American civil war battles: The Battle of Aquia Creek took place from May 29 to June 1, 1861, in Stafford County, Virginia, as part of the Confederate blockade of Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River during the American Civil War. The battle was tactically inconclusive but is notable for the first use of naval mines during the war.

Background of Battle of Aquia Creek

On May 8, 1861, Major Thomas H. Williamson of the Virginia Army engineers began construction on fortifications at the Aquia Creek landing to protect the Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, which had its northern terminus at the landing, from seizure by Union forces. The battery was first spotted by the USS Mount Vernon on May 14, without engagement. The Confederate defenses were subsequently strengthened by the addition of a second battery atop the bluffs to the south of the confluence of the Aquia Creek with the Potomac River.


On May 29 the USS Thomas and USS Freeborn attacked the battery to little effect. The following day the Freeborn returned with the USS Anacostia and USS Resolute and engaged the Confederate batteries for several hours again with little effect. On June 1, the Thomas, Freeborn, Anacostia, Resolute, and the sloop-of-war USS Pawnee bombarded the batteries for almost 5 hours, firing over 500 rounds. The Confederates reported only the death of a chicken and a horse. During the fight both the Freeborn and Pawnee took minor damage from the batteries, though no Federals were seriously wounded or killed.

Following the battle the Confederates reinforced the defenses constructing a third battery on the bluff and fourth across the mouth of Aquia Creek at Brent Point. One July 7, mines were placed off Aquia Creek in the river, marking the first such use in the war. The mines were spotted by the Pawnee and later removed by the Resolute. The batteries were abandoned in the spring of 1862 when General Joseph E. Johnston recalled their garrison in preparation to defend Richmond at the start of the Peninsula Campaign.

Battle of Aquia Creek
Part of the American Civil War
Battle of Aquia Creek.png
Action between the U.S. vessels Pawnee and Freeborn and the rebel batteries at Acquia [sic] Creek.
Alfred R. Waud, artist, 1861.
Date May 29 - June 1, 1861
Location Stafford County, Virginia
Result Inconclusive
United States (Union) CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
James H. Ward Daniel Ruggles
3 gunboats Battery garrison
Casualties and losses
10 total (US and CS) 10 total (US and CS)