June 1861: War jitters, gunboat building
A dispatch to The Associated Press in late June 1861 reports the U.S. Navy has opened bids for the construction of a number of “steam gun-boats” as war preparations continue. There were 100 to 150 bidders, the dispatch states, adding, “the largest portion are from New England Shipyards and manufacturers.”
War jitters are running high.
Dispatches published in the North in late June discuss speculation and rumors of a possible Confederate attack on Arlington Heights just outside the nation's capital or possibly a Confederate push near Washington at Fairfax, in northern Virginia.
“There are strong reasons to suspect a Confederate advance at Fairfax,” one report says of the speculation, adding the Federal forces defending the capital are “deemed impregnable.”
Accounts late in the month speak of Confederate pickets sporadically ranging up the banks of the Potomac River while firing weapons, raising alarm in the Georgetown section of Washington. Spotters for federal forces command a high hilltop near the capital and scour the surrounding countryside for any signs of Confederate movements.