1861 June 27th

June 27 1861 Thursday

Mathias Point, VA

McClellan’s West Virginia Campaign

Chesapeake Bay Blockade

USA. The Union Blockade Strategy Board met to consider and report on the major problems of the blockade and to plan amphibious operations to seize vital bases on the Southern coast. The recom­mendations made by the Blockade Strategy Board pointed the way to subsequent naval operations at Hatteras Inlet, Port Royal, and New Orleans. The broad policies the Board agreed at this early date were followed closely throughout the duration of the war. The Chairman was Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont USN. It included as members Commander Charles Henry Davis USN, Major John Gross Barnard US Army Engineers, and Professor Alexander D Bache, Superintendent of the US Coast Survey.

Maryland. George P Kane, city marshal of Baltimore, was arrested for pro-Confederate activities.

Tennessee. The East Tennessee pro-Union Convention met at Nashville.

Virginia. Union Major-General George Brinton McClellan left Clarksburg to move south against the Confederates around Rich Mountain. Indiana State Brigadier-General Thomas Armstrong Morris moved his brigade forward from Philippi, with the aim of joining forces with McClellan in about two weeks’ time.

Virginia. USS Resolute, Acting Master W Budd, burned a Confederate supply depot on the shore of the Potomac River.

Mathias Point, Virginia. USS Reliance and USS Thomas Freeborn shelled Confederate batteries at Mathias Point. Commander James Harmon Ward USN, commander of the Union Potomac Flotilla, had learned that the Confederates were installing a new battery on a wooded promontory at Mathias Point that would effectively control traffic on the Potomac River at that point.

Ward took his flagship, the USS Thomas Freeborn along with the USS Reliance and a company of sailors and marines under Lieutenant James C Chaplin USN to attack the Confederate position, to remove trees from the location so that the Confederates could not hide a battery on the point, and to emplace a Union battery at the point.

When the USS Thomas Freeborn arrived at Mathias Point at about 10 am (or 1 pm) its crew began to bombard the woods in order to give cover to Chaplin’s landing party. Union skirmishers immediately became engaged with Confederate skirmishers and drove them back. The landing party worked at establishing a position for the artillery which they had carried on the boats with them but had not yet brought ashore. Soon afterwards, 400 to 500 Confederate soldiers arrived and began to move against and fire upon the small Union force.

Ward initially had accompanied the landing party, but he quickly returned to the USS Thomas Freeborn in order to direct the firing of the ship’s guns at the location where the Confederates began their counterattack. Chaplin evacuated his party to their small boats after the initial Confederate approach in force. The gunfire from the USS Thomas Freeborn beat back the counterattack.

Ward ordered Chaplin to land again and to build sandbag breastworks while the firing from the ship temporarily quietened the Confederates. Confederate Colonel Daniel Ruggles ordered his men, under the immediate command of Colonel J M Brockenbrough, to approach the Union forces through the forest in order not to expose the men in an open field. This detour delayed their counterattack. Meanwhile, Chaplin and his small force hastily completed the construction of the small breastwork and after trying to hide the exact location of the work with branches, again began to withdraw from the shore about 5 pm in order to retrieve their artillery.

At this time, the Confederates, further supported by four companies of men under the command of Major R M Mayo, renewed their attack against the USS Thomas Freeborn and against the landing party, which was moving toward the boats. Heavily outnumbered and under fire, Chaplin and his men were unable to retrieve and unload their guns and were forced to withdraw completely. Commander Ward was shot while trying to sight the ship’s gun and died after about 45 minutes. His mortal wounding unsettled the crew of the USS Thomas Freeborn and they fired no more in support of Chaplin’s force. Ward was the only member of the Union force killed, although four men were wounded. Ward was the first Union Navy officer killed during the Civil War.

The Confederates continued to hold their position and operate the battery on Mathias Point, which they finally emplaced on the day after the battle. The Confederates were not attacked by land forces and did not abandon this or neighbouring batteries until the withdrawal from Manassas and other northern Virginia locations in March 1862.

Union Organisation

USA: Captain James Harmon Ward USN, commanding the Potomac Flotilla, was killed at Mathias Point, Virginia.

USA: Commander Stephen Clegg Rowan USN assumed interim command of the Potomac Flotilla of the US Navy, succeeding Commander James Harmon Ward.

Rowan, Stephen Clegg / Born 25 December 1808 Dublin, Ireland / Died Washington, District of Columbia 31 March 1890
Midshipman USN 1 February 1826/ Passed Midshipman USN 28 April 1832 / Lieutenant USN 8 March 1837 / Commander USN 14 September 1855 / Captain USN 16 July 1862 / Commodore USN 16 July 1862 / Rear Admiral USN 26 July 1866 / Vice Admiral USN 15 August 1870 / Retired USN 26 February 1889 / WIA San Gabriel, California Territory 8 January 1847
USS Pawnee April 1861 /Potomac Flotilla 27 June 1861-10 July 1861 / USS Delaware February 1862 / USS Philadelphia March 1862 / Sounds of North Carolina Flotilla April 1862 / USS Augusta Dinsmore July 1863 / USS Catskill July 1863 / USS New Ironsides July 1863 / USS Philadelphia August 1863 / South Atlantic Blockading Squadron February 1864-May 1864 / Gosport Navy Yard 188-1867 / USS Piscatagua April 1868 / Asiatic Squadron 1868-1870

Commander in Chief: President Abraham Lincoln

Vice-President: Hannibal Hamlin

Secretary of War: Simon Cameron

Secretary of the Navy: Gideon Welles

  • Atlantic Blockading Squadron USN: Flag Officer Silas Horton Stringham USN
  • Gulf Blockading Squadron USN: Flag Officer William Mervine USN
  • Pacific Squadron USN: Captain John B Montgomery USN
  • Western Gunboat Flotilla USN: Commander John Rodgers USN
  • Potomac Flotilla USN: Commander Stephen Clegg Rowan USN

General–in-Chief: Winfield Scott

  • Department of Annapolis: Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
  • Department of the East: John Ellis Wool
  • Department of Florida: Harvey Brown
  • Department of Kentucky: Robert Anderson
  • Department of New Mexico: Edward Richard Sprigg Canby
  • Department of Northeastern Virginia: Irvin McDowell
  • Department of the Ohio: George Brinton McClellan
    • Army of Occupation: George Brinton McClellan
  • Department of the Pacific: Edwin Vose Sumner
    • District of Oregon: George Wright
  • Department of Pennsylvania: Robert Patterson
    • Army of the Shenandoah: Robert Patterson
  • Department of Texas: Vacant
  • Department of Utah: Philip St George Cooke
  • Department of Virginia: Benjamin Franklin Butler
  • Department of Washington: Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
  • Department of the West: Nathaniel Lyon

Confederate Organisation

Commander in Chief: President Jefferson Finis Davis

Vice-President: Alexander Hamilton Stephens

Secretary of War: Leroy Pope Walker

Secretary of the Navy: Stephen Russell Mallory

Military Adviser to the President: Robert Edward Lee

  • Department No 1: David Emanuel Twiggs
    • “Forces in New Orleans” “Army of Louisiana”: Braxton Bragg
  • Department of Fredericksburg: Theophilus Hunter Holmes
  • Department of Norfolk: Benjamin Huger
  • Department of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes
    • Defences of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes
  • Department of the Peninsula: John Bankhead Magruder
    • Army of the Peninsula: John Bankhead Magruder
  • Department of the Potomac: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
    • Army of the Potomac: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
  • Department of South Carolina: Daniel Harvey Hill
  • Department of Southwestern Virginia: William Wing Loring
  • Department of Texas: Earl Van Dorn
    • Defences of Galveston: John Creed Moore
  • Department of West Florida: Braxton Bragg
    • “Forces in Pensacola”: Braxton Bragg
  • Western Department: Leonidas Polk
    • District of Upper Arkansas: William Joseph Hardee
  • Defences of Savannah: Alexander Robert Lawton
  • Indian Territory: Benjamin McCulloch
  • Forces in Harper’s Ferry”: Joseph Eggleston Johnston
  • Forces in Richmond: Thomas Turner Fauntleroy
  • Army of the Kanawha: Henry Alexander Wise
  • Army of Liberation: Gideon Johnson Pillow
  • Army of the Northwest: Robert Selden Garnett

Union Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

Major-General USA

Winfield Scott
George Brinton McClellan
John Charles Frémont

Major-General USV

John Adams Dix
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
Benjamin Franklin Butler

Brigadier-General USA

John Ellis Wool
William Selby Harney
Edwin Vose Sumner
Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
Irvin McDowell
Robert Anderson
William Starke Rosecrans

Brigadier-General USV

Samuel Peter Heintzelman
David Hunter
Erasmus Darwin Keyes
Andrew Porter
Fitz-John Porter
William Buel Franklin
William Tecumseh Sherman
Charles Pomeroy Stone
Don Carlos Buell
Thomas West Sherman
Nathaniel Lyon
John Pope
George Archibald McCall
William Reading Montgomery
Philip Kearny
Joseph Hooker
John Wolcott Phelps
Ulysses Simpson Grant
Joseph Jones Reynolds
Samuel Ryan Curtis
Charles Smith Hamilton
Darius Nash Couch
Rufus King
Jacob Dolson Cox
Stephen Augustus Hurlbut
Franz Sigel
Robert Cumming Schenck
Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss
Frederick West Lander
Benjamin Franklin Kelley
John Alexander McClernand
Alpheus Starkey Williams
Israel Bush Richardson
James Cooper

Brigadier-General USA (Staff)

Montgomery Cunningham Meigs

Confederate Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

General ACSA

Samuel Cooper
Albert Sidney Johnston
Robert Edward Lee

Major-General PACS

David Emanuel Twiggs
Leonidas Polk

Brigadier-General ACSA

Joseph Eggleston Johnston
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
Braxton Bragg

Brigadier-General PACS

Alexander Robert Lawton
Milledge Lake Bonham
Benjamin McCulloch
William Wing Loring
Charles Clark
John Buchanan Floyd
William Henry Talbot Walker
Henry Rootes Jackson
Theophilus Hunter Holmes
Henry Alexander Wise
Earl Van Dorn
Robert Selden Garnett
William Joseph Hardee
Richard Stoddert Ewell
David Rumph Jones
Benjamin Huger
John Bankhead Magruder
James Longstreet
Edmund Kirby Smith
John Clifford Pemberton
Thomas Jonathan Jackson
Henry Hopkins Sibley
Barnard Elliott Bee
John Henry Winder

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