Monday, November 14, 2011

November 15, 1861 (Thursday); Gunfire on the Potomac

Evansport Battery-Click to Enlarge (Google Images)
Camp Baker, Lower Potomac, Maryland, November 15, 1861.
Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,.
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac:.
    This afternoon the rebels have discharged no less than seventy or eighty guns at a solitary steamer passing down the river without effect. The batteries used were those in the immediate vicinity of Evansport. It cannot be possible that they will persevere much longer in their fruitless efforts to close the navigation of the river.     The result of their labors to-day confirms me in the opinion I have entertained for ten days past that it is not in their power to present any formidable barrier to the almost uninterrupted passage of vessels up and down the Potomac. I am aware that a different opinion prevails among those whose experience should entitle their opinion to more consideration than my own, and for that reason it is with some reluctance that I advance it; nevertheless it is my conviction. For instance, to-day the vessel descended the river soon after midday with a three or four knot breeze and was not struck. Of all the rebel firing since I have been on the river, and it has been immense, but two of their shot have taken effect, and that was the wood schooner anchored in the middle of the river. She was hit twice, once in her hull and once in her main-sail, if that may be called hit. With a light breeze or a favorable current, a seventy-four line-of-battle-ship can ascend or descend the river at night with impunity..
    I desire that 500 blank morning reports may be forwarded to me..
    Herewith I inclose the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Wells, First Massachusetts Regiment, which was not received in season to send with the communication of the 14th instant.*
Very respectfully,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

*Not found.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 653.

In October, the Confederates finished a series of batteries along the Potomac.  They were defensible so long as Johnston occupied forward positions in Northern Virginia. From a psychological standpoint, the batteries were an affront to the Union as they obstructed river traffic to the nation's capital.  As Hooker points out here, the accuracy of the batteries was less than stellar. 


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