Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 23, 1861 (Friday): Action at Potomac Creek

Brigadier-General R. L. Walker

                                    Report of Colonel R. M. Cary, Thirtieth Virginia Infantry.

                                                HEADQUARTERS, MARLBOROUGH POINT.
                                                                                    August 23, 1861.
   COLONEL:  I have the honor to report that this afternoon at about 4.30 o’clock the enemy’s steamer Yankee and a tug were seen standing in the mouth of Potomac Creek.  I ordered down to the point the siege rifled gun (Betty Holmes) and a section (rifle) of Walker’s battery.
    The enemy fired the first shot, not aimed at this point, however.  Smith’s battery replied.  As soon as our field pieces opened the U. S. steamer Release (ice-boat) stood in and engaged us.
    The officers in charge of the pieces and the men behaved with proper coolness and deliberation.  They were Lieutenants Hagerty, Pegram, and Dabney.
   The enemy’s fire was very accurate, frequently bursting his shell in close proximity to our pieces.  It is believed that both the Yankee and the Release were hit; the former more than once.  No once was hurt on our side.
   The action lasted about forty minutes, during which we fired some twenty-five shot and shell;  the enemy as many more.  Capt. R. L. Walker was present, in immediate command of all the pieces.
   I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
                                                                                                R. M. CARY
                                                                        Thirtieth Virginia Infantry, Commanding.

     Asst. Adjut. Gen., Dep’t of Fredericksburg, Brooke’s.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Page 115

The Confederates still were able to disrupt Union activity along the Potomac in 1861, with a number of batteries placed at strategic points.  It would not be until they abandoned the Manassas line that Union forces would be completely rid of this impediment.  The Captain Walker referred to here was Reuben Lindsay Walker, who would go on to be one of the most acclaimed Confederate artillerists, seeing action in 63 battles and engagements.  He was never wounded, a subject about which he was very sensitive, saying in response to a question about not having been wounded, “No, sir, and it was not my fault.”

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