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Civil War Naval Operations and Engagements


Three steam-powered ships are depicted in foreground firing upon a fort atop a hill in the background.

The Gun-boat Attack on the Water Batteries at Fort Donelson, Engraving, Harper's Weekly, 1862, depicting the bombardment of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, by Federal warships, 14 February 1862 (NH 58898).

Note: This page is a work in progress. Please be patient as we continue to expand on the information available here. Look for the EXPLORE tab to see a full battle summary if available. 


Forts Henry and Donelson

6–16 February 1862

The midwinter assault by the combined U.S. land and naval forces caught the Confederate defenders by surprise. Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote led the naval bombardment of Fort Henry in cooperation with land forces under command of Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant, U.S. Army. The capture of Fort Henry and the subsequent surrender of Fort Donelson allowed the Federal forces to gain control of the Cumberland and the Tennessee rivers.



Island Number 10

28 February–8 April 1862

Following the loss of Forts Henry and Donelson, Confederate forces under Brigadier General John P. McCown fortified their position at Island Number 10 on the Mississippi River upstream from the town of New Madrid, Missouri. Brigadier General John Pope, U.S. Army, and his troops laid siege to New Madrid on 28 February. Two weeks later, the Confederate troops and their gunboats abandoned the town. With the cooperation of U.S. Navy flotilla under Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote, the combined U.S. forces accepted the surrender of the island garrison on 7 April 1862. 



Hampton Roads

8–9 March 1862

On 8 March 1862, the first battle of ironclad vessels began as a one-sided attack by the new Confederate ironclad, CSS Virginia, upon U.S. Navy wooden fighting ships anchored near Fortress Monroe. The following day, the arrival of new U.S. Navy ironclad, Monitor, at Hampton Roads resulted in a rather inconclusive outcome for both sides. The tactics, strategy, or even the success of its participants did not solidify this fame of this battle. The arms race was over, and both sides had tied for first in this revolution in naval warfare. 



New Orleans: Forts Jackson and St. Philip

16–28 April 1862

On 16 April 1862, a U.S. Navy fleet under the command of Flag Officer David G. Farragut began its bombardment of the Confederate fortifications at the mouth of the Mississippi River. After a week waiting for surrender, Farragut led 17 of his ships between Forts Jackson and St. Philip in the early morning on 24 April. In spite of heavy fire from the forts, Farragut’s risk paid off and the Confederate gunboats dispersed. Command David D. Porter, U.S. Navy, accepted the surrender of both forts. Farragut accepted the surrender of New Orleans on 28 April 1862.



Drewry’s Bluff

15 May 1862

In May 1862, Commander John Rodgers, led a flotilla of five ships upstream on the James River with a goal of reaching the Confederate capital at Richmond. On 15 May, this flotilla fired upon Fort Darling atop Drewry’s Bluff. Commander Ebenezer Farrand, of the Confederate Navy, ordered his garrison to return fire. After three hours, Rodgers ordered his ships back downstream, as he could not pass the artillery fire from the fort or the obstacles in the river.  



Memphis I

6 June 1862

On 6 June 1862, Flag Officer Charles H. Davis, U.S. Navy, in command of the Western Gunboat Flotilla, pursued the retreating Confederate gunboats along the Mississippi River. Joined by Colonel Charles Ellet and his U.S Army Rams, Davis attacked the Confederate River Defense Fleet, under command of Captain James E. Montgomery. In less than two hours, the combined U.S. naval forces had sunk or captured all but one of the Confederate ships.




9 August 1862

On 9 August 1862, Captain David Farragut, U.S. Navy, initiated a retaliatory bombardment following incidents of artillery fire on U.S. Navy steamers passing on the Mississippi river in the area of Donaldsonville. Although these actions were likely the work of Confederate guerillas, the complicity of the inhabitants of the city made them a target. Farragut forewarned the city officials to allow them to evacuate women and children from the city before the assault began. Following the bombardment, the attacks on U.S. Navy traffic in this area ceased. 


Sabine Pass

24–25 September 1862

On 24 September 1862, Acting Master Frederick Crocker, U.S. Navy, ordered his small flotilla to fire upon the Confederate fort guarding the entrance to Sabine Pass, bordering Texas and Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico. The following day, Crocker sent an expeditionary force ashore when the garrison did not return fire. He soon learned that the Confederates had abandoned the poorly defended fort during the night.


Galveston I

4 October 1862

On 4 October 1862, Commander William B. Renshaw, U.S. Navy, and his squadron approached the garrison at Fort Point on Galveston Island and demanded its surrender. After the U.S. Navy destroyed their only gun, Colonel Joseph J. Cook, in command on the island, arranged a four-day truce to evacuate his troops seven miles inland to Virginia Point. The Federal forces took possession of the city, already emptied of its civilian population.

Published: Thu Sep 28 14:04:05 EDT 2023