Piney Point Lighthouse

The Potomac Flotilla
44701 Lighthouse Road, Piney Point, MD 20674

Piney Point Lighthouse: The Potomac Flotilla

History: In 1861, the U.S. created the Potomac Flotilla (gunboats and other armed vessels) to patrol the Potomac River and intercept Confederate blockade runners. Nevertheless, St. Mary’s County residents frequently ferried supplies and men across to Virginia. A Unionist steamboat captain noted the difficulties the Federal navy faced:

“I was coming up the river on Wednesday last; a flag was raised on Piney Point lighthouse, and I went in. Mrs. Marshall, the keeper of the light, wished me to report that five or six loads of rebels crossed the river every night into Virginia with provisions etc.; that there was $10,000 worth of goods, ammunition, clothing, etc.,in the woods just above the lighthouse to be carried over. Men came to her every day and asked her if any of the U.S. cutters were about, and told her she had better keep away as they intended to destroy the lighthouse. The rebels have a small steamer in the creek just above Ragged Point which they brought from Fredericksburg.” 

More to Explore: Climb one of the oldest lighthouses on the Potomac River, constructed in 1836. The six-acre park includes a picnic area, kayak launch, a boardwalk, pier and sandy beach (no fishing or swimming).

The museum details the area's history and also includes an exhibit of the WWII U-1105 Black Panther German submarine, which lies just offshore in an area designated as the state's first Historic Shipwreck Dive Preserve. The Potomac River Maritime Exhibit includes a collection of historic wooden boats that once plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Call ahead or visit the website for the museum's seasonal hours of operation, to schedule a group tour or to come by boat. 

Photo Credits:

1. Piney Point Lighthouse and Bell Tower, circa 1900 – Photo courtesy of St. Mary’s County Museum Division.
U.S.S. Tulip and her sister ship, Fuchsia. The ships were built by master shipwright James C. Jewitt in New York City in 1862. They were described as “having all the modern appliances of warships.” – Image courtesy of The U.S. Naval Historical Center