Engagement at Pig Point

The Engagement at Pig Point was fought on Wednesday, June 5, 1861 between a Union gunboat commanded by Capt. John Faunce and a Confederate battery commanded by Capt. Robert Pegram in Suffolk, Virginia.

Since April 27, 1861, the U.S. Navy had been enforcing an economic and military blockade on Virginia ports, and several small fleets of U.S. Navy ships and converted civilian vessels had exchanged fire with Confederate shore batteries in the Potomac and James rivers. U.S. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, commanding Fort Monroe at Old Point Comfort at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, had ambitions to clear these shore batteries.

To accomplish that goal, he tasked John Faunce, captain of the converted revenue cutter U.S.S. Harriet Lane, to reconnoiter Pig Point across the Nansemond River from Newport News. Captain Faunce observed activity at the Confederate battery and sailed close to see if he could draw their fire. Fire they did, but due to shallow water the U.S.S. Harriet Lane couldn’t get close enough for its own guns to be effective.

The Portsmouth Rifles, a company of infantry acting as gunners, manned the Confederate artillery. The Confederate guns struck the Harriet Lane twice, wounding five sailors. One Confederate cannon was damaged, but none of the gunners were hurt. Seeing that nothing was to be gained by continuing the engagement, the Harriet Lane broke off and returned to port for repairs.

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