James Ward commanded the USS Cumberland during the Mexican War (later sunk by the CSS Virginia in 1862), the USS Vixen 1848-1850 and later the USS Jamestown. He wrote "The Manual of Naval Tactics" in 1860 while at the New York Navy Yard.
With the coming of the Civil War, he proposed a "Flying Squadron" to use against the Confederates on the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River and he was placed in command of it. The USS Thomas Freeborn was his flagship and the rest of the fleet consisted of the USS Freelance, the USS Alliance and three Coastal Survey ships. (I found no mention of a Freelance or Alliance listed for U.S. Navy ships during the war.)
Ward's fleet later became known as the Potomac Flotilla. On June 1, they silenced Confederate batteries at Aquia Creek, Virginia. On June 27th, at what became known as the Battle of Mathias Point, Ward sent landing parties ashore but they were driven back. While engaging the foe to cover his retreating sailors, Ward was struck by a bullet in the abdomen and mortally wounded and died within an hour. He was the first U.S. naval officer killed during the war.
Ward was the great grandfather of actor Andy Devine.
The destroyer USS Ward (DD-139) was named for him. This ship fired the first American shot in the War of 1812 when it engaged a Japanese mini-sub before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Fort Ward, a part of the Washington, D.C. defense during the Civil War was also named after him.