In 1800 Fernald's Island was purchased by the Federal government for a navy yard; it was the scene of considerable activity during the War of 1812, but was of much greater importance during the Civil War, when the famous " Kearsarge " and several other war vessels were built here.'
Sloops of an excellent type were built for work on the high seas, of which the celebrated "Kearsarge" was one.
"Kearsarge," Captain Winslow, off Cherbourg (June 19, 1864).
A public park extending from the James to the heart of the city, a deep, spacious and well-protected harbour, a large shipbuilding yard with three immense dry docks, and two large grain elevators of 2,000,000 bushels capacity, are among the most prominent features; at the shipbuilding yard various United States battleships, including the "Kearsarge," "Kentucky," "Illinois," "Missouri," "Louisiana," "Minnesota," "Virginia" and "West Virginia," were constructed, as well as cruisers, gun-boats, merchant vessels, ferry-boats and submarines.
The Kearsarge, most used of all, is still higher.
After a most destructive career she was sunk off Cherbourg by the "Kearsarge" on the 19th of June 1864.