One of the first tests of Confederate General Thomas Stonewall Jackson’s army was an attack on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Dam. The C & O Canal Company built dams in the 1830’s to have water to feed its locks. Numbers 4 and 5 were originally wood cribbing, but had been replaced by stone in 1850’s. Union troops were re-building the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Grafton, Virginia and Point of Rock, Maryland, and were using the C & O Canal to move the rail building supplies.Union troops were located at Williamsport, Maryland about 6 miles south of Dam Number 5. Jackson sent troops about another 5 miles downstream on the Potomac River. The Confederate troops moved on Dam Number 5, getting there on December 7th 1861. Jackson’s 5,000 men were on one side of the river and the Union’s 13th Massachusetts on the other side. Jackson deployed his men, and they went into the cold water to destroy the dam. The men of the 13th ; armed with smooth bore guns, could do very little stop Jackson’s men, and only hit and killed one man from their far side of the river. The Confederates worked through the night pulling the dam apart.
The next morning a second company of the 13th arrived on a flatboat, these Union men were armed with Enfield rifles. The Union soldiers opened fire on Jackson’s troops driving them off. Jackson had partially destroyed Dam Number 5, and withdrew his men to Winchester.