|The army's chief reliance on the river — the double-turreted monitor “Onondaga” While Admiral Porter and his squadron were absent on the Fort Fisher expedition, it was of the greatest importance that an adequate flotilla should be left in the James to preclude the possibility of the Confederate gunboats getting down past the obstructions and making a bold and disastrous attack on City Point, the army base. Having left this huge ironclad fighting-vessel behind, Admiral Porter felt at ease. But the undaunted Confederate Flag-Officer J. K. Mitchell was not to be deterred from making one last attempt to strike a telling blow with the “Virginia” and her consorts. On the night of January 23, 1865, he came down to the Federal obstructions and attempted to get by. When the movement was discovered, contrary to all expectations the great “Onondaga” retreated down the river. The moment might well have been one of the greatest anxiety for the Federals, but in maneuvering, the “Virginia” and the “Richmond” both got aground and the “Onondaga,” returning with the “Hunchback” and the “Massasoit,” inflicted some telling shots upon them. It was found later by a court-martial that Commander William A. Parker, commanding the division on the James, had made an “error of judgment” in handling the “Onondaga.”|
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