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[98] and was in danger of being absolutely annihilated when Ward and the Freeborn opened fire on the concealed Confederates in the thickets. It was necessary to row this landing-party off to the ships, and Commander Rowan makes report of a bit of fine conduct that shows of what stuff the men of the old navy were made. After speaking of the gallantry of Lieutenant J. C. Chaplin, commanding the landing-party, and of his deep regret at the death of Commander Ward, he writes as follows, “I must also call the attention of the department to the bravery of John Williams, captain of the maintop of the Pawnee, who told his men while lying off in the boat that every man must die on his thwart sooner than leave a man behind, and when the flagstaff of his boat was shot away and the ensign fell, he (although suffering from a gunshot wound in the thigh) seized it in his hand and bravely waved it over his head.”

The shores of the Potomac were almost one continuous ambush, and not until Aquia Creek was taken and land forces cooperated with the little river flotilla, was life safe. The first use of the torpedo occurred here, when, on the 7th of July, two large casks were discovered floating down toward the Pawnee, whose commander, sending out a boat to investigate, found two eighty-gallon casks supporting a boiler-iron torpedo containing enough powder to have blown his vessel from the water. The fuses, fortunately, had gone out.

Despite the early declaration of the blockade, the Confederacy possessed for months an unbroken line of defenses from a point but a short distance below Alexandria on the Potomac, down that river and from its mouth to Norfolk, southward thence to Florida, along the Gulf to the mouth of the Mississippi, and along the entire coast of Texas. Besides this, of inland waters they were in possession of the Mississippi and held the mouths of the Cumberland and the Tennessee rivers. Well indeed was it time for something to be done. If the blockade was to be successful, and not the mere farce that

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James Harman Ward (2)
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