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Raid That Wasn't
The Navy Attack on the Petersburg Railroad, 26-28 June 1862
By C. L. Veit

 © 2007, C. L. Veit.

From the beginning, Commodore Rodgers had harbored doubts that the mission could succeed. He had said as much to Washington. Now he waited through the night while his crews tried to haul three of his ships off the bar. With the tide going out, he knew they would not succeed. Dawn would find the squadron trapped along the tortuous river, offering an almost immobile target for enemy gunners. The raid already a failure, his concern now was to get as many of his ships back to the main channel as possible.


(Note: Clicking on the map will bring up a printable hi-res version)

Overshadowed by a week-long series of bloody land battles hides the little known (and perhaps intentionally overlooked) story of the Navy raid on the bridge over Swift Run near Petersburg, Virginia in late June 1862. That this episode does not figure in naval histories is not surprising, for it was an utter failure that might easily have been an absolute disaster. Only days before the final engagement of the Seven Days Battles at Malvern Hill, the very ships responsible for that Union victory lay at anchor in the shallow waters of the Appomattox River. For almost two full days, twelve of thirteen vessels assigned to the James River lay in a situation that throughout the war would prove disastrous to Yankee gunboats—confined to the narrow channel of a small river overlooked by high, wooded bluffs tailor-made to conceal Confederate infantry and artillery. That most of the ships escaped the Appomattox was due entirely to the losses being taken by the Army of the Potomac just a few miles to the north.


The Bridges of the Petersburg Railroad: 4 April -20 June 1862

The Union army began its advance up the peninsula formed by the York and James rivers on 4 April. Although halted for almost a month by Confederate defenses at Yorktown, the abandonment of those works on 3 May opened the road northward for Federal General George McClellan and exposed the lower peninsula—and Norfolk. The subsequent Southern withdrawal from that city deprived the Merrimack [1] of her home port and, unable to ascend the James, led to her destruction by her own crew on 11 May. Four days later, Yankee gunboats prowled up the James to within seven miles of Richmond, threatening it from the south as McClellan moved in from the northeast; only the batteries atop Drewry’s Bluff stopped them. By the end of the month, the Army of the Potomac was nearing the outskirts of the capital. In a desperate attempt to stop their advance, General Joe Johnston attacked McClellan on 31 May. The assault failed and left Johnston seriously wounded; Jefferson Davis’s military advisor, Robert E. Lee, assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia.[2]

Lee was well aware that his right flank was threatened by the Yankee navy on the James River. While the fortifications and guns at Drewry’s Bluff proved adequate to stop the gunboats, the Achilles’ heel of the Southern defense of Richmond in 1862 was—as it would be in 1864-5—the rail line from Petersburg. Reinforcements and supplies traveled along this line and it also offered an avenue of escape should Richmond fall. The rails crossed over the Appomattox River and Swift Run on two vulnerable bridges. Even before Merrimack was scuttled, Confederate Secretary of War G.W. Randolph ordered an engineer to “obstruct the Appomattox below Petersburg,”[3] The following day (7 May) General Lee reminded Major General Huger at Petersburg to make sure to leave a four gun battery there “to protect obstructions in the Appomattox River.”[4]

The Appomattox flows north from Petersburg into the James River. Not far above the city at Hare’s Bar, it forks and then reunites about three miles from its mouth. Obstructions and covering fortifications placed at the branching below Petersburg would protect that city, but leave Port Walthall open to attack; any troops landed at Port Walthall would also be in easy reach of the rail line to Richmond. The better place to block the river was at Point of Rocks, which lay below Port Walthall at the juncture of the two branches of the Appomattox. General Lee evidently assumed the obstruction and accompanying rifle pits and batteries were being placed at Point of Rocks. But the engineer in charge, Captain Dimmock, chose to site them at the branching of the Appomattox where they could be protected by existing fortifications at Fort Clifton.

On 17 May Lee wrote again to Huger, evidently frustrated at not knowing where—or if—the obstructions had been placed. Knowing that the juncture of the streams was the best place to sink hulks and plant torpedoes, Lee reacted to a communication from Huger (now lost) that must have presented reasons for not selecting Point of Rocks: “if you cannot obstruct it below Port Walthall you must select the most favorable point above that place for the purpose, and push the work as rapidly as possible.”[5] Three days later, Lee’s aide, W.H. Taylor, wrote to Huger, saying that:

[General Lee] hopes that the work of obstructing the Appomattox is being vigorously pushed forward, and that measures are being taken to protect the obstructions by artillery, rifle pits, &c. He instructs me to call your attention to the bridge over Swift Ram Creek, between Petersburg and this city, and to the importance of having a force there to protect and guard it, if you have not already taken the necessary steps to insure its safety.[6]


Huger replied on 21 May that he was “endeavoring” to place obstructions at Point of Rocks in addition to those already blocking the river at Fort Clifton.[7] By now, Merrimack was gone and Yankee gunboats had pushed up the James River. Flag Officer Louis Goldsborough (commanding the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron) called the attention of Commander W. Smith (senior officer commanding James River squadron) to the bridges, later saying that he had “long since perceived the immense advantage that would result to our cause by destroying the railroad bridge at Petersburg.”[8] He also forwarded three shallow draft steamers up the James, saying that:

It may be expedient to use them up the Chickahominy and Appomattox rivers. If the railroad bridge at Petersburg can be destroyed, or so commanded by our vessels as to prevent its use by the enemy, it would be of infinite advantage to us, especially in case of his retreat from Richmond, which, without this bridge, would be effectively cut off in that direction.[9]


Smith was not slow to use the new ships. Late morning of 27 May saw the Cœur de Lion and Stepping Stones head up the Appomattox. The little boats made it only three miles before spotting fresh earthworks on the northern bank. This was at Point of Rocks, where the two branches of the river reunited in their course to the James. Although they saw no artillery, the “battery” was manned by “about a hundred soldiers”—one of whom waved a flag, signalling rebel troops on the south bank to fire into the Union gunboats. Although the infantry were easily dispersed with a few shells, the Yankee sailors decided it was better to turn around and report; this would be the limit of any reconnaissance before the June raid. In passing his report to Goldsborough, Smith added, “We have heard from persons from Petersburg that obstructions have been placed in the river. They do not know certainly at what point, but they are supposed to be at the foot of the island” below Port Walthall “where they can close both channels and be protected by the battery.” [10]

Smith also included some discouraging information. Although there was “water enough in the channel . . . for our steamers to reach Port Walthall . .  . from the information we have received of the condition of the upper portions of the Appomattox, I doubt that our small steamers . . . can reach Petersburg.”[11] Even if they could, in Smith’s estimation, their battery would not be sufficient to combat the 7-8000 troops assumed to be stationed there as well as destroy the bridge; the mission would instead require “a considerable body of troops.”[12]

The Union reconnaissance spurred a flurry of exchanges between Richmond and Petersburg discussing the progress of the Appomattox defenses. Lew Armistead—now in command at Petersburg—told Secretary Randolph that, following a recent inspection of the obstructions in company with Captain Pegram of the Confederate Navy, both officers felt that they could be easily removed and were not in the right place at all. Armistead asked for authority over the officers and men working on the obstructions at Fort Clifton so that he could “try to redeem lost time” [13] and emplace them at Point of Rocks. By 30 May, however, Armistead had been replaced by J.G. Walker as commander at Petersburg who,[14] though aware of the inadequacy of the Fort Clinton site to protect Port Walthall as well as Petersburg, seems not to have created any obstruction downstream.[15] The Appomattox—at least as far as Port Walthall—was open to the Yankee gunboats.

As McClellan spent the first three weeks of June preparing for the assault on Richmond, President Lincoln grew frustrated with the general’s inertia and demands for reinforcements. Despairing of any positive response from the “Young Napoleon,” Lincoln turned to the Navy.  On 19 June he sent Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox to enquire about the possibility of destroying it. Whether under orders from Lincoln—who may have had a bellyful of generals and flag-officers—or on his own initiative, Fox did not stop at Norfolk to see Goldsborough, but instead steamed straight up the James to discuss the issue with Commanders John Rodgers and John P. Gillis (now senior officer commanding the squadron). He arrived at 11:30pm and spent the next three hours in conference with the Navy officers. Fox explained, “the President considers it of vital importance” and “wishes every exertion made to accomplish it immediately;” he also told them “the Government would pay $25,000 or even $50,000 to have the bridge destroyed.”[16] Although admitting that neither officer knew much about the Appomattox, Fox told Goldsborough in a private letter the following day that “Rodgers promises to make all possible inquiries” and believed that “the chances are better with Rodgers than anyone else.”[17] Fox also mentioned the possibility of destroying the Swift Creek bridge instead, stipulating that any attack must be carried out prior to McClellan’s advance. Goldsborough, in a letter to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, still insisted that

Force--naval force--won't answer there, but dollars may. The river is obstructed and defended, and Petersburg is kept garrisoned.[18]


By the third week of June, everyone was certain about something along the Appomattox. The Confederates were certain their defenses were inadequate: the obstructions designed and placed by Captain Dimmock were recognized as good, but in the wrong place, giving the Union Navy easy access to Port Walthall and placing the bridge over Swift Run in range of a quick strike. Additional obstructions at Point of Rocks and accompanying fortifications were not completed. On the Federal side, Flag Officer Goldsborough was certain any naval mission to destroy either bridge was doomed to failure in light of the enemy defenses. The very brief reconnaissance of the lower waters of the Appomattox almost a month earlier had barely probed those defenses and done nothing to remedy the almost total ignorance admitted by Rodgers and Gillis to Gustavus Fox. Finally, Abraham Lincoln was quite certain he wanted the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond cut.


Weekend 21-22 June 1862:
“The President . . . is especially anxious”

In addition to any stationary obstructions and emplaced guns, Union vessels on the James and Appomattox rivers faced ambush at the hands of flying batteries of rebel artillery. These could set up anywhere atop the bluffs that lined the waterways, safely concealed in the thick forests. Lt E. P. McCrea, commanding Jacob Bell, reported such an attack upon his ship at Watkins Bluff on 21 June. He was fired upon by two batteries of 6- and 12-pounder guns and 500 riflemen. These were sited at a narrow bend in the river, such that one battery raked Jacob Bell as it approached and the second, which did not reveal its position until the ship had passed, raked her aft. The masked batteries had been sited at a spot where the narrow channel ran within feet of the shore. Ten shots struck the Bell, carrying away her rudder chain, penetrating and cracking the flange of the port sidewheel, blasting away the starboard side of the pilothouse, and bending the valve stem (which slowed the ship). The volume of musket fire was such that McCrea could not at first bring himself to order his men to man their own exposed guns; he reported that the upper works of his ship were “completely riddled.”[19] When he returned down the river, the battery was gone.

On 21 June Flag Officer Goldsborough instructed Gillis to turn command of over to Rodgers “the vessels or management of affairs up James River.”[20] Goldsborough reminded Gillis to impress upon his replacement that “the President . . . is especially anxious to have the railroad bridge at Petersburg destroyed, if possible.”[21] While simultaneously reiterating to Welles his opinion his doubt “whether any mere naval force . . . will be able to do so,”[22]Goldsborough offered Rodgers an additional weapon: a new and untested submarine.

This boat would later be unofficially named Alligator, but in June of 1862 she was only “the submarine propeller.” Designed by Brutus Villeroi, an immigrant Frenchman with submarine experience dating back to 1832, the vessel was 47 feet long, 4½ feet wide, and 5½ feet high. Her crew consisted of a commander, two divers, and twenty men who propelled the boat with hinged oars that fit through watertight seals along the sides of the vessel. The divers exited a forward airlock to plant a torpedo, connect it with an insulated electric wire to a battery once back inside the sub, and detonate the explosive. Villeroi had also invented an air purifying system that supposedly allowed the boat to stay submerged for hours. Originally built to sink Merrimack, the submarine had not been ready in time to attack that vessel, and the Navy was now looking for a mission for her. It was hoped that she could remove the obstructions that blocked the gunboats at Drewry’s Bluff and/or destroy the bridge at Petersburg. Goldsborough had absolutely no faith in the submarine.

After a day’s consideration, Commander Rodgers responded in a letter to Goldsborough to the instructions passed along by the departing Commander Gillis. Citing the narrow channel, high banks, the several thousand nearby troops, and obstructions known to be in the river, he came to the same conclusion as the Flag Officer—the Navy could not destroy the Petersburg bridge. Saboteurs should be sought among the loyal Union men of Norfolk or around Fortress Monroe. He concluded, “If I see any opportunity of carrying out the subject of your letter, I shall zealously do so.”[23] Goldsborough, in forwarding Rodgers’ letter on to Gideon Welles, added that the tide on the Appomattox was “frequently rapid” on account of the shoal and narrow waters. He also pointed out to Welles that the forthcoming submarine offered no hope of success either: drawing six feet of water and requiring two additional feet under the keel to allow the diver to exit the chin hatch, the vessel would be exposed in anything under eight feet of water.[24] There were many places along the route she would have to travel that carried less than half that depth of water. Goldsborough ended with “We will do our best. This is all I can at present promise.”[25]


Monday-Wednesday 23-25 June 1862: A Secret Weapon

The submarine propeller arrived off Fortress Monroe on Monday, 23 June, under tow of the hired steamer Fred Kopp. In charge of the novel and highly secret weapon was Samuel Eakins, who had long experience in underwater salvage and demolition. Having gained his familiarity with explosives as an ordnance officer during the Mexican War,[26] Eakins went on to be selected as one of the principal divers hired by the Philadelphia Submarine Mining Company on its little-known expedition to raise the fleet of Russian ships scuttled in the harbor of Sebastopol when that city was besieged at the end of the Crimean War.[27] He worked in Russia for eighteen months, and returned to the United States to file a patent in 1859 for an underwater cannon.[28] In short, Eakins could be relied upon to blow up anything beneath the surface of the water.

But, while Eakins’ skills were never in question, his tools were. Among those familiar with the development of the submarine (now and throughout its lifetime), opinions ranged from strong advocacy of the vessel as an effective and terrible weapon to outright dismissal of the boat as entirely useless. Certainly Eakins had had but little time to familiarize himself with the workings of the boat, having been offered the job as “superintendent” only on 14 May after the Navy had dismissed Villeroi. Eakins spent the next two weeks replacing and repairing various systems on the boat and finally took her for a series of test dives on 7 June.[29] He had had only the following two weeks to work with the boat and the almost entirely green crew[30] before leaving for Hampton Roads.

On 24 June, the Fred Kopp headed upstream along the James, towing the submarine.[31] Escorting her and providing a berth for her crew was Satellite. Also aboard this vessel were 35 casks of black powder, twenty of which were loaded for the use of Eakins and his men.[32] Throughout the day, Satellite’s log recorded occasional downpours and, in the afternoon, a violent hale squall with “the largest hale stones ever seen by any man on board.”[33] Several gunboats logged heavy rain on the 23rd and 24th, which, according to an Army report of 25 June, “has added much to the volume of water.”[34] Aboard Monitor, Assistant Paymaster Keeler wrote to his wife on the 24th that “it rained hard all last night” and on the 25th “It rained hard all yesterday afternoon.”[35] Perhaps in light of the anticipated increase in depth of the shallow rivers, Commander Rodgers informed Goldsborough on 24 June that he had formulated a plan to burn the bridge over Swift Creek. That Rodgers had made this plan with little more awareness of the condition of the Appomattox and its tributary creek than he had expressed to Assistant Secretary Fox is suggested by his request to Goldsborough for “a Negro or white man who has the requisite local knowledge” that would allow him to “know the class of boats which can get to it, whether tugs, or launches, or rowboats, or whether it is unapproachable by water” at all. He complained that he could not secure such information locally, as “no one communicates with us; the [Rebel] pickets would shoot any man who returned to shore after doing so.”[36]

Rodgers also communicated his plan to General McClellan. In his letter he provided information that the span was 250 feet long and some 50 feet above the stream. To reach the bridge, he planned to send a force of rowboats up the creek in the night, hoping to safeguard them by making additional attacks on City Point and the battery “above the barriers,” as well as taking any fortifications near the bridge itself.[37] He suggested that this be done in advance of any assault planned by the army, and asked when the general would like him to make the attempt. McClellan replied “the sooner it is done the better. . .  [as] I am about to commence decisive measures.”[38] Anticipating those operations, Robert E. Lee ordered Major General Holmes to pull General Ransom’s brigade out of the defenses around Petersburg and send them by rail to Richmond, “unless some movement of the enemy on the south side of James River is apparent or threatening.”[39] The only new potential threat was the arrival off City Point of the Union’s submarine battery at 3pm. After coaling, her escort, Satellite, anchored near the flagship Galena at 7:30pm,[40] when, presumably, Samuel Eakins went aboard to discuss with Commander Rodgers how best to use the boat.

Later in the evening, Delaware arrived from Norfolk. Aboard the gunboat were half a dozen individuals recruited by Flag Officer Goldsborough and General Viele,[41] “all willing to do anything required of them, and several of them well acquainted with [the] localities” of the bridges. Goldsborough assured Rodgers that all six “are to be trusted.”[42] The commander now had a dozen warships, a secret submersible, and saboteurs at his disposal.


Thursday 26 June 1862:
It was really wonderful that some of us were not hurt”

Having made a hasty and ultimately useless attack on the Richmond defenses on 25 June in hopes of forestalling the anticipated Confederate offensive, the Army of the Potomac found their front quiet throughout the morning of 26 June. At noon, McClellan reported, “All things very quiet . . . I would prefer more noise.”[43] Within a few hours he would get his wish.

In addition to having given Lee the precious gift of the first three weeks of June in which to bolster his defenses and summon 20,000 additional troops, McClellan had also made the tactical mistake of isolating Fitz John Porter’s V Corp on the north bank of the flooded Chickahominy. He had done this in anticipation of linking up with reinforcements requested from Washington (which were not coming), and the mistake had been detected by J. E B. Stuart's cavalry. Lee had shifted the bulk of his army to the north in preparation for an attack on Porter, leaving but two divisions to guard Richmond[44]--and further reducing the regiments along the Appomattox. A.P. Hill’s division was to attack Porter from the south while Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Division would do so from the north. Jackson, however, fell hours behind schedule and Hill attacked at 3pm without waiting for him. Union general Porter fell back beyond Mechanicsville, punishing Hill’s men with artillery all the way. Lee, assuming Jackson was making his assault, brought up the two remaining divisions of his army. Despite quickly realizing that the rebel attack was going in piecemeal, Lee ordered the assault to continue in hopes Jackson would appear and join in. He did not, and in four hours of fighting, the Confederates lost 1500 men to the Federal’s only 300.[45] About 7pm, McClellan reported to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, “A very heavy engagement in progress . . . against great odds.”[46] As he wrote these words, Commander Rodgers off City Point gave the order to heave anchors and steam up the Appomattox River.

For this presidential mission, Rodgers had assembled fully twelve of the thirteen vessels under his command. As was characteristic of a national fleet that was scrambling to expand as quickly as possible, the ships were a mixed bag of civilian and purpose-built military vessels. The most powerful among them were the ironclads Monitor and Galena, both single-screw steamers. Mahaska and Aroostook were also single-screw gunboats. The sidewheelers Port Royal and Maratanza—which were also double-enders, designed for duty on narrow rivers—completed the roster of warships built for the Navy. The remaining ships (all sidewheelers) had been launched as civilian vessels and acquired by the Navy in the past year: Delaware, Jacob Bell, Satellite, Southfield, Island Belle, and Stepping Stones (an ex-ferry boat).[47] The ships averaged 170 feet long by 30 feet abeam, with the tug Island Belle being smallest (100’ x 20’4”) and Mahaska the largest (228’ x 33’10”); drafts ranged from three to twelve feet. The cumulative battery of the squadron was even more varied than the ships themselves: sixteen smoothbore guns of 8, 9, 10, and 11 inches, a half dozen rifled 12-, 20-, and 30-pounders, twelve 24- pound howitzers, and six rifled 100-pounders; Stepping Stones was unarmed. The larger rifled guns had ranges of about 2100 yards, the smoothbores around 1700. Approximately 966 men crewed the warships.[48]

Included in this complement were Sam Eakins and eight of his submariners;[49] not included in the squadron was their submarine battery. The boat’s primary target was the series of obstructions below Drewry’s Bluff on the James River. The Petersburg bridge had been proposed as secondary target, but, when Rodgers elected to instead attack the bridge over Swift Creek with rowboats, it was obvious there was no role for the submersible. Even on the deeper Appomattox there were frequent bars where the boat would show above the surface of the water and be prey to infantry and artillery fire. “Should she escape these, as the rebels are badly off for food and fish with nets very diligently . . . some poor Negro fisherman will drag her to shore.” While at present “powerless to help our cause,” the submarine—“so terrible an engine”—would be, “in the hands of our enemies, destruction to us. She might be used to blow up the Monitor, Galena, [or] Minnesota.[50] The submarine propeller would remain with the Fred Kopp off City Point. Eakins, now without a command, stayed aboard Satellite.

Offsetting the loss of the secret weapon, the timing of the raid coincided with a new moon; this would make the gunboats more difficult to spot on the dark river. The rains of the past few days also served to raise the level of the water, which would hopefully allow the squadron to pass over the many shallow bars along the Appomattox. Unfortunately, that hope was dashed almost immediately. While Galena hove to off City Point in readiness to bombard that city, the rest of the squadron steamed up the river as the sun sank near the horizon. Stepping Stones led the way, buoying the channel to mark it for the other ships; Island Belle probably followed, so that these two shallow-draft vessels could feint towards Petersburg. While the flagship Port Royal came next, followed by Delaware, Maratanza, and Monitor; the order of the remaining ships is unknown.[51] The small ships, Port Royal, and Delaware cleared the bar at the mouth of the Appomattox, but Maratanza ran aground, completely blocking the narrow channel. Assistant Paymaster Keeler, aboard Monitor, wrote

“In endeavoring to pass her we were obliged to let go an anchor to prevent running into her. Vessel after vessel kept coming up, each anxious to cross the bar & get on their way up the river before it should be too dark & each one as they came up only added another to the now tangled & confused mass of boats & shipping lying at the mouth of the river. Darkness came on while they were backing & filling & turning this way & that endeavoring to find their way . . .”[52]

Downstream, Galena opened fire on City Point at 8:15. Her guns were answered by Port Royal, which, with Delaware, Island Belle, and Stepping Stones, was by now well ahead of and probably unaware of the condition of the majority of the squadron on the Appomattox bar. In addition to the bombardment of City Point, the deception plan called for random shelling all along both banks of the river, and the vessels gaggled up below the flag ship joined in on schedule. Of course, the plan had envisioned the gunboats in line along the river, not clustered around one and other when they ran out their batteries. Keeler, dubious of the safety of his front row seat, wrote to his wife that “It was really wonderful that some of us were not hurt, as we set so low in the water the guns from the tangled mass of shipping flashed across our decks, their hot blast nearly sweeping us into the water.”[53] The scene was one of “terrible magnificence” as the muzzle flashes lit the banks and the reports rolled up and echoed back down the river; startled by the concussion of the heavy guns, “the dancing light of myriads of fire flies sparkled in strong relief” against the black walls of the bluffs.[54] The projectiles “swept over the country like a hurricane . . .  there were few who slumbered undisturbed on the line of the river this night.”[55]

The bombardment continued until 11:30pm. While almost entirely random, one specific target of the Union guns was the series of Confederate signal stations that dotted the Appomattox. These began at the mouth of the river with a station on the western side at Rhea’s Farm, then another at Blanfield on the opposite shore, Cobb’s Farm near the “battery” spotted on the 27 May reconnaissance, Fort Clifton below Port Walthall, the Old Blanford Church near Petersburg, and finally to a building in the city right next to headquarters in the customs house. These six stations enabled the men of Captain J.F. Milligan’s signal corps detachment to transmit a message the fifteen miles from end to end within twenty minutes.[56] Despite losing the first three of his stations, Milligan was able to warn Brigadier General J.G. Walker in Petersburg of the appearance of the Yankee squadron—although, in the darkness and under fire, incorrectly reporting it as made up of “gunboats and transports, three of each.”[57]

Satellite and Jacob Bell freed themselves from the knot of warships first and moved up the river in pursuit of Rodgers aboard Port Royal. Tugs were summoned to help free the other ships, which then also moved upstream--except for Aroostook, which would spend the entire two days of the raid freeing herself from groundings only to run ashore again a short while later. Her log recorded plaintively “Monitor got off . . . and passed up followed by the Mahaska, Maratanza, and Southfield, leaving us behind ashore.”[58] Rodgers, meanwhile, had come close to losing a second ship—his own—when Port Royal was rammed by Island Belle. Both Keeler and Rodgers give drunkenness as the reason for the collision, and her captain, Acting Master Arnold G. Harris, was immediately suspended.[59] Fortunately, damage to the flagship was limited to “a fearful crush of carpenters’ work.”[60] The expedition had not gotten off to a good start, and the situation would only get worse as the tide went out.

While Rodgers’ squadron was straggling up the Appomattox, McClellan’s army had beaten back the Confederate attack against Porter’s V Corps. At 9pm, he telegraphed to Stanton that “the firing has nearly ceased. . . . I almost begin to think we are invincible.”[61] Robert E. Lee would give him cause to regret these words over the next few days.

Monitor got off the bar just as McClellan was wiring Washington. As she led Maratanza, Mahaska, and Southfield up the stream, the Confederate defenders began to respond. Although there are no reports of attacks by flying batteries, there were plenty of infantry who posed a serious danger to the gun crews on the open decks of the gunboats. Even though the Petersburg garrison had been reduced to reinforce Lee’s main army, there remained six regiments in the immediate vicinity of the Appomattox: two at Drewry’s Bluff and four in Petersburg itself.[62] One of these was rushed forward to Fort Clifton to reinforce the pickets stationed along the river.[63] Port Royal’s log recorded they “were opened upon with musketry from shore” and that the entire squadron—trying to reunite near Point of Rocks—responded with small arms and howitzers.[64]

Unwilling to wait for the four stragglers to come up, Rodgers sent the smaller ships--Island Belle, Stepping Stones, and Satellite—along with Maratanza off towards Petersburg along the eastern arm of the Appomattox as a diversion.[65] The other vessels would continue up the western fork past Port Walthall and lower a group of ten boats with a hundred sailors aboard; these would row up Swift Creek to the railroad bride and fire it. Once ablaze, the team would fire a signal rocket indicating success; this in turn would alert the crews of Galena and Aroostook to burn City Point.

Unfortunately, the falling tide stopped both divisions within the next hour. As Monitor came upon the flagship just before 11pm, her log recorded “the vessels in advance had met with sharpshooters and obstructions and had come to a stand, unable to proceed up further.”[66] Keeler wrote only that “the flag ship and her attendant boats had come to a stand,”[67] and Port Royal gave the real reason: “went aground, tide falling.”[68] Only a mile and a half up the eastern branch, both Maratanza and Satellite also went aground on Gilliam’s Bar.[69] The smaller Satellite got off the bottom a half hour later—and backed right into Maratanza’s forward rudder, disabling it.[70]

Aground on the western branch, Rodgers was forced to go ahead with the next stage of the plan. The men assigned to the rowboat attack assembled on the Port Royal—and waited, evidently, for a lull in the volume of fire coming from the marksmen hidden along the banks. On the ships downstream, “moments seemed hours” as the crews of the gunboats waited “in suspense as to the fate of the small boats which were to row up the creek to destroy the bridge.”[71] While the original plan called for them to row the three miles from the mouth of Swift Creek to the bridge, they would now also have to cover the mile and a half between Port Walthall and the mouth of the creek. In hopes of preventing the rebels from sniping at the men in the launches, Rodgers’ ships began to concentrate their random fire along the bluffs between Point of Rocks and Port Walthall, with special attention being paid to the facilities at the railhead.

Because Commander Rodgers never had a chance to write a report on the expedition, we can not know what his official explanation for the delay might have been; probably he would have cited the serious threat posed by Confederate infantry to the men in the open launches. Assistant Paymaster Keeler offered an additional reason, which could only be based on information obtained from one of the two Monitor officers chosen for the raid, Acting Master Edwin V. Gager and Lieutenant Samuel Dana Greene. Keeler wrote to his wife that,

[The] lieutenants & masters selected from the different vessels . . . got around the [Port Royal’s] Ward Room table and drank till every shot fired by the sharp shooters sounded­ like a thirty two pounder and the reports were multipled indefinitely. Under these circumstances the expedition was given up and they returned on board their respective vessels with fearful stories of narrow escapes from the myriads of sharp shooters.[72]

Whether the danger posed by the enemy along the banks was heightened by whiskey or not, it was in any event quite real. The slow progress of the fleet up the Appomattox, followed by the grounding of several vessels which led to the failure of the diversionary feint and extra distance to be rowed under fire for the men in the boats, resulted in Rodgers’ decision to cancel the boat attack. Time had simply run out. It was well after 11p.m. and the sun would come up at 4:52a.m. The assault team could not row the almost five miles to the bridge (under fire), tackle the defenses suspected of being there, lay their flammables and ensure they took, and make it back to the squadron (under fire) before the sun made them easy targets. There would be no attack on the bridge over Swift Creek and therefore no need to continue trying to fool the enemy; Rodgers ordered all firing to cease.


Friday 27 June 1862: “A drain called a channel”

Commander Rodgers’ now focused on extricating his ships. With the tide out, they were going nowhere anytime soon. In Keeler’s words, “we had nothing but to summon our patience and wait till the next flood tide.”[73] Port Royal and Maratanza remained aground, and at 1am Delaware also ran ashore. The available smaller vessels were busy moving between the two branches of the river trying to haul off the larger gunboats. Jacob Bell managed to haul Delaware back into the channel at 1:30 and then returned to the eastern branch to help Satellite with Maratanza. Neither ship could budge her and Satellite returned to the main body of ships at 4a.m. to await the incoming tide.[74] Stepping Stones—which has been upstream from Maratanza—slipped past that ship and also joined Rodgers’ group of ships. The tiny Island Belle, at the head of the line in the diversionary “attack” on Petersburg, lay grounded above Gilliam’s Bar.[75]

When the Union bombardment ceased, an eerie silence settled over the river. The Confederate sharpshooters which had been such an annoyance were gone. Marine Private Daniel O’Connor, aboard Port Royal, claimed “we killed quite a number of rebels and horses,”[76] between 9p.m. and midnight, so perhaps the rebels had had enough of the Navy guns or simply chosen to be quiet and wait and see what the gunboats were up to.[77]  In either case, they did not return for the entire night.[78]

At the mouth of the Appomattox, Galena had been busy executing her part of the plan. Like the other ships of the squadron, her job had been to shell the woods on both sides of the river at random; but at 2a.m. Galena switched targets and zeroed in on City Point. This town was used both to observe and fire upon passing Union vessels, and it had been a thorn in the Navy’s side for some time. Galena shelled the town throughout the early morning as well as sending two boats into shore to set the depots ablaze. One of her incendiary shells struck the hotel and set the building on fire. At 3:50a.m. Galena steamed downstream and threw a few incendiaries into the woods, but the shells did not ignite. Finally, at 5a.m., the gunboat anchored at the mouth of the Appomattox and ceased firing.[79]

Despite the failure of the raid, the presence of the Federal ships was having a small effect on Confederate strategy. After the first (inaccurate) report of Yankee naval activity on the Appomattox, Secretary Randolph had ordered Brigadier General J.G. Walker, commanding at Drewry’s Bluff, to leave all but a single regiment in those defenses, and proceed on the evening of 26 June to reinforce General Huger on the far side of the James.[80] There was not too much damage “gunboats and transports, three of each” could do, especially compared to the far greater threat posed by McClellan’s army. But soon thereafter, Major General Holmes telegraphed Robert E. Lee from Petersburg to say “Enemy are landing at Bermuda Hundred. If they are in large force I can't resist them till they reach Drewry's Bluff.”[81] Aside from the pickets along the Appomattox, the Confederates had only four regiments at Petersburg (one of which had been pushed forward to Fort Clifton) and two at Drewry’s Bluff.[82] Randolph immediately telegraphed Walker to sit tight until they figured out what the Yankees were up to.[83] Walker, after receiving the series of urgent telegrams from Randolph, wrote back that there was no landing on the southern side of the James. Instead, the gunboats had gone up the Appomattox and he would therefore “put my command en route to join General Huger at once.”[84]

In the early morning of 27 June, Holmes telegraphed Secretary Randolph to tell him of Galena’s landing at City Point, suggesting that troops should perhaps be returned so that he could send a regiment there. Randolph, satisfied that the greater threat lay before the capital, insisted he garrison City Point with whatever troops could be spared from Petersburg.[85]

Confederate assaults upon Porter’s V Corps at Gaines Mills at 7pm ended with results similar to the attacks of the day before: minor gains at a steep price.[86] McClellan, however, had a different perspective. His telegrams to Washington showed an increasing panic, ending at 8pm with “Have had a terrible contest. Attacked by greatly superior numbers in all directions on this side . . . The odds have been immense. We hold our own very nearly.”[87] The general told Goldsborough that the army had “met a severe repulse” and would be falling back to the James, and asked that he send shallow-draft gunboats up the Chickahominy to cover his forces.[88] Goldsborough agreed to send the gunboats, [89] but the only ship available to relay his orders to Commander Rodgers, the Dacotah, was anchored in Hampton Roads awaiting Army steamers to tow the transports Dacotah was to convoy. [90] Even had the Dacotah proceeded on her own, the ships ordered to the Chickahominy were still stuck along the Appomattox.

Alone and ashore on Gilliam’s Bar, Maratanza landed her Marines at 11a.m. to stand picket on the bluffs near Hodges farm. The men in the Confederate Signal Corps saw this and reported back, leading Captain Milligan to suggest to Secretary Randolph that “the enemy are evidently feeling their way up toward our obstructions.” [91] The Yankee raid was still a potential threat as far as the rebels were concerned. Rodgers’ only wish, however, was to get his ships out of what he later referred to as a “drain called a channel.”[92] With the tide finally starting to rise in the late morning, Port Royal sent a six-inch hawser aboard Stepping Stones with which to pull off Maratanza. Satellite accompanied Stepping Stones, and made the first attempt at hauling off the double-ender. The first hawser that Maratanza sent over parted, as did a second. A third was sent ashore, but still the Yankees could not budge Maratanza. Finally, at 4pm, LtCdr Thomas Stevens gave up hope of getting his ship afloat without lightening her, and ordered Stepping Stones alongside to begin off-loading. Over the next two and a half hours Maratanza sent over her ammunition and two 105 fathom lengths of chain cable. At 6:30pm, Satellite tied up to the gunboat and began taking off about 25 tons of coal.

The rest of the fleet remained at anchor between Point of Rocks and Port Walthall for the entire day, waiting for sight of the Island Belle and Maratanza, as well as the ships sent to rescue them. A dense black column of smoke climbed into the air from the direction of Port Walthall, which the sailors assumed was from a large pile of coal set afire by their bombardment of the previous night. Keeler, who felt “extremely mortified” at the failure of the mission, recorded that there was not a shot from the Confederates all day long. He felt “confident that twenty good men could have rowed up to Port Walthall . . . and marched from there to the bridge, four miles further, without interruption.”[93]. The silence from the banks only heightened the sailors’ apprehension as they waited through the day for an attack that never came. Talk among the officers turned to serious consideration of burning Maratanza.

Why did Holmes never attack? Subsequent similar situations in the course of the war would result in the loss of a number of Union vessels, and this one might all too easily have ended with the destruction the entire squadron. But the attention of the Confederate government was entirely focused on McClellan, and if the gunboats did not appear to pose much of a threat, they could be ignored—and pretty much were.

The probability of a more definitive response from the Confederate side was heightened at this time when two civilians came aboard the Port Royal to discuss with Commander Rodgers their claims for damages done to their homes by the indiscriminate Union bombardment. As Keeler wrote to his wife, “I don’t think [they] got much satisfaction.”[94] What Messrs Hodges and Gilliam did get, however, was a good look at the Yankee fleet, anchored scattered along the Appomattox; they might also have overheard discussion of what to do about the still-grounded Island Belle. Rodgers decided to keep them aboard overnight.


Saturday 28 June 1862:
“The enemy have suddenly and unexpectedly left the Appomattox”

Satellite finished transferring coal from Maratanza at 1:30 in the morning, and again tried to tow her off—again, without success. Finally, at 4:15a.m., Maratanza ran a hawser to a tree on shore and succeeded in dragging herself into deeper water. The damaged double-ender steamed down the Appomattox to rejoin the main body at 6a.m. Stepping Stones accompanied her and began transferring anchor chains and ammunition immediately. With Maratanza now safe and in anticipation of the fleet’s imminent withdrawal, Rodgers allowed the two civilians to return to shore.

At 7a.m., Stepping Stones reported spotting Confederate pickets on the bluffs surrounding the fleet; evidently the picket of Marines had been withdrawn when Maratanza got underway and the void quickly filled with enemy scouts. Satellite, which had gone upstream to assist Island Belle, also reported rebel pickets on both sides of the river.[95]

Efforts to free the small tug were unsuccessful throughout the morning. At 12:30 a boat from the grounded vessel brought word to Rodgers that Confederates were felling trees on the bluff above them, evidently to clear a field of fire. Port Royal fired off a 1o-inch shell from her pivot gun to disperse the Southerners.[96]

A half hour later, a little tug Cohassetcame puffing up the river at a prodigious rate bringing the painful intelligence of McClelland's retreat and orders for the whole fleet to proceed at once up the [James].”[97] Goldsborough had managed to get his orders through to Rodgers, who boarded Cohasset and set off downstream to Galena at 2pm, accompanied by Southfield, Delaware, Jacob Bell, and, at 2:30pm, Monitor. At the same time, Lewis Pricia, a slave escaped from Gilliam’s farm, came aboard Maratanza with a report that Gilliam had sent to Petersburg for artillery to capture the Island Belle. This sealed the little ship’s fate. The crew aboard the tug, assisted by those on Satellite and Stepping Stones (which had returned upstream at 2pm to help haul Island Belle off), quickly removed her guns and anything else of value, and then set her aflame.[98]

The ships remaining in the river raised their anchors and steamed back to the James. The ever-watchful Captain Milligan of the Signal Corps relayed this information to Holmes, who passed it along to Secretary of War Randolph: “The gunboat opposite our station aground set on fire and abandoned by the enemy. Monitor has gone; all the gunboats are following toward City Point.” Holmes commented that this was “sudden and unexpected.” [99] Aboard Monitor, Keeler wrote with tongue in cheek, “before sundown [we] were at anchor midst the familiar scenes and sounds of this romantic locality.”

The Union gunboats immediately dispersed to their new assignments in support of the Army of the Potomac, which was in retreat toward the James and the new supply base recommended by Commander Rodgers at Harrison’s Landing. Delaware went up the Chickahominy and was followed by Port Royal and, after discharging coal back into Maratanza’s bunkers, Satellite. The trio of ships, along with the army’s C.F. Smith, stayed at Windsor Shades for the next several days. During that time, when Union scouts reported the approach of the rebel army, Sam Eakins finally destroyed the twenty barrels of black powder he had been issued to use in Alligator’s attack upon the bridge over Swift Creek. It was taken ashore and then dumped into the waters of the Chickahominy.



The final days of June 1862 for the Northern army were devoted to setting up new defenses along the James River as Lee nipped at their heels. The gunboats of the Navy did what they could, convoying transports, patrolling the James and Chickahominy rivers, and throwing shells landward in support of various army positions. On 1 July, Lee massed his divisions to assault McClellan’s latest position atop Malvern Hill just north of Turkey Bend in the James River. Since the 26th, McClellan’s telegrams had grown increasingly frantic, ending finally with a desperate plea to Flag Officer Goldsborough: “I would most earnestly request that every gunboat or other armed vessel suitable for action in the James River be sent at once to this vicinity.”[100] Commander Rodgers reinforced the severity of the situation in a private telegram to his commander:

The army is in a bad way . . .  Now, if ever, is a chance for the Navy to render most signal service, but it must not delay.[101]

That “signal service” was rendered on the evening of 1 July as the gunboats Mahaska, Galena, Jacob Bell, and Aroostook helped stop the advancing Confederates. Without the naval support, many eyewitnesses agreed they could have gone on to push the government forces off Malvern Hill. Marine Corporal John Mackie, aboard Galena, recorded “It is universally admitted . . . that the energetic action of the Navy saved the Army.”[102]  In his report to President Davis, Lee himself pinned the Union victory on the Navy ships: “The great obstacle to operations here is the presence of the enemy’s gunboats which . . . prevent us from reaping any fruits of victory and expose our men to great destruction.”[103]

If we accept that Rodgers’ gunboats saved the Union Army on 1 July we should also recognize that those ships survived until the battle only because McClellan’s army kept the attention of the Confederates focused on themselves between 26 and 28 June. During that time twelve of thirteen vessels under Rodgers’ command lay ashore and blocked along the Appomattox—easy targets for rebel infantry and artillery. That no major attack took place was not for a lack of available Confederate forces: in addition to the two regiments at Drewry’s Bluff, Holmes had another four regiments at Fort Clifton and Petersburg. Had the rowboat attack been attempted, chances are good that the regiment at Fort Clifton—not to mention whatever units were covering the Swift Creek bridge—could quickly and easily have dealt with the hundred sailors. But Richmond was quite happy to leave the gunboats alone if their presence posed no immediate threat, which they did not.

Subsequent plans to destroy the bridges also came to naught. Goldsborough’s belief that “Dollars alone . . .  can do the work,”[104] was ill-founded. His original group of saboteurs “all willing to do anything” is never mentioned again. But on the day after the return of the squadron from the Appomattox, Rodgers himself found two men willing to make the attempt, a Mr. John Henrahan and Mr. Fogerty, for the full $50,000 offered by the government. Rodgers sent them to Norfolk to confer with Goldsborough as to the timing of their attack.[105] The Flag Officer accepted Henrahan’s plan, as well his request to split his half of the money—should he die in the attempt—between his brother in California and sister and step-sister in Richmond. The saboteurs would depart Norfolk “at once” to blow one of the bridges.[106] Reference is next made to them in a brief telegram sent by Goldsborough to Secretary Welles on 2 July 1862: “The parties I engaged to go from Norfolk on secret service, and about whom I wrote you, have done nothing. They became alarmed in consequence of the imposing numbers and the guard kept at the spot of operations.”[107]

As destined to failure as Rodgers’ plan may seem in hindsight, it was as nothing compared to his successor’s idea. In July, Rodgers was replaced by Commander Charles Wilkes. Eager to deliver on President Lincoln’s request to destroy either of the bridges, Wilkes devised a plan to attack the Petersburg bridge using ironclad war canoes patterned on those he had seen in the Marianas Island when he had served in the Pacific Squadron. Rodgers calculated that they would sink; they did not, but they did capsize. Wilkes blamed Commander Paulding at the New York Navy Yard for not following his specifications, but the small boats were not rebuilt and the canoe raid never took place. [108]

Conclusion: Why Did the Raid Fail?

The obvious and immediate reason for the failure of the raid was the shoal water of the Appomattox. The bars in the river stopped the diversionary attack before it had gotten a mile above Point of Rocks and hung up the main body a mile and a half below the jump-off point for the rowboat attack. Those same shallows kept the squadron hung up for another full day and resulted in the destruction of the Island Belle. Yet, two years later, the General Putnam engaged the Confederate batteries at Fort Clifton[109] and, in 1865, Commander J.C. Beaumont of Mackinaw reported after a reconnaissance to Petersburg that, “aside from the difficulty in passing through the obstructions at Fort Clifton, where the passage is but about 25 feet wide, vessels drawing not more than 5 feet may navigate the river in safety.”[110] So the Appomattox could be navigated—at least by the smaller gunboats that had been a part of the 1862 raid.

What stopped the Federals in 1862 was an almost total ignorance of the river above Point of Rocks, to which Rodgers freely admitted. The Navy’s inability to engage local Unionists kept them in the dark not only about where the Appomattox was blocked and defended, but also about the channels that could lead them to Petersburg and Port Walthall. Obtaining knowledgeable pilots was a problem all along the James and its tributaries, and it is possible that Rodgers’ ships were on their own when they crossed the bar on 26 June. This is suggested by Stepping Stones’buoying the channel” in advance of the main body and the slow progress of the squadron up the Appomattox: there was no one aboard the warships who knew the channel.[111]

The problem of pilots was so general that Goldsborough complained of it in a 30 June letter to Secretary Welles, pointing out that he was limited to paying them $60 per month while the army was paying $100. “Scarcely any of them are willing to accept employment from us, and those we have all want to leave and do leave whenever they can on the slightest pretext.”[112] Even when the Navy could get supposedly knowledgeable pilots, their value was questionable, as indicated in a 10 July letter from Commander Wilkes aboard Satellite: “I have been aground since last night--some ten hours. The pilots are ignorant of the river and channel, and, though said (the one we have on board) to be one of the best, he is next to having none.”[113]

The inability to steam quickly up the river robbed the Union squadron not only of the element of surprise, but also ate up precious time. The only hope the Yankees had of getting to the bridge over Swift Creek, setting it aflame, and getting back was to do it all under cover of darkness. As soon as the expedition entered the Appomattox, the Confederates were aware of it, but their immediate response was limited to musket fire from the pickets along the river. Had the rowboats attempted their attack in daylight, and the rebel regiment at Fort Clifton and those at the bridge itself been brought to bear, the result could only have been the loss of all one hundred sailors.

The fact that Rodgers attempted the raid is indicative of the desperate mood in Washington in June 1862. When President Lincoln’s desire to see the bridge destroyed was rebuffed by Goldsborough’s insistence that it could not be done by the Navy, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox went outside the chain of command and personally impressed upon Commander Rodgers how important it was that the bridge be burned. Rodgers was even given a secret weapon to use on the mission, as well as recourse to saboteurs. In the end, all was for naught, and, had the story of the Appomattox River raid not been lost in the climax of the Seven Days Battles, any serious investigation of the failed raid would have resulted in rejoicing that it had not ended much the worse for the Navy and the nation.

[1] Although officially the CSS Virginia, almost all original sources--North and South, Army and Navy—refer to the ship as the Merrimack.

[2] http://www.peninsulacampaign.org/campaign.shtml

[3] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 496.

[4] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 497.

[5] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 525.

[6] Official Records, Vol. 14, pp.527-28.

[7] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 556.

[8] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 496.

[9] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 425.

[10] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 431.

[11] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 431.

[12] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 431.

[13] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 556.

[14] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 17, p. 561. Petersburg served as headquarters for the officer in charge of the defenses of the south bank of the James (including Drewry’s Bluff). The rapid sequence of different commanders in May 1862 reflects the fact that Lee was drawing in troops from southeastern Virginia and North Carolina, each of them shuffling north and “bumping” the preceding division along.

[15] In a 1 July report to General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General at Richmond, Captain J.F. Milligan, Signal Officer, listed the stations under his command along the Appomattox.  Although he had a station very close to Point of Rocks, he does not reference any nearby fortifications or obstructions. In identifying the station at Fort Clifton, however, he wrote “at the obstructions, amid the fortifications covering them.” Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 629.

[16] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 491.

[17] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 492. Gillis as senior officer would have been the logical person to lead such an important attack, but he was soon to be replaced by Commander Jenkins, who, “though a most accomplished officer . . . is but one above Rodgers, who has already borne the "burden and heat of the day," and should hardly have anyone to step in over him at the last moment.”

[18] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 496.

[19] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 494-5.

[20] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 495.

[21] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 495.

[22] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 495.

[23] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 496.

[24] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 497.

[25] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 497.

[26] Ref. disability pension at www.navyandmarine.org/AlligatorArtwork/EakinsDeclaration4DisabilityPension.pdf

[27] Ref. www.navyandmarine.org/alligator/Sebastopol.htm

[28] Ref. www.navyandmarine.org/AlligatorArtwork /Patent22472.pdf

[29] Ref. www.navyandmarine.org/alligator/letters.htm

[30] With Villeroi went his experienced crew of twenty men. Eakins was forced to scratch together a crew from the workmen of the Neafie & Levy Shipyard in Philadelphia (where the submarine had been built) and was expected to fill out her complement from the sailors at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and among the ships on the James River.

[31] In so doing, Alligator became the first U.S. Navy submarine to be deployed to a combat zone.

[32] Official Records—Navies, Vol. 7, p. 499.

[33] Deck log of the USS Satellite for 24 June 1862.

[34] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 256.

[35] Aboard the USS Monitor: 1862—The Letters of Acting Paymaster William Frederick Keeler, U.S. Navy, to his Wife, Anna, Robert W. Daly, ed., (USNI, Annapolis, 1964), pp 162-3.

[36] Official Records—Navy, Vol. 7, p. 502.

[37] Official Records—Navy, Vol. 7, p. 504. The only “battery” the Navy had actually seen was the one above Point of Rocks at the juncture of the Appomattox; it was assumed there were obstructions in the river below. In the absence of reliable local intelligence, Rodgers was probably unaware of the actual obstructions placed below Fort Clifton.

[38] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 250.

[39] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 613.

[40] Deck log of the USS Satellite for 25 June 1862.

[41] General Egbert Ludovicus Viele, Military Governor of Norfolk.

[42] Official Records—Navy, Vol. 7, p. 502-3.

[43] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 258.

[44] "Opportunities Lost: Military Blunders of the Seven Days Campaign," Miles Foltermann, Agora no. 1, issue 1 (Summer 2000)

[45] Foltermann, “Opportunities Lost.”

[46] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 259.

[47] Commanders of each ship are as follows: Satellite—Act’g Master Amos P. Foster; Port Royal—LtCmd’g George U. Morris; Maratanza—LtCmd’g Thomas Stevens; Monitor—LtCmd’g William N. Jeffers; Delaware—LtCmd’g S. P. Quackenbush; Mahaska—LtCmd’g Harrison; Stepping Stones--Actg Master Frank; Island Belle—Act’g Master Arnold G. Harris; Jacob Bell—LtCmd’g E. P. McCrea; Southfield—Act’g Vol LtCmd’g Behm; Aroostook—LtCmd’g J.C. Beaumont; Galena--Cdr John Rodgers.  (Official Records—Navy) Rodgers transferred his flag to Port Royal for the expedition.

[48] Warships of the Civil War Navies, Paul Silverstone, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1989.

[49] Deck log of the USS Satellite for 7 July 1862: “Captain Akins of the submarine battery with 8 of his men took their leave and took passage in the mail boat JA Warner for Fort Monroe.”

[50] Official Records—Navy, Vol. 7, p. 523.

[51] Deck logs of Monitor and Galena, and Keeler, p. 164.

[52] Keeler, p. 166.

[53] Keeler, p. 166.

[54] Keeler, p. 167.

[55] Keeler, p. 167.

[56] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 629.

[57] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 618.

[58] Deck log of USS Aroostook for 26 June 1862.

[59] Keeler, p. 170 and Official Records-Navies, Vol. 7, p.528.

[60] Keeler, p. 170.

[61] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 260.

[62] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 621.

[63] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 620.

[64] Deck log of the USS Port Royal, 26 June 1862.

[65] These ships were the logical choice for this part of the mission, being the lightest vessels in the squadron as well as the shortest (Island Belle 123 tons / 100 feet, Stepping Stones 226 tons / 110 feet, Satellite 217 tons / 120 feet). Although heavier and longer (730 tons / 209 feet) Maratanza was one of two double-ender gunboats under Rodgers’ command; she would not need to turn around.

[66] Deck log of the USS Monitor, 28 June 1862.

[67] Keeler, p. 168.

[68] Deck log of the USS Port Royal, 28 June 1862.

[69] Deck log of the USS Satellite, 28 June 1862.

[70] Deck log of the USS Maratanza, 28 June 1862.

[71] Keeler, p. 168.

[72] Keeler, p. 169.

[73] Keeler, p. 168.

[74] Jacob Bell evidently remained with Maratanza, as no ship’s log mentions her coming back down the river.

[75] Deck logs of the USS Port Royal, Delaware, Satellite, Monitor, and Maratanza for 27 June 1862.

[76] The United States Marine Corps in the Civil War—the Second Year, David M. Sullivan, (White Mane Publishing Company, Shippensburg, 1997), p. 44.

[77] Pvt O’Connor might simply have based his statement on the volume of Navy gunfire; certainly the accuracy of his estimate of Confederate losses atop the forty-foot high wooded bluffs on a moonless night is questionable.

[78] Keeler, p. 169.

[79] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 17, p. 708-9, abstracted log of the USS Galena.

[80] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 618.

[81] Army transports in use along the James at this time carried about 750 men, so three of them could potentially land over 2200 soldiers. (Official Records, Vol. 14, 262.)

[82] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 621.

[83] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 619.

[84] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 619.

[85] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 620.

[86] Foltermann, “Lost Opportunities.”

[87] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 262-266.

[88] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 7, p. 514.

[89] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 17, p. 513.

[90] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 7, p. 520.

[91] Deck log of USS Maratanza for 27 June 1862 and Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 620.

[92] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 7, p. 524.

[93] Keeler, p. 169. Despite being ordered to send men north to support Lee, General Holmes still had a number of regiments on hand—including one at nearby Fort Clifton—which could have dealt quite easily with any daylight attempt on the bridge.

[94] Keeler, p. 170.

[95] Deck logs of USS Stepping Stones and Satellite for 28 June 1862.

[96] Deck log of USS Port Royal for 28 June 1862.

[97] Deck logs of USS Port Royal, Monitor, Aroostook,  and Delaware  for 28 June 1862 and Keeler, p. 170. In reality, Delaware's orders were to proceed up the Chickahominy, as per McClellan’s request. Monitor’s log misidentifies the tug as Narragansett.

[98] Deck logs of USS Maratanza, Satellite, and Port Royal for 28 June 1862.

[99] Official Records, Vol. 14, p. 623.

[100] Official Records-Navies, vol. 7, pp. 532-533.

[101] Official Records - Navies, vol. 7, pp. 533-534.

[102] Sullivan, USMC in the Civil War, p. 45.

[103] Combined Operations in the Civil War, R. Reed (United States Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1978), p. 181.

[104] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 7, p. 497.

[105] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 7, p. 524.

[106] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 7, p. 525.

[107] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 7, p. 537.

[108] Rear Admiral John Rodgers, 1812-1882, Robert E. Johnson, USNI, Annapolis, 1967, p. 214-215.

[109] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 10, p. 47.

[110] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 12, p. 106.

[111] The half dozen individuals forwarded from Norfolk “all willing to do anything required” were almost certainly saboteurs; if they were pilots, they were very poor ones.

[112] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 7, p. 530.

[113] Official Records-Navy, Vol. 7, p. 564.

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