JANUARY 1ST, 1865: To counter Mitchell's James River squadron and protect Grant's waterborne supply line, the Fifth Division of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron lay on the James River at the sunken hulk line at trench's Reach and the pontoon crossings of the James and Appomattox rivers. They also protected supply vessels against sharpshooters and hidden batteries on shore.
Normally the Fifth Division consisted of five monitors and 25 gunboats. However, this January, four of the monitors and a number of the gunboats were away from the James with the fleet being assembled by Rear Admiral Porter for the second attack on Fort Fisher.
Hence, the Confederate James River Squadron above City Point had an unprecedented opportunity for offensive operations on which it sought to capitalize before the month ended.