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Aquia creek landing, on the Potomac--one of the first Federal navy objectives This little landing on the river became at the very outbreak of the war one of the chief objectives of the Federal navy. After the firing upon Sumter, the Confederates seized commanding points from Alexandria southward and mounted batteries of heavy guns as rapidly as possible. Aquia Creek, which was the terminus of the Aquia Creek & Fredericksburg Railroad, was fortified with twenty guns from the captured Norfolk Navy-yard, and was the chief menace to navigation of the Potomac by the Federal vessels. It was the first important duty of the navy to open and maintain the water communications of Washington with the North. If the Confederates could succeed in closing up the Potomac, their boast that the Confederate flag would fly over the National Capitol would not be an idle one, and thus the very first operations of the gunboats in the Potomac were of vital importance to the success of the Federal cause. Under the guns of the two batteries at Aquia Creek, Lieutenant Phelps performed the difficult and dangerous though unsung task of surveying the channel and replacing the buoys in the Potomac. The little flotilla of small vessels in the river carried only a light armament, and until joined by the “Pawnee,” a sloop of less than 1,300 tons, was almost powerless against such heavy ordnance as had been mounted by the Confederates. Yet when the “Freeborn” and the “Anacostia” and the “Resolute” boldly advanced to attack Captain W. F. Lynch's batteries at Aquia Creek on May 29, 1861, the guns of the navy spoke out the brave determination which ever characterized that arm of the service throughout the four years of war.

James Harman Ward

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James Harman Ward (1)
Thomas Stowell Phelps (1)
William F. Lynch (1)
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May 29th, 1861 AD (1)
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