In mid-1862, David Dixon Porter had been ordered to take command of a mortar flotilla at Key West. For the voyage south from the Washington Navy Yard, he embarked in the USS Harriet Lane, a former revenuecutter then serving in the Union Navy. Commodore Porter took an instant liking to the energetic second in command, Lieutenant Commander Edward Lea.
Making her way down the Potomac, the Harriet Lane ran a gauntlet of fire from Confederate shore batteries near a place called Cockpit Point. When Confederate shots hit one of the ship's two side wheels and tore into her stack, Lea was indignant that "they have dared to fire on the flag!" and asked Porter if they could return fire. The older officer patiently explained that they would be wasting their shot on the well-concealed enemy shore batteries, but then consoled Lea by saying, "You will have firing enough before the war is over."