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ORN Series 1, Vol. X: Report of Acting Rear-Admiral Samuel P. Lee, June 20-21, 1864

Report of Acting Rear-Admiral Lee, U. S. Navy, transmitting reports of cooperative engagements in Pamunkey River, June 20-21, 1864.

Flagship North Atlantic Blockading Squadron,
James River, June 29, [1864].

Sir: On the 29th of May, Lieutenant-Commander Babcock, U. S. S. Morse, by General Smith’s request, proceeded to White House with the Morse, Shokokon, and Cohasset to cover the landing of supplies and protect the army communications. I subsequently sent the Cactus and Henry Brinker to his support. These vessels remained at White House until its evacuation on the 23d instant, rendering most efficient service, and then returned to Yorktown, convoying the transports.

I enclose a report from Lieutenant-Commander Babcock of 25th instant, of an engagement on the 20th instant, with three rebel batteries near White House, which had been posted on the edge of the wood during a thick fog, and on its lifting opened fire on the wagon trains. The fire from the Morse and Cactus dislodged them in about three hours. Deserters afterwards reported that a force estimated at 10,000 of Wade Hampton’s and Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry intended attacking our trains, but were deterred from the attempt by the fire of the gunboats. On the 21st a party of rebel cavalry fired on the transport Eliza Hancox, but were driven off by the Shokokon’s fire.

Photo of White House Landing, Va. View down river, with supply vessels

The Union Navy defended White House Landing, shown here in an 1862 photograph, from Confederate Cavalry attacks on June 20-21, 1864. (Library of Congress)

Lieutenant-Commander Babcock encloses the following reports, etc.:

(A) June 20th, Acting Master Graham, commanding Cactus, reports engagement of 20th.

(B) Copy of General Abercrombie’s General Orders, No. 10, of 20th, instant, tendering his thanks to Lieutenant-Commander Babcock and the officers of the Navy for the efficient aid and support rendered in the engagement of the 20th.

(C) June 21st, Acting Master Sheldon, commanding Shokokon, reporting engagement of 21st.

(D) June 24th, Acting Master Sheldon, general report of his movements since arriving at White House.

I should not fail to call attention to the hearty, efficient, and successful service which Lieutenant-Commander Babcock has rendered to the army in opening and protecting its communications and in repelling the assaults of the enemy. He is a modest and meritorious officer and deserves the especial notice of the Department.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, yours,

S. P. Lee,
Actg. Rear-Admiral, Comdg. North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Hon. Gideon Welles,
Secretary of the Navy.1


  1. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 10, p. 165
{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Lisa Fulton February 14, 2021, 11:56 am

    Brett, This post has activity referenced in the Jeffers’ letters. I am happy when I recognize references! Here are excerpts from Henry Jeffers’ letter to his father, written on June 20th, 1864:

    “Camp 7th Regt. [7th SCC under General Martin Gary]
    June 20th 1864

    Dear Pa, . . . You no doubt have seen the account of Genl Hamptons fight with Sheridan who started out on another raid [Battle of Trevilian Station, June 11-12, 1864]. Hampton whipped him about forty miles above Richmond, & we have been expecting him (Sheridan) to come back by way of the White House and cross at Harrisons Landing.
    This morning Gen Gary received a dispatch from Hampton ordering him to send a Squadron to escort a Battery of Artillery from Bottoms Bridge to Tunstalls Station and saying that he would be happy if it was so that Gary’s Brigade could participate in the fight he expected to have. As we are the only troops guarding Richmond between the James and Bottoms Bridge the Brigade could not go. We now hear cannonading in the direction of the White House and suppose Hampton has commenced the fight. If he whips Sheridan again and gets him down between the Chickahominy & James we may have a chance at him. . . ”

    As you have pointed out to me, this shows Gary’s brigade was not involved in the actual fighting on June 20th. Henry seems disappointed they had to turn down the invitation to be there. You also told me Hampton was ultimately not able to stop Sheridan from crossing the James to safety. If only Hampton had some more help! 🙂

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