|USS Pawnee and Freeborn engage Confederate batteries at Aquia Creek, June 1, 1861.|
Riots and political uncertainty in Maryland temporarily cut of land routes, leaving the Potomac River as the only alterative. Using guns seized at Gosport, Confederate engineers and gunners established fortified outposts along the Virginia side of the river to challenge any ship flying the U.S. flag. To answer this issue,the U.S. Navy established the Potomac Flotilla. Never large in size or stature, the squadron and Confederate shore batteries fought in several small engagements (often at Aquia Creek) from May through July 1861. The Flotilla kept the river open, but Confederate gunners often found a way to harass Union shipping.
In a sign of events to come, the U.S. Army initially refused to provide the necessary ground troops to secure the Confederate forts on a permanent bias. It was not until the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 that the Potomac was finally secured.
After the war, Porter did not forget the Flotilla’s work. He wrote that "[the public] never stopped to consider the importance of such tedious work as occurred on the great highway from Washington to the sea, nor did they ever seem to reflect that if the river was once closed, the very life of the Union would be imperiled."