Squadrons of the US Navy

Squadrons of the US Navy 1861-1865

The Pacific Squadron

John Berrien Montgomery 1859 – January 2 1862
Charles H Bell January 2 1862 – October 25 1864
George Frederick Pearson, October 4, 1864 – 1866

 “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla

April 22 1861: James Harmon Ward, commanding the receiving ship USS North Carolina at the New York Navy Yard, proposed a plan for the protection of the Chesapeake Bay and capital areas. Ward suggested a “Flying Flotilla” of light draft vessels be formed to operate in the Chesapeake and its tributaries. His superior officer, Samuel Livingston Breese, commandant of the New York Navy Yard, endorsed his plan and it was submitted to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.

April 27 1861: Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles authorised Samuel Livingston Breese and James Harmon Ward to form a “flying flotilla” of light draft vessels to patrol Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

April 27 1861: The Potomac Flotilla, or “Flying Flotilla” as originally termed, was established to operate in the Chesapeake and its tributaries.

April 27 1861: James Harmon Ward assumed command of the “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla. Ward’s flotilla acted independently under the direct orders of the Navy Department, although there was frequent transfer of vessels with the commands Atlantic Blockading Squadron and its successors.

May 1 1861: The first vessels were acquired for the new “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla to patrol Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

May 16 1861: James Harmon Ward set out from the New York Navy Yard with three vessels, the USS Thomas Freeborn, USS Reliance and USS Resolute to form the first active force of the “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla. Over five years of war the Flotilla employed many vessels, averaging between fifteen and twenty-five vessels.

May 20 1861: James Harmon Ward arrived at the Washington Navy Yard aboard his flagship, the USS Thomas Freeborn to activate the “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla. The designation of “Flying Flotilla” was dropped when Ward’s force arrived in the theatre of operations and was referred to by a variety of names, such as Potomac River Flotilla or Potomac Blockade or Flotilla in the Chesapeake. In early August 1861, the and the Navy Department began to consistently refer to the command as the Potomac Flotilla.

June 27 1861: Union James Harmon Ward’s “Flying Flotilla” or Potomac Flotilla engaged the Confederate batteries at Mathias Point, Virginia. While he was sighting the bow gun of the USS Thomas Freeborn, Ward was shot through the abdomen and died within an hour. He was the first United States Naval officer to be killed during the war.

June 27 1861: Stephen Clegg Rowan assumed interim command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding James Harmon Ward.

July 10 1861: Thomas Tingey Craven assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Stephen Clegg Rowan.

December 2 1861: Abram D Harrell assumed interim command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Thomas Tingey Craven.

December 6 1861: Robert Harris Wyman assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Abram D Harrell.

July 1 1862: Samuel Magaw assumed interim command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Robert Harris Wyman.

September 1 1862: Charles Wilkes assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Samuel Magaw

September 10 1862: Andrew Allen Harwood assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Charles Wilkes.

December 31 1864: Foxhall Alexander Parker assumed command of the Potomac Flotilla, succeeding Andrew Allen Harwood.

July 31 1865: The Potomac Flotilla was discontinued and most of its remaining vessels were sent to the Washington Navy Yard to be decommissioned.

James Harmon Ward 27 April 1861 – 26 June 1861
Stephen Clegg Rowan 27 June 1861 – 9 July 1861
Thomas Tingey Craven 10 July 1861 – 1 December 1861
Abram D Harrell 2 December 1861 – 5 December 1861
Robert Harris Wyman 6 December 1861 – 30 June 1862
Samuel Magaw 1 July 1862 – 31 August 1862
Charles Wilkes 1 September 1862 – 9 September 1862
Andrew Allen Harwood 10 September 1862 – 30 December 1864
Foxhall Alexander Parker 31 December 1864 – 31 July 1865

Coast Blockading Squadron / Atlantic Blockading Squadron

The Atlantic Blockading Squadron was a unit of the United States Navy created in the early days of the American Civil War to enforce a blockade of the ports of the Confederate States. It was formed in 1861 and split up the same year for the creation of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Following President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of a blockade of Southern ports on April 19, 1861 the Navy Department found it necessary to subdivide the territory assigned to the Home Squadron. This resulted in the creation of the Coast Blockading Squadron and the Gulf Blockading Squadron in early May 1861.

In orders sent on May 1, 1861 Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles appointed Silas Horton Stringham to command the Coast Blockading Squadron. Stringham received this order and took command on May 4, 1861. His new command was to be headquartered at Hampton Roads, Virginia and was given responsibility for the blockading of the coast from the capes of the Chesapeake to the southern extremity of Florida and Key West.

On May 17 1861, the Coast Blockading Squadron was re-designated the Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

On September 16, 1861 Stringham resigned as of the squadron following his receipt of a letter from Acting Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Vasa Fox that he felt indicated disapproval of his measures to enforce the blockade. Stringham’s resignation was accepted on September 18, 1861 and the same day Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough was appointed as his replacement. The transfer of command took place on September 23, 1861 when Goldsborough arrived at Hampton Roads. In communicating to Goldsborough about his appointment Gideon Welles stated that “more vigorous and energetic action must be taken” to enforce the blockade.

During the summer of 1861, a four-person board, chaired by Samuel Francis Du Pont, was formed to study the implementation of the blockade and make recommendations to improve its efficiency. In the board’s report of July 16, 1861, it was recommended that the Atlantic region be divided into northern and southern sectors. On September 18 1861, the Navy Department reached the decision to implement this division with the dividing line being the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. The implementation of this was delayed for a time and on October 12, 1861 the Navy Department informed Goldsborough that the division of his command would be effective as of the date Samuel Francis Du Pont, who was appointed of the southern squadron, departed from Hampton Roads with the expedition to capture Port Royal, South Carolina. Du Pont departed on October 29, 1861 upon which date the squadron was divided to form the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

The only major operation conducted by the Atlantic Blockading Squadron was the expedition that led to the capture of Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina August 26–29, 1861. This goal of the operation was to deny use of the inlet to Confederate shipping and this was accomplished with few casualties.

On May 17 1861 there were only fourteen ships assigned to the squadron, along with the “Flying Flotilla” (later the Potomac Flotilla) which was being formed by James H. Ward who had departed for the Chesapeake from the New York Navy Yard on May 16, 1861. In effect Ward’s flotilla acted independently under the direct orders of the Navy Department, though there was some transfer of vessels between the commands. With the acquisition and arming of civilian vessels the Atlantic Blockading Squadron grew to about three times its original allocated strength.

Silas Horton Stringham 4 May 1861 – 23 Sep 1861
Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough 23 Sep 1861 – 29 Oct 1861

The West Indies Squadron

The West Indies Squadron was re-established temporarily from 8 June 1861 to 29 August 1861. Its operations then reverted to the control of the Gulf Blockading Squadron.

Garret J Pendergrast 8 June 1861 – August 29 1861

North Atlantic Blockading Squadron

The North Atlantic Blockading Squadron was based at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and was tasked with coverage of Virginia and North Carolina. Its official range of operation was from the Potomac River to Cape Fear in North Carolina. It was tasked primarily with preventing Confederate ships from supplying troops and with supporting Union troops. It was created when the Atlantic Blockading Squadron was split between the North and South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons on October 29, 1861.

After the end of the war, the squadron was merged into the Atlantic Squadron on July 25, 1865.

Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough September 18, 1861 – September 4, 1862
Samuel Phillips Lee September 5, 1862 – October 11, 1864
David Dixon Porter October 12, 1864 – April 27, 1865
William Radford April 28, 1865 – July 25, 1865

South Atlantic Blockading Squadron

The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron was tasked primarily with preventing Confederate ships from supplying troops and with supporting Union troops operating between Cape Henry in Virginia down to Key West in Florida. It was created when the Atlantic Blockading Squadron was split between the North and South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons on October 29, 1861. After the end of the war, the squadron was merged into the Atlantic Squadron on July 25, 1865.

Samuel Francis Du Pont September 18, 1861 – July 5, 1863
John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren July 6, 1863 – July 25, 1865

Gulf Blockading Squadron

The Gulf Blockading Squadron was a squadron of the United States Navy formed on May 6 1861, patrolling from Key West to the Mexican border. The squadron was the largest in operation. It was split into the East and West Gulf Blockading Squadrons in early 1862 for more efficiency.

William Mervine May 6, 1861 – September 21, 1861
William McKean September 22, 1861 – January 20, 1862

East Gulf Blockading Squadron

The East Gulf Blockading Squadron, assigned the Florida coast from east of Pensacola to Cape Canaveral, was a minor command.

William McKean January 20, 1862 – June 3, 1862
James Lawrence Lardner June 4, 1862 – December 8, 1862
Theodorus Bailey December 9, 1862 – August 6, 1864
Theodore P Greene (interim) August 7, 1864 – October 11, 1864
Cornelius Kinchilo Stribling October 12, 1864 – June 12, 1865

West Gulf Blockading Squadron

The West Gulf Blockading Squadron was tasked primarily with preventing Confederate ships from supplying troops and with supporting Union troops along the western half of the Gulf Coast, from the mouth of the Mississippi to the Rio Grande and south, beyond the border with Mexico. It was created early in 1862 when the Gulf Blockading Squadron was split between the East and West. This unit was the main military force deployed by the Union in the capture and brief occupation of Galveston, Texas in 1862.

David Glasgow Farragut January 20, 1862 – November 29, 1864
James Shedden Palmer November 30, 1864 – February 22, 1865
Henry Knox Thatcher February 23, 1865 – June 12, 1865

Mississippi River Squadron

The Mississippi River Squadron was the Union riverine or inland naval squadron that operated on the western rivers. It was initially created as a part of the Union Army, although it was commanded by naval officers, and known as the Western Gunboat Flotilla or Mississippi Flotilla. It received its final designation as the Mississippi River Squadron when it was transferred to the Union Navy in October 1862.

May 16 1861: The Union Western Gunboat Flotilla was formed under the command of the Union Army to operate in support of the armies on western rivers. John Rodgers was the first commander, responsible for the construction and organisation of the fleet.

August 30 1861: Andrew Hull Foote assumed command of the Western Gunboat Flotilla, succeeding John Rodgers.

May 9 1862: Charles Henry Davis assumed command of the Western Gunboat Flotilla, succeeding Andrew Hull Foote.

October 15 1862: The Western Flotilla operating on inland waters was discontinued and command of its forces formally transferred from the operational direction of the US Army to the US Navy.

October 15 1862: The Mississippi River Squadron was established from the former Western Gunboat Flotilla.

October 15 1862: David Dixon Porter assumed command of the Mississippi River Squadron, succeeding Charles Henry Davis.

July 31 1864: Alexander Moseley Pennock assumed temporary command of the Mississippi River Squadron, succeeding David Dixon Porter.

November 1 1864: Samuel Phillips Lee assumed command of the Mississippi River Squadron, succeeding Alexander Moseley Pennock.

August 14 1865: The Mississippi River Squadron was discontinued.

During the Red River Campaign 0f 1864, the Mississippi Squadron was composed of 10 ironclad warships, 3 monitors, 11 tinclad warships, 1 timber-clad warship, 1 ram and various support vessels.

Western Gunboat Flotilla

John Rodgers May 16 1861 – August 30 1861
Andrew Hull Foote August 31 1861 – May 18 1862
Charles Henry Davis May 19 1862 – October 14 1862

Mississippi River Squadron

David Dixon Porter October 15 1862 – 30 July 1864
Alexander Moseley Pennock 31 July 1864 – 31 October 1864
Samuel Phillips Lee November 1 1864 – 14 November 1865

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