The operations of the United States navy were almost unknown to the public during the first weeks of the war, while there was not a move of the army that was not heralded in the newspapers and made known in all quarters.
But a very small proportion of the people knew that another class of men was struggling for the preservation of the Union
, spending nights and days in sleepless vigilance and untiring activity.
The seamen and officers of the navy should receive their due proportion of praise and honor for the ultimate victory that they helped to win.
By the force of circumstances, the Potomac River
, from Washington
to its mouth, drew the attention of the naval authorities in April, 1861.
All thoughts were concentrated upon the protection of the national capital, and besides offering this protection on the water, the navy, at first, played scout for the land forces as well.
There was a constant and painstaking inspection of the river; observations were made to see if preparations for batteries were in progress, and every effort was made to prevent communication between the northern and southern shores.
It was actually the beginning of the blockade, although the Confederates
were first in the field with their attempts to intercept transports and steamers on the way to Washington
On the 14th of May, Lieutenant Sproston
, commanding the Mount Vernon
, discovered an earth battery in the course of erection at Aquia Creek
The Federal flotilla in the Potomac
, at the time hostilities began, was composed of small vessels of light draft, whose armament precluded them from any close or lengthy action with land batteries that possessed heavier guns.