Potomac Flotilla

Potomac Flotilla

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Potomac Flotilla

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The Potomac Flotilla, or the Potomac Squadron was a unit of the United States Navy created in the early days of the American Civil War to secure Union communications in the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac River and their tributaries, and to disrupt Confederate communications and shipping in the same.


American Civil War

On April 22, 1861 Commander James H. Ward, who was the commander of the receiving ship USS North Carolina at the New York Navy Yard, wrote to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells to put forth a plan for the protection of the Chesapeake Bay area. Ward suggested a “Flying Flotilla” of light draft vessels to operate in the Chesapeake and it’s tributaries. His commander Captain Samuel L. Breese, commandant of the New York Navy Yard, endorsed his plan. Wells accepted this proposal and wrote back to Wells and Breese on April 27, 1861 authorizing them to begin carrying out Ward’s plan. On May 1, 1861 the first vessels for the new flotilla were acquired. On May 16, 1861 Ward set out from the New York Navy Yard with three vessels, the Thomas Freeborn, Reliance and Resolute. He arrived at the Washington Navy Yard on May 20, 1861 onboard his flagship, the Thomas Freeborn.ORN, Ser. I, Vol. 4 (1896), pp. 420, 430, 443, 458, 467, 471.

On June 27, 1861 Ward’s flotilla engaged the Confederates at Mathias Point, Virginia. While he was sighting the bow gun of the Thomas Freeborn, Ward was shot through the abdomen and died within an hour...
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