Alarmed by the gathering of troops at Washington
, Governor Letcher
, of Virginia
, by command of the Confederate government, called out the militia of that State, appointing no fewer than twenty places as points of rendezvous, one-fourth of which were west of the mountains, for the Confederates
were threatened by Ohio
and Indiana volunteers.
His proclamation was issued May 3, 1861.
Batteries were erected on the Virginia branch
of the Potomac
, below Washington
, for the purpose of obstructing the navigation of that stream and preventing supplies reaching Washington
that way. At the middle of May, Capt. J. H. Ward
, a veteran officer of the navy, was placed in command of a flotilla on the Potomac
, which he had organized, composed of four armed propellers.
On his way to Washington
from Hampton Roads
, he had captured two schooners filled with armed Confederates.
He then patrolled that river, reconnoitring the banks in search of batteries which the Virginians had constructed.
On the heights at Aquia Creek
(the terminus of a railway from Richmond
), 55 miles below Washington
, he found formidable works, and attacked them, May 31, with his flag-ship, Thomas Freeborn
, and the gunboats Anacosta
For two hours a sharp conflict was kept up, and the batteries were silenced.
's ammunition for long range was exhausted, and on the slacking of his fire the batteries opened again.
Unable to reply at that distance, Ward
withdrew, but resumed the conflict the following day, in company with the Pawnee
, Capt. S. C. Rowan
The struggle lasted more than five hours. Twice the batteries on shore were silenced, but their fire was renewed each time.
was badly bruised, but no person on board of her nor on Ward
's flotilla was killed.