MAY 30TH, 1864: Mounting evidence pointed to a Confederate assault on Union forces in the James River below Richmond. This date, John Loomis, a deserter from the CSS Hampton, reported that three ironclads and six wooden gunboats, all armed with torpedoes, had passed the obstructions at Drewry's Bluff and were below Fort Darling, awaiting the opportunity to attack.
The ironclads were the CSS Virginia II, CSS Richmond and CSS Fredericksburg. They were commanded by Flag Officer John K. Mitchell.
Two days after that, Archy Jenkins, a Negro from Richmond, confirmed the statement and added: :"They are putting two barges and a sloop lashed together, filled with shavings and pitch and with torpedoes, which they intend to set on fire, and when it reaches the fleet it will blow up and destroy the fleet....They all say they know 'they can whip you all; they are certain of it' They believe in their torpedoes in preference to everything."
Rear Admiral Lee wrote: "In view of the novel attack contemplated...one or more ironclads could be added to my force here, considering the importance of this river to the armies of generals Grant and Butler.".