On April 1, 1863, Acting Rear Admiral Samuel P. Lee sent his standard monthly status report on the North Atlantic Blockade Squadron to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. He provided a list of ships that included two ironclads, one steam sloop, and a few dozen wooden gunboats and armed ferryboats. He reported on a few blockade runners, some captured and others that slipped through Union lines. He also lamented the fact that oyster season would soon be over. With the Navy's main focus on Charleston, things were generally quiet in Hampton Roads and the North Carolina sounds. That all changed on April 11.
Hearing about the exchange of gunfire, Lee ordered his ships to retreat back to Hampton Roads. He believed it was too dangerous to stay. At the moment Lee wrote the order, Lamson and Cushing decided on their own to attack, avoiding any notion of withdrawal. They organized an assault group with sailors under their command with Union soldiers from the 38th Indiana and 89th New York. The joint force charged Hill's Point under the cover of fire from the gunboats.
Lee and his Army counterparts continued to argue about the merits of leaving wooden gunboats in such a vulnerable position. During this exchange of views, Lee's aide, Captain Peirce Crosby, informed his admiral that Lamson's assault resulted in capturing "five pieces of artillery and 161 rebel prisoners from the 44th Alabama." The upper Nansemond was now open.
(This article can also be seen at our Civil War Navy 150 blog).