Actions at Aquia Landing


Pin It

Stafford's Confederate Year

Actions at Aquia Landing

On May 31, 1861, Union Commander James Harmon Ward (above) of the Potomac Flotilla arrived ready for action. A two to three hour fight, beginning about 10 AM, commenced. The USS Thomas Freeborn (USS Anacostia and USS Resolute lacking rifled-guns were held back) bombarded the Confederate shore battery. The Union vessels withdrew when their long-range ammunition was expended.

A second Confederate battery, established on a more commanding height, then made a difference as Federal ships could not adequately elevate their guns to engage it. The engagement set off a torrent of recriminations. Although Commander Ward reported the Rebel guns were not a threat to the Potomac River channel, he returned the next day with Anacostia, Reliance, Pawnee and Freeborn and the latter two engaged shore batteries at 11:30 AM. The Southerners, believing the Federal ships were using the end of the wharf to sight on the battery, burned a building, resulting in the loss of the whole wharf (a loss of $11,200 to the R,F&P Railroad). The Confederates had employed at least eight guns in the fight, but the Federal gunners drove most away from their positions. The fight ended at 4:30 PM on June 1, 1861.