top of page

Joint OPS on the Potomac River

I know many people don't care for history but in these troubling times we live in its important to know a thing or too about American history particularly 19th century America. The DMV was at the forefront of 19th Century America with Virginia supplying most of America's earliest presidents, Washington as the national capital, and Maryland as a conflicted federal controlled slave state. There is no doubt Abraham Lincoln was America's greatest President during the nations most turbulent war. Lincoln started off learning to be president often studying military strategy into the late night and hanging out at the War Department receiving dispatches from the war front. The topic I chose for my master's thesis, Joint Operations of the United States Army and Navy on the lower Potomac River, Lincoln was very much involved in those operations.

Why did I choose this topic for my thesis. Well its one of the areas most unknown stories not told in general history books. At the start of the war, it was important for Lincoln to protect Washington from a Confederate invasion and Confederate Virginia was less then three miles from the White House. The Union Army and Navy had little presence in the DMV outside of the local national guard and Navy and Marines at the Washington Navy Yard. The Navy was able to throw together a makeshift fleet to protect Washington from the Potomac River in April 1861 while it took the Army about a two weeks to get state Army Volunteer units to protect Washington. By the end of May 1861, the U.S. Army and Navy in a joint operation invaded Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia driving back Virginia State forces into Fairfax County. Robert E. Lee's home was seized and the Union Army converted it into what is now Arlington National Cemetery.

By Fall 1861

, the Confederate Army established batteries along the lower Potomac River from Mount Vernon all the way down the Potomac to Mathias Point where the 301 bridge is located. The Confederates wanted to blockade the Potomac and cut supplies to Washington. The Union Navy tried to dislodge the Confederate Army and the batteries with their ship guns with no success. The U.S. Navy wanted the Army to assault the Confederates along the Potomac but Union General George McClellan would not act. He was one of the most controversial Union Generals of the War and that story will be told another time. From October 1861 to March 1862, the Potomac River was virtually blockaded by the Confederacy.

Lincoln finally made McClellan move the Army against the Confederates in Virginia and on March 8, 1862 a joint operation of the Union Navy and Army crossed the river from Maryland into Virginia and destroyed the batteries.

For the rest of the war, the Union Army and Navy conducted joint operations along the Potomac River from Aquia Creek to the Northern Neck of Virginia. By 1863, most joint operations were started from Point Lookout in St. Mary's County to Virginia's Northern Neck and the Rappahannock river towards Fredericksburg. Union African American Army regiments were used in some of these joint operations and African American sailors were used by the Navy in its fleet. By 1865, joint operations had been successful on the lower Potomac as the Confederacy's supply chain had been cut off by Union operations. The last joint operation on the Potomac River was the hunt for Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth, who had been hiding in Charles County, MD during the search. Booth was killed in Virginia at Garrison's Farm by a Union Cavalry Patrol.

This was a short version of the thesis for the total page count came out to about 125 pages. I'm proud of it for it was extensive research and all done digital due to the pandemic but the professor in charge said it was one of the best he's read in a long time so I was happy about it. Anyway I was thinking of writing a small book on a navy guy from Annapolis named Charles W. Flusser. He was very unknown figure but his story is very interesting to tell. He died in 1864 near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina during a raid to take a Confederate ironclad ship. Hope this post wasn't too long. Thanks for your time.

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Hello everyone. The blog and podcast are back for I've been on hiatus for awhile. I'm going to try to put out content on the blog on Friday nights and the podcast maybe every other Friday. The blog an

bottom of page