Historic America

Action at Mathias Point, King George, Virginia

Visit the scene of an early Medal of Honor winner and where the first U.S. Naval officer was killed in the Civil War.

The Engagement at Mathias Point was fought on Thursday, June 27, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Commander James H. Ward and Confederate forces commanded by Colonel Daniel Ruggles and Colonel John M. Brockenbrough in King George County, Virginia during the American Civil War.

Since Virginia declared its intention to secede in early May 1861, the Union Navy had been enforcing a blockade of its ports. It attempted to close the Chesapeake Bay to maritime traffic, and open up the Potomac River to Union ships, which was vital to securing Washington, DC. Virginia, for its part, erected batteries at strategic points along the shoreline to keep Union ships away.

At the end of May, the Union Potomac Flotilla failed to silence a Confederate shore battery near Aquia Landing on the Potomac River. Nearly a month later, Flotilla Commander James H. Ward sought to clear Mathias Point of Confederate skirmishers, who were using the woods as cover to harass passing ships with small arms fire. He was determined to keep the river open from Washington, DC to the Chesapeake Bay.

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Today, there is not much to commemorate this dramatic event in American history. The beach where John Williams earned his Medal of Honor is privately owned by the Mount Bethel Baptist Association. The nearby Dahlgren Heritage Museum at 3540 James Madison Pkwy in King George, Virginia has exhibits depicting the area’s naval history.


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