JANUARY 24TH, 1865: President Lincoln dispatched Farragut to the James River to investigate the withdrawal of the Union squadron in the face of the offensive movement by the Confederate flotilla. The Admiral's son, Loyall, later wrote: "Late in December, 1864, the Richmond papers announced a movement was on foot which would astonish the world.
"This turned out to be a scheme for the Confederate iron-clads and gunboats in the James to descend the river, break through the obstructions at Howlett's, destroy the pontoon bridges at Aiken's Landing, and cut off both the Army of the James and the Army of the Potomac (the former being on the left bank, and the latter on the right) from their base of supplies at City Point."
However, upon Farragut's arrival on the scene the next day, 25th, he found that the Confederate thrust had been turned back and the emergency had passed. The gap in the obstructions which the Southerners had threatened to pass was filled with sunken coal barges, and, as young Farragut remarked, "the Confederate opportunity was lost forever."
Finding the Union naval force in firm control of the lower river, Vice Admiral Farragut returned to Washington.
I imagine the admiral also had orders to take control of the situation if it proved to ve perilous for the Union.