set ablaze by retreating Confederates before Richmond fell on the morning of April 3, 1865; the fire engulfed the city. One Confederate, Colonel Alexander Cheves Haskell of the 7th South Carolina, remembered the landing being crowded with "Skulks, deserters, thieves, starving families and hangers–on, and many [others] besides. Casks of whiskey and rum, burst open in hundreds and thousands, made a stream of liquor in the gutter on each side of the street. The mob was drinking, yelling, screaming and robbing."