Published 1883, 1885







Tire task of opening the Mississippi from its mouth was entrusted to Captain David G. Farragut, who was appointed to the command of the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron on the 9th of January, 1862. On the 2d of February he sailed from Hampton Roads, in his flag-ship, the Hartford, of twenty-four guns; arriving on the 20th of the same month at Ship Island in Mississippi Sound, which was then, and, until Pensacola was evacuated by the Confederates, continued to be the principal naval station in the West Gulf. Here he met Flag-Officer McKean, the necessary transfers were made, and on the 21st Farragut formally assumed the command of the station which he was to illustrate by many daring deeds, and in which he was to make his brilliant reputation.

With the exception of the vessels already employed on the blockade, the flag-ship was the first to arrive of the force destined to make the move up the river. One by one they came in, and were rapidly assembled at the Southwest Pass, those whose draught permitted entering at once; but the scanty depth of water, at that time found on the bar, made it necessary to lighten the heavier vessels. The Pen­sacola, while at Ship Island, chartered a schooner, into which she discharged her guns and stores; then taking her in tow went down to the Pass. She arrived there on the 24th of March and made five different attempts to enter when the water seemed favorable. In the first four she grounded, though everything was out of her, and was got off with diffi­culty, on one occasion parting a hawser which killed two men and injured five others; but on the 7th of April, the power­ful steamers of the mortar flotilla succeeded in dragging her and the Mississippi through a foot of mud fairly into the river. These two were the heaviest vessels that had ever entered. The Navy Department at Washington had hopes that the 40-gun frigate Colorado, Captain Theodorus Bailey, then lying off the Pass, might be lightened sufficiently to join in the attack. This was to the flag-officer and her com­mander plainly impracticable, but the attempt had to be made in order to demonstrate its impossibility. After the loss of a fortnight working she remained outside, drafts being made from her crew to supply vacancies in the other vessels; while her gallant captain obtained the privilege of leading the fleet into action, as a divisional officer, in the gunboat Cayuga, the commander of the latter generously yielding the first place on board his own ship.

A fleet of twenty mortar-schooners, with an accompanying flotilla of six gunboats, the whole under the command of Commander (afterward Admiral) David D. Porter, accom­panied the expedition. Being of light draught of water, they entered without, serious difficulty by Pass d l'Outre, one of three branches into which the eastern of the three great mouths of the Mississippi is subdivided. Going to the head of the Passes on the 18th of March, they found there the Hartford and Brooklyn, steam sloops, with four screw gun- . boats. The steam vessels of the flotilla were at once ordered by the flag-officer to Southwest Pass, and, after finishing the work of getting the heavy ships across, they were em­ployed towing up the schooners and protecting the advance of the surveyors of the fleet.

The squadron thus assembled in the river consisted- of four screw sloops, one side-wheel steamer, three screw cor­vettes, and nine screw gunboats, in all seventeen vessels, of all classes, carrying, exclusive of brass howitzers, one hundred and fifty-four guns. Their names and batteries were as follows:





Commanding Officer.

Screw Sloops.




Flag-Officer David G. Farragut.

Fleet-Captain Henry H. Bell.

Commander Richard Wainwright.




Captain Henry W. Morris.




Captain Thomas T. Craven.




Commander James Alden.





Commander Melancthon Smith.

Screw Corvettes.







Commander S. Phillips Lee.




Commander Charles S. Boggs.




Commander John De Camp.

Screw Gunboats.




Lieutenant Napoleon B. Harrison




Lieutenant C. H. B. Caldwell.




Lieutenant George H. Preble.




Lieutenant John H. Russell.




Lieutenant George M. Ransom.




Lieutenant Pierce Crosby.




Lieutenant Edward Donaldson.




Lieutenant Edward T. Nichols.




Lieutenant Albert N. Smith.


About ninety per cent. of the batteries of the eight larger vessels were divided, as is usual, between the two sides of the ship, so that only one half of the guns could be used at any one time, except in the rare event of having an enemy on each side; and even then the number of the crew is based on the expectation of fighting only one broadside. A few guns, however, varying in number in different ships, were mounted on pivots so that they could be fought on either side. In estimating the number of available guns in a fleet of sea-going steamers of that day, it may be roughly said that sixty per cent. could be brought into action on one side. In the Mississippi Squadron sometimes only one-fourth could be used. To professional readers it may seem un­necessary to enter on such familiar and obvious details; but a military man, in making his estimate, has fallen into the curious blunder of making a fleet fire every gun, bow, stern, and both broadsides, into one fort, a hundred yards square; a feat which only could be performed by landing a ship in the centre of the works, in which case it could enjoy an all-­round fire. The nine gunboats carried one heavy and one light gun, both pivots and capable of being fought on either side. None of this fleet could fire right ahead. All the vessels were built for ships of war, with the exception of the Varuna, which was bought from the merchant service.[1]

The mortar-schooners each carried one XIII-inch mortar. Of the six gunboats attached to this part of the expedition, one, the Owasco, was of the same class as the Cayuga and others. The Clifton, Jackson, and Westfield were large side-wheel ferry boats, of the ordinary double-ended type; carrying, however, heavy guns. They were powerful as tug­boats and easily managed; whereas the Miami, also a double-­ender, but built for the Government, was like most of her kind, hard to steer or manoeuvre, especially in a narrow stream and tideway. The sixth was the Harriet Lane, a side-wheel steamer of 600 tons, which had been transferred from the Revenue Service.

The tonnage and batteries of these steamers were:





Commanding Officer,

Screw Gunboat.




Lieutenant John Guest.

Paddle-Wheel Steamers (all Double-enders except for Harriet Lane)




Commander William B. Renshaw




Lieutenant A. Davis Harrell.




Lieutenant Charles H. Baldwin.




Lieutenant Selim E. Woodworth.

Harriet Lane



Lieutenant Jonathan M. Wainwright.


When the ships were inside, the flag-officer issued special instructions for their preparation for the river service. They were stripped to the topmasts, and landed all spars and rigging, except those necessary for the topsails, jib, and spanker. Everything forward was brought close in to the bowsprit, so as not to interfere with the forward range of the battery. Where it could be done, guns were especially mounted on the poop and forecastle, and howitzers placed in the tops, with iron bulwarks to protect their crews from musketry. The vessels were ordered to be trimmed by the head, so that if they took the bottom at all it would be for­ward. In a rapid current, like that of the Mississippi, a ves­sel which grounded aft would have her bow swept round at once and fall broadside to the stream, if she did not go ashore. To get ' her pointed right again would be trouble­some; and the same consideration led to the order that, in case of accident to the engines involving loss of power to go ahead, no attempt should be made to turn the ship's head down stream. If the wind served she should be handled under sail; but if not, an anchor should be let go, with cable enough to keep her head up stream while permitting her to drop bodily down. Springs were prepared on each quarter; and, as the ships were to fight in quiet water, at short range, and in the dark, special care was taken so to secure the ele­vating screws that the guns should not work themselves to too great elevation.

In accordance with these instructions the ships stripped at Pilot Town, sending ashore spars, boats, rigging, and sails; everything that was not at present needed. The chronom­eters of the fleet were sent on board the Colorado. The larger ships snaked down the rigging, while the gunboats came up their lower rigging, carrying it in and securing it close to the mast. The flag-ship being now at the Head of the Passes remained there, the flag-officer shifting his flag from one small vessel to another as the requirements of the squadron called him to different points. A detachment of lighter vessels, one of the corvettes and a couple of gunboats, occupied an advance station at the "Jump," a bayou enter­ing the river on the west side, eight miles above the Head of the Passes; the enemy's gunboats were thus unable to push their reconnaissances down in sight of the main fleet while the latter were occupied with their preparations. The logs of the squadron show constant bustle and movement, accom­panied by frequent accidents, owing to the swift current of the river, which was this year exceptionally high, even for the season. A hospital for the fleet was established in good houses at Pilot Town, but the flag-officer had to complain of the entire insufficiency of medical equipment, as well as a lack of most essentials for carrying on the work. Ammuni­tion of various kinds was very deficient, and the squadron was at one time threatened with failure of fuel, the coal ves­sels arriving barely in time.

The first and at that time the only serious obstacle to the upward progress of the fleet was at the Plaquemine Bend, twenty miles from the Head of the Passes, and ninety below New Orleans. At this point the river, which has been run­ning in a southeasterly direction, makes a sharp bend, the last before reaching the sea, runs northeast for a mile and three-quarters, and then resumes its southeast course. Two permanent fortifications existed at this point, one on the left, or north bank of the stream, called Fort St. Philip, the other on the right bank, called Fort Jackson. Jackson is a little below St. Philip, with reference to the direction of the river through the short reach on which they are placed, but having regard to the general southeast course, may be said to be lower down by 800 yards; the width of the river ac­tually separating the faces of the two works. At the time the fleet arrived, the woods on the west bank had been cleared away below Jackson almost to the extreme range of its guns, thus affording no shelter from observation; the east bank was nearly treeless. Extending across the river from below Jackson, and under the guns of both works, was a line of obstructions which will be described further on.

The works of St. Philip consisted of the fort proper, a structure of brick and earth mounting in barbette four VIII-­inch columbiads and one 24-pounder; and two water batteries on either side of the main work, the upper mounting sixteen 24-pounders, the lower, one VIII-inch columbiad, one VII-­inch rifle, six 42-pounders, nine 32s, and four 24s. There were here, then, forty-two guns commanding the river below the bend, up which the ships must come, as well as the course of the stream in their front. Besides these there were one VIII-inch and one X-inch mortar in the fort; one X111-inch mortar, whose position does not appear; and a battery of four X-inch sea-coast mortars, situated below and to the northeast of the lower water battery. These last pieces for vertical shell-firing had no influence upon the ensuing con­test; the XIII-inch mortar became disabled at the thirteenth fire by its own discharge, and the X-inch, though 142 shell were fired from them, are not so much as mentioned in the reports of the fleet.

Fort Jackson, on the southern bank of the bend, was a pen­tagonal casemated work, built of brick. In the casemates were fourteen 24-pounder smooth-bore guns, and ten flank­ing howitzers of the same caliber. Above these, in barbette, were two X-inch and three VIII-inch columbiads, one VII-­inch rifle, six 42-pounders, fifteen 32s, and eleven 24s; total in the fort, sixty-two. Just outside of and below the main work, covering the approach to it, was a water battery carry­ing one X-inch and two VIII-inch columbiads, and two rifled 32-pounders.[2] Of the guns in Jackson, the flanking howitz­ers and half a dozen of the 24- and 32-pounders could, from their position, have had little or no share in the battle with the fleet.

The number and caliber of the guns have been thus mi­nutely stated because it can scarcely fail to cause surprise that so many of them were so small. Of 109 in the two works, 56 were 24-pounders. The truth is that the Con­federacy was very badly off for cannon, and the authori­ties in Richmond had their minds firmly made up that the great and dangerous attack was to come from above. Gen­eral Lovell, commanding the department, begged hard for heavy cannon, but to no avail; not only were all available sent north, but constant drafts were made upon the supplies he himself had. New Orleans, the central point which he was called on to defend, was approachable, not only by the Mississippi, but through a dozen bayous which, from Pearl River on the east to the Atchafalaya Bayou on the west, gave access to firm ground above Forts St. Philip and Jackson, and even above the city. Works already existing to cover these approaches had to be armed, and new works in some cases erected, constituting, in connection with St. Philip and Jackson, an exterior line intended to block approach from the sea. A second, or interior, line of works extended from the river, about four miles below New Orleans, to the swamps on either hand, and was carried on the east side round to Lake Pontchartrain in rear of the city. These were for defence from a land attack by troops that might have penetrated through any of the water approaches; and a similar line was constructed above the city. The interior works below the city, where they touched the river on the right bank, were known as the McGehee, and on the left bank as the Chalmette line of batteries. The latter was the scene of Jackson's defeat of the English in 1815. All these works needed guns. All could not be supplied; but the necessity of providing as many as possible taxed the gen­eral's resources. In March, 1862, when it was determined to abandon Pensacola, he asked for some of the X-inch colum­biads that were there, but all that could be spared from the north were sent to Mobile, where the commanding officer refused to give them up. In addition to other calls, Lovell had to spare some guns for the vessels purchased for the navy on Lake Pontchartrain and for the River Defence Fleet.

General Duncan had general charge of all the works of the exterior line, and was of course present at Plaquemine Bend during the attack. Colonel Higgins was in command of both the forts, with headquarters at Jackson, Captain Squires being in immediate command of St. Philip.

Auxiliary to the forts there were four vessels of the Confederate Navy, two belonging to the State of Louisiana, and six of the River Defence Fleet. The latter were commanded by a Captain Stephenson, who entirely refused to obey the orders of Commander Mitchell, the senior naval officer, while professing a willingness to co-operate. The constitu­tion of this force has already been described. There were also above, or near, the forts five unarmed steamers and tugs, only one of which, the tug Mosher, needs to be named.

The naval vessels were the Louisiana, sixteen guns; McRae, seven guns, six light 32-pounders and one IX-inch shell­gun; Jackson, two 32-pounders; and the ram Manassas, now carrying one 32-pounder carronade firing right ahead. Since her exploit at the Head of the Passes in the previous October, the. Manassas had been bought by the Confederate Government, docked and repaired. She now had no prow, the iron of the hull only being carried round the stem. Her engines and speed were as poor as before. Lieutenant Warley was still in command. The State vessels were the Governor Moore and General Quitman, the former carrying two rifled 32s, and the latter two smooth-bores of the same caliber; these were sea-going steamers, whose bows were shod with iron like those of the River Defence Fleet and their engines protected with cotton. The Moore was commanded by Beverley Kennon, a trained naval officer, but not then in the Confederate Navy; the Quitman's captain, Grant, was of the same class as the commanders of the River Defence Fleet.. The Manassas had some power as a ram, and the Moore, by her admirable handling, showed how much an able man can do with poor instruments, but the only one of the above that might really have endangered the success of the Union fleet was the Louisiana. This was an iron-clad vessel of type resembling the Benton, with armor strong enough to resist two XI-inch shells of the fleet that struck her at short range. Her armament was two VII-inch rifles, three IX-inch and four VIII-inch shell-guns, and seven XI-inch rifles. With this heavy battery she might have been very dangerous, but Farragut's movements had been pushed on with such rapidity that the Confederates had not been able to finish her. At the last moment she was shoved off from the city on Sunday afternoon, four days before the fight, with workmen still on board. When her great centre stern wheel revolved, the water came in through the seams of the planking, flooding the battery deck, but her engines were not powerful enough to manage her, and she had to be towed down by two tugs to a berth just above Fort St. Philip, where she remained without power of movement till after the fight.

When ready, the fleet began moving slowly tip the river, under the pilotage of members of the Coast Survey, who, already partly familiar with the ground, were to push their triangulation up to the forts themselves and establish the position of the mortars with mathematical precision; a ser­vice they performed with courage and accuracy. The work of the surveyors was carried on under the guns of the forts and exposed to the fire of riflemen lurking in the bushes, who were not wholly, though they were mostly, kept in check by the gunboats patrolling the river. On the 16th the fleet anchored just below the intended position of the mortar-boats on the west bank of the stream. The day fol­lowing was spent in perfecting the arrangements, and by the morning of the 18th two divisions of mortar-boats were an­chored in line ahead, under cover of the wood on the right bank, each one dressed up and down her masts with bushes, which blended indistinguishably with the foliage of the trees. Light lines were run as springs from the inshore bows and quarters; the exact hearing and distance of Fort Jackson was furnished to each commander, and at 10 A.M. the bombardment began. The van of the fourteen schooners was at this moment 2,950 yards, the rear 3,980 yards from Fort Jackson, to which the mortar attack was confined; an occasional shell only being sent into St. Philip.

The remaining six schooners, called the second division, from the seniority of its commanding officer, were anchored on the opposite side, 3,900 yards below Jackson. Here they were able to see how their shell were falling, an advantage not possessed by those on the other shore; but there were no trees to cover them. An attempt to disguise them was made by covering their hulls with reeds and willows, but was only partly successful; and as the enemy's fire, which began in reply as soon as the mortars opened, had become very rapid and accurate, the gunboats of the main squadron moved up to support those of the flotilla and draw off part of it. Be­fore noon two of the leading schooners in this division were struck by heavy shot and were dropped down 300 yards. The whole flotilla continued firing until 6 P.M., when they ceased by signal. That night the second division was moved across the river and took position with the others.

Until five o'clock the firing was sustained and rapid from both forts. At that time the citadel and out-houses of Jack­son were in flames, and the magazine in great danger; so the enemy's fire ceased.

All the mortars opened again on the morning of the 19th and continued until noon, after which the firing was main­tained by divisions, two resting while the third worked. Thus, about 168 shell were fired every four hours, or nearly one a minute. At 10 A.M. of the 19th one schooner was struck by a shot, which passed out through her bottom, sinking her. This was the only vessel of the flotilla thus destroyed.

Although Jackson was invisible from the decks of the mortar-boats and the direction given by sights fixed to the mastheads, the firing was so accurate and annoying as to at­tract a constant angry return from the fort. To draw off and divide this one of the corvettes and two or three of the gun­boats took daily guard duty at the head of the line, from 9 A.M. one day to the same hour the next. The small vessels advancing under cover of the trees on the west bank would emerge suddenly, fire one or two shots drifting in the stream, and then retire; the constant motion rendering the aim. of the fort uncertain. Nevertheless some ugly hits were re­ceived by different ships.

Every night the enemy sent down fire-rafts, but these, though occasioning annoyance to the fleet, were productive of no serious damage beyond collisions arising from them. They were generally awkwardly started, and the special mis­take was made of sending only one at a time, instead of a number, to increase the confusion and embarrassment of the ships. The crews in their boats towed them ashore, or the light steamers ran alongside and put them out with their hose.

Mortar-firing, however good, would not reduce the forts, nor lay New Orleans at the mercy of the fleet. It was neces­sary to pass above. Neither the flag-officer on the one hand, nor the leaders of the enemy on the other had any serious doubt that the ships could go by if there were no obstruc­tions; but the obstructions were there. As originally laid these had been most formidable. Cypress trees, forty feet long and four to five feet in diameter, were laid longitudinally in the river, about three feet apart to allow a water-way. Suspended from the lower side of these logs by heavy iron staples were two 2z-inch iron cables, stretching from one side of the river to the other. To give the framework of trunks greater rigidity, large timbers, six by four inches, were pinned down on the upper sides. The cables were secured on the left bank to trees; on the right bank, where there were no trees, to great anchors buried in the ground. Be­tween the two ends the raft was held up against the current by twenty-five or thirty 3,000-pound anchors, with sixty fathoms of chain on each. This raft, placed early in the win­ter, showed signs of giving in February, when the spring ­floods came sweeping enormous masses of drift upon it, and by the 10th of March the cables had snapped, leaving about a third of the river open. Colonel Higgins was then directed to restore it. He found it had broken from both sides, and attempted to replace it by sections, but the current, then running four knots an hour, made it impossible to hold so heavy a structure in a depth of one hundred and thirty feet and in a bottom of shifting sand, which gave no sufficient holding ground for the anchors. Seven or eight heavily built schooners, of about two hundred tons, were then seized and placed in a line across the river in the position of the raft. Each schooner lay with two anchors down and sixty fathoms of cable on each; the masts were unstepped and, with the rigging, allowed to drift astern to foul the screws of vessels attempting to pass. Two or three 1-inch chains were stretched across from schooner to schooner, and from them to sections of the old raft remaining near either shore.

Such was the general character of the obstructions before the fleet. The current, and collisions with their own vessels, had somewhat disarranged the apparatus, but it was essen­tially in this condition when the bombardment began. It was formidable, not on account of its intrinsic strength, but be­cause of the swift current down and the slowness of the ships below, which, together, would prevent them from striking it a blow of sufficient power to break through. If they failed thus to force their way they would be held under the fire of the forts, powerless to advance.

It is believed that, in a discussion about removing the ob­structions, Lieutenant Caldwell, commanding the Itasca, volunteered to attempt it with another vessel, and suggested taking out the masts of the two. The Itasca and the Pinola, Lieutenant-Commanding Crosby, were assigned to the duty, and Fleet-Captain Bell given command of both; a rather unnecessary step, considering the age and character of the commanders of the vessels. To handle two vessels in such an enterprise, necessarily undertaken on a dark night, is not easy, and it is a hardship to a commander to be virtually superseded in his own ship at such a time. This was also felt in assigning divisional commanders for the night attack only, when they could not possibly manage more than one ship and simply overshadowed the captain of the vessel.

On the afternoon of the 20th, the Itasca and Pinola each went alongside one of the sloops, where their lower masts were taken out, and, with the rigging, sent ashore. At 10 P.M. Captain Bell went aboard both and addressed the offi­cers and crews about the importance of the duty before them. He remained on board the Pinola and the two vessels then got underway, the Pinola leading. All the mortar ­boats now opened together, having at times nine shells in the air at once, to keep down the fire of Jackson in case of discovery, although the two gunboats showed for little, being very deep in the water.

As they drew near the obstructions two rockets were thrown up by the enemy, whose fire opened briskly; but the masts being out, it was not easy to distinguish the vessels from the hulks. The Pinola struck the third from the eastern shore and her men jumped on board. The intention was to ex­plode two charges of powder with a slow match over the chains, and a torpedo by electricity under the bows of the hulk, a petard operator being on board. The charges were placed, and the Pinola cast off. The operator claims that he asked Bell to drop astern by a hawser, but that instead of so doing, he let go and backed the engines. Be this as it may, the ship went rapidly astern, the operator did not or could not reel off rapidly enough, and the wires broke. This hulk therefore remained in place, for the timed fuses did not act.

The Itasca ran alongside the second hulk from the east shore and threw a grapnel on board, which caught firmly in the rail; but through the strength of the current the rail gave way and the Itasca, taking a sheer to starboard, drifted astern with her head toward the bank. As quickly as possi­ble she turned round, steamed up again and boarded the hulk nearest the east shore on its port, or off shore side, and this time held on, keeping the engine turning slowly and the helm aport to ease the strain on the grapnel. Captain Caldwell, Acting-Masters Amos Johnson and Edmund Jones, with parties of seamen, jumped on board with powder-cans and fuses; but, as they were looking for the chains, it was found that they were secured at the bows, by lashing or otherwise, to the hulk's anchor chain, the end of the latter being led in through the hawse-pipe, around the windlass and bitted. When its windings had been followed up and un­derstood, Captain Caldwell was told that the chain could be slipped. He then contemplated firing the hulk, but while the materials for doing so were sought for, the chain was slipped without orders. The vessels went adrift, and, as the Itasca's helm was to port and the engines going ahead, they turned inshore and grounded hard and fast a short distance below, within easy range of both forts.

A boat was at once sent to the Pinola, which was steaming up to try again, and she came to her consort's assistance.

Two lines were successfully run to the Itasca, but she had grounded so hard that both parted, though the second was an 11-inch hawser. The Pinola now drifted so far down, and was so long in returning, that the Itasca thought herself deserted; and the executive officer, Lieutenant George B. Bacon, was dispatched to the Hartford' for a more powerful vessel. The hour for the moon to rise was also fast ap­proaching and the fate of the Itasca seemed very doubtful.

The Pinola, however, came back, having in her absence broken out a 13-inch hawser, 'the end of which was passed to the grounded vessel. The third trial was happy and the Pinola dragged the Itasca off, at the same time swinging her head up the river. Lieutenant Caldwell, who was on the bridge, when he saw his ship afloat, instead of returning at once, steadied her head up stream and went ahead fast with the engines. The Itasca moved on, not indeed swiftly, but firmly toward and above the line of hulks, hugging the eastern bank. When well above Caldwell gave the order, “Starboard;" the little vessel whirled quickly round and steered straight for the chains. Carrying the full force of the current with her and going at the top of her own speed, she passed between the third hulk, which the Pinola had grappled, and the fourth. As her stein met the chain she slid bodily up, rising three or four feet from the water, and dragging down the anchors of the hulks on either side; then the chains snapped, the Itasca went through, and the channel of the river was free.

The following morning the hulks were found to be greatly shifted from their previous positions. The second from the east shore remained in place, but the third had dragged down and was now astern of the second, as though hanging to it. The hulk nearest the west shore was also unmoved, but the other three had dragged down and were lying more or less below, apparently in a quartering direction from the first. A broad open space intervened between the two groups. The value of Caldwell's work was well summed up by General M. L. Smith, the Confederate Engineer of the Department: "The forts, in my judgment, were impregnable so long as they were in free and open communication with the city. This communication was not endangered while the obstruction existed. The conclusion, then, is briefly this: While the obstruction existed the city was safe; when it was swept away, as the defenses then existed, it was in the enemy's power."

The bombardment continued on the 21st, 22d, and 23d with undiminished vigor, but without noteworthy incident in the fleet. The testimony of the Confederate officers, alike in the forts and afloat, is unanimous as to the singular accu­racy of the mortar fire.' A large proportion of the shells fell within the walls of Jackson. The damage done to the ma­sonry was not irreparable, but the quarters and citadel, as already stated, were burned down and the magazine endan­gered. The garrison were compelled to live in the casemates, which were partially flooded from the high state of the river and the cutting of the levee by shells. Much of the bedding and clothing were lost by the fire, thus adding to the priva­tions and discomfort. On the 21st Jackson was in need of extensive repairs almost everywhere, and the officers in com­mand hoped that the Louisiana, which had come down the night before, would be able to keep down the mortar fire, at least in part. When it was found she had no motive power they asked that she should take position below the obstruc­tions on the St. Philip side, where she would be under the guns of the forts, but able to reach the schooners. 'If she could not be a ship of war, at least let her be a floating bat­tery. Mitchell declined for several reasons. If a mortar-shell fell vertically on the decks of the Louisiana it would go through her bottom and sink her; the mechanics were still busy on board and could not work to advantage under fire; the ports were too small to give elevation to the guns, and so they could not reach the mortars. If this last were correct no other reason was needed; but as the nearest schooner was but 3,000 yards from Jackson, it seems likely he deceived himself, as he certainly did in believing "on credible information" that a rifled gun on the parapet of Jackson, of the same caliber as that of the Louisiana, had not been able to reach. Three schooners had been struck, one at the distance of 4,000 yards, during the first two days of the bom­bardment, not only by rifled, but by VIII- and X-inch spher­ical projectiles; and the second division had been compelled to shift its position. Looking only to the Louisiana, the de­cision of the naval officers was natural enough; but consider­ing that time pressed, that after five days' bombardment the fleet must soon attack, that it was improbable, if New Orleans fell, that the Louisiana's engines could be made efficient and she herself anything but a movable battery, the refusal to make the desired effort looks like caring for a part, at the sacrifice of the whole, of the defence. On the last day Mitchell had repeated warnings that the attack would soon come off, and was again asked to take a position to enfilade the schooners, so that the cannoneers of Jackson might be able to stand to their guns. Mitchell sent back word that he hoped to move in twenty-four hours, and received from Hig­gins, himself an old seaman and naval officer, the ominous rejoinder: "Tell Captain Mitchell that there will be no to­morrow for New Orleans, unless he immediately takes up the position assigned to him with the Louisiana."[3]

That same day, all arrangements of the fleet being com­pleted, the orders to be ready to attack the following night were issued. Every preparation that had occurred to the minds of the officers as tending to increase the chance of passing uninjured had been made. The chain cables of the sheet anchors had been secured up and down the sides of the vessels, abreast the engines, to resist the impact of projec­tiles. This was general throughout the squadron, though the Mississippi, on account of her side-wheels, had to place them inside instead of out; and each commander further protected those vital parts from shots coming in forward or aft, with hammocks, bags of coal, or sand, or ashes, or whatever else came to hand. The outside paint was daubed over with the yellow Mississippi mud, as being less easily seen at night; while, on the other hand, the gun-carriages and decks were whitewashed, throwing into plainer view the dark color of their equipment lying around. On some ships splinter nettings were rigged inside the bulwarks, and found of ad­vantage in stopping the flight of larger fragments struck out by shot. Three more of the gunboats, following the example of the Pinola and Itasca, had their lower masts removed and moored to the shore. Of the four that kept them in three had their masts wounded in the fight, proving the advantage of this precaution. Thus prepared, and stripped of every spare spar, rope, and boat, in the lightest fighting trim, the ships stood ready for the night's work.

The flag-officer had at first intended to advance to the at­tack in two columns abreast, each engaging the fort on its own side and that only. On second thought, considering that in the darkness and smoke vessels in parallel columns would be more likely to foul the hulks on either side, or else each other, and that the fleet might so be thrown into con­fusion, he changed his plan and directed that the starboard column should advance first, its rear vessel to be followed by the leader of the port column; thus bringing the whole fleet into single line ahead. To help this formation, after dark on the 23d, the eight vessels of the starboard column moved over from the west bank and anchored in line ahead on the other side, the Cayuga, bearing the divisional flag of Captain Theodorus Bailey, in advance. Their orders remained to engage St. Philip on the right hand, and not to use their port batteries. The signal to weigh was to be two vertical red lights.

Meanwhile, during the days that had gone by since break­ing the line of hulks, some officers of the fleet had thought they could see the water rippling over a chain between the two groups; and, although the flag-officer himself could not make it out, the success of the attack so depended upon having a clear thoroughfare, that he decided to have a sec­ond examination. Lieutenant Caldwell asked to do this in person, as his work was in question. Toward nightfall of the 23d, the Hartford sent a fast twelve-oared boat to the Itasca. Caldwell and Acting-Master Edmund Jones went in the boat, which was manned from the Itasca's crew, and after holding on by the leading mortar-schooner till dark, the party started ahead. Fearing that pickets and sharp­shooters on either shore might stop them, they had to pull up in the middle of the river against the heavy current, without availing themselves of the inshore eddy. Before they came up with the chain, a fire was kindled on the east­ern bank throwing a broad belt of light athwart the stream. To pull across this in plain view seemed madness, so the boat was headed to the opposite side and crawled up to within a hundred yards of the hulks. Then holding on to the bushes, out of the glare of the fire, and hearing the voices of the enemy in the water battery, the party surveyed the situation. Though tangled chains hung from the bows of the outer and lower hulk it seemed perfectly plain that none reached across the river, but, after some hesitation about running the risk merely to clear up a point as to which he had himself no doubt, the necessity of satisfying others determined Caldwell; and by his orders the cutter struck boldly out and into the light. Crossing it unob­served, or else taken for a Confederate boat by any who may have seen, the party reached the outer hulk on the west side. Pausing for a moment under its shelter they then pulled up stream, abreast the inshore hulk, and Jones dropped from the bow a deep-sea lead with ten fathoms of line. The boat was then allowed to drift with the current, and the line held in the hand gave no sign of fouling any­thing. Then they pulled up a second time and again dropped down close to the hulk on the east shore with like favorable result; showing conclusively that, to a depth of sixty feet, nothing existed to bar the passage of the fleet. The cutter then flew on her return with a favoring current, signalling all clear at 11 p.m.

At 2 A.M. the flag-ship hoisted the appointed signal and the starboard column weighed, the heavy vessels taking a long while to purchase their anchors, owing to the force of the current. At 3.30 the Cayuga, leading, passed through the booms, the enemy waiting for the ships to come fairly into his power. In regular order followed the Pensacola, Mississippi, Oneida, Varuna, Katahdin, Kineo, Wissahickon, the Confederate fire beginning as the Pensacola passed through the breach. The Varuna, Cayuga, and Katahdin steamed rapidly on, the one heavy gun of the gunboats be­ing ill-adapted to cope with those in the works; but the heavy ships, keeping line inside the gunboats, moved slowly by, fighting deliberately and stopping from time to time to deliver their broadsides with greater effect.

The Pensacola, following the Cayuga closely and keeping a little on her starboard quarter, stopped when near Fort St. Philip, pouring in her heavy broadside, before which the gunners of its barbette battery could not stand but fled to cover; then as the big ship moved slowly on, the enemy re­turned to their guns and again opened fire. The Pensacola again stopped, and again drove the cannoneers from their pieces, the crew of the ship and the gunners in the fort curs­ing each other back and forth in the close encounter. As the ship drew away and turned toward the mid-river, so that her guns no longer bore, the enemy manned theirs again and riddled her with a quartering fire as she moved off. At about this time the ram Manassas charged her, but, by a skil­ful movement of the helm, Lieutenant Roe, who was con­ning the Pensacola, avoided the thrust. The ram received the ship's starboard broadside and then continued down, running the gauntlet of the Union fleet, whose shot pene­trated her sides as though they were pasteboard.

The Mississippi, following the Pensacola and disdaining to pass behind her guns, was reduced to a very low rate of speed. As she came up with and engaged Fort St. Philip, the Manassas charged at her, striking on the port side a little forward of the mizzen-mast, at the same time firing her one gun. The effect on the ship at the time was to list her about one degree and cause a jar like that of taking the ground, but the blow, glancing, only gave a wound seven feet long and four inches deep, cutting off the heads of fifty copper bolts as clean as though done in a machine. Soon after, moving slowly along the face of the fort, the current of the river caught the Mississippi on her starboard bow and carried her over to the Fort Jackson side.

The Oneida, having shifted her port guns to the starboard side, followed the Mississippi. She shared in the delay caused by the Pensacola's deliberate passage until the Mis­sissippi's sheer gave her the chance to move ahead. She then steamed quickly up, hugging the east bank, where the eddy current favored her advance. As she passed close under the muzzles of St. Philip's guns she fired rapidly canis­ter and shrapnel, the fire from the fort passing for the most part harmlessly over the ship and the heads of her crew.

The two rear gunboats, the Kineo and Wissahickon, were both delayed in passing; the Kineo by a collision with the Brooklyn, the two vessels meeting between the hulks, and the Wissahickon by fouling the obstructions. The difficulty of finding the breach was already felt, and became more and more puzzling as the vessels were nearer the rear. The Wissahickon was one of the last that succeeded in getting through.

The. port column was under way in time to follow close in the wake of its predecessor; indeed, it seems certain that, in impatience to be off, or from some other reason, the leading ships of this division doubled on the rear ships of the van. By the report of the captain of the . Hartford, which led, that ship was engaged only twenty minutes after the enemy opened on the leading vessels of the starboard column. She steered in near to Jackson, but a fire raft coming down on her caused her to sheer across the river, where she took the ground close under St. Philip; the raft lying on her port quarter, against which it was pushed by the tug Mosher,[4] a small affair of thirty-five tons, unarmed, with a crew of half a dozen men commanded by a man named Sherman. On that eventful night, when so many hundreds of brave men, each busy in his own sphere, were plying their work of death, surely no one deed of more desperate courage was done than that of this little band. The assault threatened the very life of the big ship, and was made in the bright light of the fire under the muzzles of her guns. These were turned on the puny foe, which received a shot in her boilers and sunk. It is believed that the crew lost their lives, but the Hartford had caught fire and was ablaze, the flames dart­ing up the rigging and bursting through the ports; but the discipline of her crew prevailed over the fury of the element, while they were still receiving and returning the blows of their human antagonists in both forts; then working herself clear, the Hartford passed from under their fire.

The Brooklyn and Richmond followed the Hartford, and behind them the gunboat division Sciota, Iroquois, Pinola, Kennebec, Itasca, and Winona, Fleet-Captain Bell having his divisional flag flying on board the Sciota. By this the enemy had better range, and at the same time the smoke of the battle was settling down upon the face of the river. The good fortune which carried through all the vessels of the leading column therefore failed the rear. The Brooklyn lost sight of her next ahead and, as she was passing through the hulks, using both broadsides as they would bear, came violently into collision with the Kineo, next to the last ship of the starboard column-another indication that the two columns were lapping. The gunboat heeled violently over and nearly drove ashore; but the two vessels then went clear, the Brooklyn fouling the booms of the eastern hulks, break­ing through them but losing her way. This caused her to fall off broadside to the stream, in which position she received a heavy fire from St. Philip. Getting clear and her head once more up river, the Manassas, which had been lying unseen close to the east bank, came butting into the star­board gangway. The blow was delivered with slight momen­tum against the chain armor, and appeared at the time to have done little damage; but subsequent examination showed that the Brooklyn's side was stove in about six feet below the water-line, the prow having entered between the frames and crushed both inner and outer planking. A little more would have sunk her, and, as it was, a covering of heavy plank had to be bolted over the wound for a length of twenty-five feet before she was allowed to go outside. At the same time that the Manassas rammed she fired her single gun, the shot lodging in the sand bags protecting the steam-drum. Grop­ing on by the flash of the guns and the light of the burning rafts, the Brooklyn, just clearing a thirteen-foot shoal, found herself close under St. Philip, from whose exposed barbette guns the gunners fled at her withering fire, as they had from that of the Pensacola.

The Richmond, a slow ship at all times, was detained by her boilers foaming, and was much separated from her leaders. Still she engaged Fort Jackson and passed through the fire with small loss. The little Sciota followed with equal good fortune, having but two men wounded.

The Pinola, which had taken her place next to the Iroquois, was not so fortunate. She engaged first Fort Jackson, from whose fire she received little injury. Then she passed over to the other side within one hundred and fifty yards of St. Philip, from which she at first escaped with equal impunity; but coming then within the light of the fire-rafts, and the greater part of the squadron having passed, the enemy were able to play upon her with little to mar their aim. She was struck fourteen times, and lost three killed and eight wounded, the heaviest list of. casualties among the gunboats.

The Iroquois, which was on picket duty, fell into her sta­tion behind the Sciota as the fleet went by. After passing through the obstructions, and when already some distance up the stream, as the current round the bend was throwing her bow off and setting her over on the east bank, the order “starboard" was given to the wheel. As too often happens, this was understood as "stop her," and the engines were stopped while the wheel was not moved. In consequence of this mistake the Iroquois, then a very fast ship, shot over to the east (at this point more precisely the north) bank, past the guns of St. Philip, and brought up against the ironclad steamer Louisiana that was lying against the levee a short distance above the fort. This powerful, though immovable, vessel at once opened her ports and gave the Iroquois every gun that would bear, and at the same time a number of her people ran on deck as though to repel what seemed to be an attempt to board. This gave the Iroquois an opportunity of returning the murderous fire she had received, which she did with effect. Some of the guns of the Louisiana had been double-shotted, the second shot being in two cases found sticking in the hole made by the first. This unfortunate collision made the loss of the Iroquois amount to 8 killed and 24 wounded, in proportion to . her complement the heaviest of the whole fleet. It was as she slowly drew away that Commander Porter noted her as "lingering," standing out in full relief against the light of the burning rafts; then she went her way, the last to pass, and the fight was won.

The three gunboats at the rear of the second column failed to get by. The Itasca, on coming abreast of Fort Jack­son, was pierced by several shot, one of them entering the boiler. The steam issuing in a dense cloud drove every one up from below, and the vessel deprived of her motive power, drifted helplessly down the stream. The Winona following her, fouled the obstructions, and before she could get clear the Itasca backed on board of her. After a half hour's delay she proceeded under a heavy fire, at first from Jackson. Thinking the burning raft, in whose light the Pinola suf­fered, to be on that side of the river, she tried to pass on the St. Philip side, receiving the fire of the latter fort at less than point-blank range. Shooting over to the other side again, so thick was the smoke that the ship got close to shore, and her head had to be turned down stream to avoid running on it. By this time day had broken, and the Winona, stand­ing out against the morning sky, under the fire of both forts, and with no other vessel to distract their attention, was forced to retire. The Kennebec also fouled the rafts and was unable to get by before the day dawned.

The steamers of the mortar flotilla, and the sailing sloop Portsmouth, as soon as the flag-ship had lifted her anchor, moved up into the station which had been assigned them to cover the passage of the fleet, about five hundred yards from Jackson, in position to enfilade the water battery command­ing the approach to the fort. The vessels kept their place, firing shrapnel and shell, until the last of the fleet was seen to pass the forts. They then retired, the mortar-schooners at the same time ceasing from the shelling, which had been carried on throughout the engagement.

An hour and a quarter had elapsed from the time that the Cayuga passed the obstructions. The fleet, arriving above the forts, fell in with the Confederate flotilla, but in the ab­sence of the Louisiana the other Confederate steamers were no match for their antagonists. The Cayuga indeed, dashing forward at a rate which left her but fifteen minutes under the fire of the forts, found herself when above them in hot quarters; and in a not unequal match rendered a good ac­count of three assailants. The Varuna, passing with yet greater rapidity, steamed through with her guns trained as far ahead as they could be, and delivered her fire as oppor­tunity offered. She soon passed beyond them, unsupported, and continued up the river, coming close upon a steamer called the Doubloon, in which were General Lovell and some of his staff, who narrowly escaped being captured. After the Varuna came the Governor Moore, which had been down among the Union fleet, receiving there the fire of the Oneida and Pinola. Finding the berth too hot for him, and catch­ing sight of the Varuna thus separated from her fleet, Kennon hoisted the same lights as the latter vessel and followed on up. The lights deceived the Varuna and also the Confed­erate steamer Jackson, which had been up the river on duty and was at quarantine as the two others drew near. Taking them for enemies the Jackson opened a long-range fire on the two impartially, one of her shots wounding the fore-mast of the Moore; she then steamed hastily away to New Orleans, where she was destroyed by her commander. The only other vessel in sight was the Stonewall Jackson[5] of the River De­fence Fleet, carrying one gun. She was behind the two, trying to escape unseen to New Orleans. Kennon now opened fire, hoping that the Jackson, undeceived, would turn back to help him, but she kept on her upward course; the Varuna, however, was no longer in ignorance. Finding that the height of the Moore's forecastle out of water and the position of the bow gun would not let it be depressed enough to fire with effect, Kennon resorted to the old-time heroic treatment for such defects; loading the gun with percussion shell he fired it through the bows of his own ship, and used the hole thus made for a port. The next shot raked the Varuna's deck, killing three and wounding nine of the crew. Boggs then put his helm hard sport; bringing his starboard battery to bear and doubtless expecting that the enemy would fol­low his motion to avoid being raked, but Kennon knew too well his own broadside weakness, and keeping straight on ran into the Varuna before her head could be gotten off again. The powerful battery of the Union vessel, sweeping from stem to stern, killed or wounded a large part of the enemy's crew; but her own fate was sealed, her frame being too light for such an encounter. The Moore having rammed again then hauled off, believing the Varuna to be in a sinking condition, and tried to continue up stream, but with difficulty, having lost her wheel-ropes. The Stonewall Jackson, now coming up, turned also upon the Varuna and rammed her on the port side, receiving a broadside in return. The Union vessel then shoved her bow into the east bank and sank to her top-gallant forecastle.

The Varuna's advance had been so rapid that there seems to have been some uncertainty in the minds of Captains Bailey and Lee of the Cayuga and Oneida as to where she was. It being yet dark they were very properly inclined to wait for the rest of the fleet to come up. In a few moments, however, the Oneida moved slowly ahead as far as quarantine, whence the Varuna and her enemies were made out. The Oneida then went ahead at full speed. When she came up the Varuna was already ashore, her two opponents trying to escape, but in vain. The Stonewall Jackson ran ashore with­out offering resistance, on the right bank nearly opposite the Varuna; the Moore on the left bank, some distance above, where her captain set her on fire, but received the broadsides of the Oneida and Pensacola with his colors still flying, and so was taken.

The Cayuga followed the Oneida, but more slowly, and about five miles above the fort came upon a Confederate camp upon the right bank of the river. She opened with canister, and in a few moments the troops, a part of the Chal­mette regiment, surrendered.

After ramming the Brooklyn, the Manassas had quietly followed the Union fleet, but when she came near them the Mississippi turned upon her. It was impossible to oppose her three hundred and eighty-four tons to the big enemy com­ing down upon her, so her commander dodged the blow and ran her ashore, the crew escaping over the bows, while the Mississippi poured in two of her broadsides, leaving her a wreck. Soon after, she slipped off the bank and drifted down past the forts in flames. At 8 A.M. she passed the mortar ­fleet and an effort was made to secure her, but before it could be done she faintly exploded and sank.

The Iroquois, steaming up through the melee, saw a Con­federate gunboat lying close in to the east bank. Having slowed down as she drew near the enemy, some one on board the latter shouted, "Don't fire, we surrender." This was doubtless unauthorized, for as the ship passed on, the Con­federate, which proved to be the McRae, discharged a broad­side of grape-shot and langrage, part of the latter being copper slugs, which were found on the Iroquois's decks in quantities after the action. The fire was promptly returned with XI-inch canister and 32-pounder shot. The McRae's loss was very heavy, among the number being her commander, Thomas B. Huger, who was mortally wounded. This gentleman had been an officer of reputation in the United States Navy, his last service having been as first ­lieutenant of the very ship with which he now came into col­lision. This was but a few months before, under the same commission, the present being, in fact, her first cruise; and the other officers and crew were, with few exceptions, the same as those previously under his orders. There is no other very particular mention of the McRae, but the Confederate army officers, who were not much pleased with their navy in general, spoke of her fighting gallantly among the Union ships.

As for the General Quitman and the River Defence Fleet, there seems to have been but one opinion among the Con­federate officers, both army and navy, as to their bad be­havior before and during the fight.[6] They did not escape punishment, for their enemies were among them before they could get away. The Oneida came upon one crossing from the right to the left bank, and rammed her; but it is not possible to recover the adventures and incidents that befell each. Certainly none of them rammed a Union vessel; and it seems not unfair to say that they gave way in disorder, like any other irregular force before a determined onslaught, made a feeble effort to get off, and then ran their boats ashore and fired them. They had but one chance, and that a desperate one, to bear down with reckless speed on the on­coming ships and ram them. Failing to do this, and begin­ning to falter, the ships came among them like dogs among a flock of sheep, willing enough to spare, had they under­stood the weakness of their foes, but thinking themselves to be in conflict with formidable iron-clad rams, an impression the Confederates had carefully fostered.

When the day broke, nine of the enemy's vessels were to be seen destroyed. The Louisiana remained in her berth, while the McRae, and the Defiance of the River Defence Squadron, had taken refuge under the guns of the forts. The two first had lost their commanders by the fire of the fleet. During the three days that followed, their presence was a cause of anxiety to Commander Porter, who was ignorant of the Louisiana's disabled condition.

The Union fleet anchored for the day at quarantine, five miles above the forts. The following morning, leaving the Kineo and Wissahickon to protect, if necessary, the landing of General Butler's troops, they got under way again in the original order of two columns, not, however, very strictly ob­served, and went on up the river.

As they advanced, burning ships and steamers were passed, evidences of the panic which had seized the city, whose con­fidence had been undisturbed up to the moment of the successful passage of the forts. Four miles below New Or­leans, the Chalmette and McGehee batteries were encountered, mounting five and nine guns. The Cayuga, still leading and steaming too rapidly ahead, underwent their fire for some time unsupported by her consorts, the Hartford approaching at full speed under a raking fire, to which she could only reply with two bow guns. When her broadside came to bear, she slowed down, porting her helm; then having fired, before she could reload, the Brooklyn, compelled to pass or run into her, sheered inside, between her and the works. The succes­sive broadsides of these two heavy ships drove the enemy from their guns. At about the same moment the Pensacola engaged the batteries on the east bank, and the other vessels coming up in rapid succession, the works were quickly silenced.

The attack of the fleet upon the forts and its successful passage has been fitly called the battle of New Orleans, for the fate of the city was there decided. Enclosed between the swamps and the Mississippi, its only outlet by land was by a narrow neck, in parts not over three-quarters of a mile wide, running close by the river, which was at this time full to the tops of the levees, so that the guns of the fleet com­manded both the narrow exit and the streets of the city. Even had there been the means of defence, there was not food for more than a few days.

At noon of the 25th, the fleet anchored before the city, where everything was in confusion. Up and down the levee coal, cotton, steamboats, ships, were ablaze, and it was not without trouble that the fleet avoided sharing the calamity. Among the shipping thus, destroyed was the Mississippi, an ironclad much more powerful than the Louisiana. She was nearing completion, and had been launched six days, when Farragut came before the city. His rapid movements and the neglect of those in charge to provide tow-boats stopped her from being taken to the Yazoo, where she might yet have been an ugly foe for the fleet. This and the fate of the Lou­isiana are striking instances of the value of promptness in war. Nor was this the only fruit snatched by Farragut's quickness. There is very strong reason to believe that the fall of New Orleans nipped the purpose of the French em­peror, who had held out hopes of recognizing the Confed­eracy and even of declaring that he would not respect the blockade if the city held out.

Captain Bailey was sent ashore to demand the surrender, and that the United States flag should be hoisted upon the public buildings. The rage and mortification of the excit­able Creoles was openly manifested by insult and abuse, and the service was not unattended with danger. The troops, however, being withdrawn by the military commander, the mayor, with some natural grandiloquence, announced his submission to the inevitable, and Captain Bailey hoisted the flag on the mint. The next day it was hauled down by a party of four citizens; in consequence of which act, the flag-officer, on the 29th, sent ashore a battalion of 250 marines, accompanied by a howitzer battery in charge of two mid­shipmen, the whole under command of the fleet-captain. By them the flags were. rehoisted and the buildings guarded, until General Butler arrived on the evening of May 1st, when the city was turned over to his care.

Meanwhile Commander Porter remained in command below the forts. The morning after the passage of the fleet he sent a demand for their surrender, which was refused. Learn­ing that the Louisiana and some other boats had escaped the general destruction, and not aware of their real condition, he began to take measures for the safety of his mortar-schooners. They were sent down the river to Pilot Town, with the Portsmouth as convoy, and with orders to fit for sea. Six were sent off at once to the rear of Fort Jackson, to blockade the bayous that ramify through that low land; while the Miami and Sachem were sent in the other direction, behind St. Philip, to assist the troops to land.

On the 27th, Porter, having received official information of the fall of the city, notified Colonel Higgins of the fact, and again demanded the surrender, offering favorable conditions. Meanwhile insubordination was rife in the garrison, which found, itself hemmed in on all sides. At midnight of the 27th, the troops rose, seized the guard and posterns, reversed the field pieces commanding the gates, and began to spike the guns. Many of them left the fort with their arms; and the rest, except one company of planters, firmly refused to fight any longer. The men. were largely foreigners, and with little interest in the Secession cause; but they also probably saw that continued resistance and hardship could not result in ultimate success. The waterway above and below being in the hands of the hostile navy, all communication was cut off by the nature of the country and the state of the river; there could therefore be but one issue to a prolonged con­test. The crime of the men was heinous, but it only hastened the end. To avoid a humiliating disaster, General Duncan accepted the offered terms on the 28th. The officers were permitted to retain their side arms, and the troops composing the garrison to depart, on parole not to serve till ex­changed. At 2.30 P.m. the forts were formally delivered to the navy, and the United States flag once more hoisted over them.

The Confederate naval officers were not parties to the ca­pitulation, which was drawn up and signed on board Porter's flag-ship, the Harriet Lane. While the representatives were seated in her cabin, flags of truce flying from her masthead and from the forts, the Louisiana was fired by her com­mander and came drifting down the river in flames. Her guns discharged themselves as the heat reached their charges, and when she came abreast Fort St. Philip she blew up, killing a Confederate soldier and nearly killing Captain Mc­Intosh, her former commander, who was lying there mortally wounded. This act caused great indignation at the time among the United States officers present. Commander Mitchell afterward gave explanations which were accepted as satisfactory by Mr. Welles, the Secretary of the Navy. He said that the Louisiana was secured to the opposite shore from the fleet, three-quarters of a mile above, and that an attempt had been made to drown the magazine. As proof of good faith he had sent a lieutenant to notify Porter of the probable failure of that attempt. It remains, however, a curious want of foresight in a naval man not to anticipate that the hempen fasts, which alone secured her, would be destroyed, and that the vessel thus cast loose would drift down with the stream. Conceding fully the mutual inde­pendence of army and navy, it is yet objectionable that while one is treating under flag of truce, the other should be send­ing down burning vessels, whether carelessly or maliciously, upon an unsuspecting enemy.

When taken possession of, Fort Jackson was found to have suffered greatly. The ground inside and out was plowed by the falling shell; the levee had been cut in many places, let­ting water into the fort; the casemates were shattered, guns dismounted and gun-carriages destroyed; all the buildings within the walls had been burned. Yet it was far from being reduced to an indefensible condition by six days' bombard­ment, could it have continued to receive supplies and rein­forcements. The loss of the garrison had been 14 killed and 39 wounded.

The question of the efficacy of mortar-firing was raised in this as in other instances. Granting its inability to compel the surrender, it remains certain that Fort Jackson, though the stronger work, inflicted much less damage upon the passing fleet than did St. Philip. The direct testimony of Commander De Camp of the Iroquois, and an examination of the injuries received by the ships, when clearly specified, shows this. As both posts had been under one commander, it may be inferred that the difference in execution was due partly to the exhaustion of the garrison, and partly to the constant fire of the mortar flotilla during the time of the passage; both effects of the bombardment.

The exterior line of the defenses of New Orleans being thus pierced in its central and strongest point, the remaining works—Forts Pike and Macomb guarding the approaches by way of Lake Pontchartrain, Livingston at Barrataria Bay, Berwick at Berwick Bay, and others of less importance—constituting that line were hastily abandoned. Such guns as could be saved, with others from various quarters, were hurried away to Vicksburg, which had already been selected as the next point for defence, and its fortifications begun.. The whole delta of the Mississippi was thus opened to the advance of the Union forces. This was followed a few days later by the evacuation of Pensacola, for which the enemy had been preparing since the end of February, when the disaster at Donelson had made it necessary to strip other points of troops. The heavy guns had been removed, though not to New Orleans. The defenseless condition of the place was partly known to the officer commanding at Fort Pickens, but no one could spare him force enough to test it. At the time of its final abandonment, Commander Porter, who after the surrender of the forts had proceeded to Mobile with the steamers of the mortar flotilla, was lying off that bar. Seeing a brilliant light in the direc­tion of Pensacola at 2 A.M. on the 10th of May, he stood for the entrance, arriving at daylight. The army and navy took possession the same day, and this fine harbor was now again available as a naval station for the United States.

After New Orleans had been occupied by the army, Farra­gut sent seven vessels, under the command of Captain Craven of the Brooklyn, up the river. Baton Rouge and Natchez surrendered when summoned; but at Vicksburg, on the 22d of May, Commander S. P. Lee was met with a refusal. On the 9th of June the gunboats Wissahickon and Itasca, being sent down to look after some earthworks which the Confederates were reported to be throwing up at Grand Gulf, found there a battery of rifle guns completed, and were pretty roughly handled in the encounter which followed. On the 18th of June the Brooklyn and Richmond anchored below Vicksburg, and shortly after the flag-officer came in person with the Hartford, accompanied by Commander Porter with the steamers and seventeen schooners of the mortar flotilla. The flag-officer did not think it possible to reduce the place without a land force, but the orders of the Department were peremptory that the Mississippi should be cleared. From Vicksburg to Memphis the high land did not touch the river on the east bank, and Memphis with all above it had now fallen. Vicksburg at that time stood, the sole seriously de­fended point.

The condition of the fleet was at this time a cause of seri­ous concern to the flag-officer. The hulls had been much injured by the enemy's fire, and by frequent collisions in the lower river, due to the rapid current and. the alarms of fire rafts. The engines, hastily built for the gunboats, and worn in other ships by a cruise now nearing its usual end, were in need of extensive repairs. The maintenance of the coal ­supply for a large squadron, five hundred miles up a crooked river in a hostile country, was in itself no small anxiety; in­volving as it did carriage of the coal against the current, the provision of convoys to protect the supply vessels against guerillas, and the employment of pilots; few of whom were to be found, as they naturally favored the enemy, and had gone away. The river was drawing near the time of lowest water, and the flag-ship herself got aground under very critical circumstances, having had to take out her coal and shot, and had even begun on her guns, two of which were out when she floated off. The term of enlistment of many of the crews had ended and they were clamoring for their discharge, and the unhealthy climate had already caused much illness. It was evident from the very first that Vicksburg could only be taken and held by a land force, but the Government in Washington were urgent and Farragut determined to run by the batteries. This was the first attempt; but there were afterward so many similar dashes over the same spot, by fleets or single vessels, that the scene demands a brief de­scription.

Vicksburg is four hundred miles above New Orleans, four hundred below Memphis. The river, after pursuing its irregular course for the latter distance through the alluvial bottom lands, turns to the northeast five miles before reach­ing the Vicksburg bluffs. When it encounters them it sweeps abruptly round, continuing its course southwest, parallel to the first reach; leaving between the two a narrow tongue of low land, from three-quarters to one mile wide. The bluffs at their greatest elevation, just below the point where the river first touches them, are two hundred and sixty feet high;  not perpendicular, but sloping down close to the water, their nearness to which continues, with diminishing elevation, for two miles, where the town of Vicksburg is reached. They then gradually recede, their height at the same time decreas­ing by degrees to one hundred and fifty feet.

The position was by nature the strongest on the river. The height of the banks, with the narrowness and peculiar winding of the stream, placed the batteries on the hill-sides above the reach of guns on shipboard. At the time of Far­ragut's first attack, though not nearly so strongly and regu­larly fortified as afterward, there were in position twenty-six[7] guns, viz.: two X-inch, one IX-inch, four VIII-inch, five 42­and two 24-pounder smooth-bores, and seven 32-, two 24-, one 18-, and two 12-pounder rifled guns. Of these, one IX-inch, three VIII-inch, and the 18-pounder rifle were planted at the highest point of the bluffs above the town, in the bend, where they had a raking fire upon the ships before and after they passed their front. Just above these the four 24-­pounders were placed.[8] Half a mile below the town was a water battery,[9] about fifty feet above the river, mounting two rifled 32s, and four 42s. The eleven other guns were placed along the crest of the hills below the town, scattered over a distance of a mile or more, so that it was hard for the ships to make out their exact position. The distance from end to end of the siege batteries was about three miles, and as the current was running at the rate of three knots, while the speed of the fleet was not over eight, three-quarters of an hour at least was needed for each ship to pass by the front of the works. The upper batteries followed them for at least twenty minutes longer. Besides the siege guns, field bat­teries in the town, and moving from place to place, took part in the action; and a heavy fire was kept up on the ves­sels from the rifle-pits near the turn.

On the 26th and 27th of June the schooners were placed in position, nine on the east and eight on the west bank. Bomb practice began on the 26th and was continued through the 27th. On the evening of the latter day Commander Porter notified the admiral that he was ready to cover the passage of the fleet.

At 2 A.M. of the 28th the signal was made, and at three the fleet was under way. The vessels advanced in two columns, the Richmond, Hartford, and Brooklyn in the order named, forming the starboard column, with intervals between them long enough to allow two gunboats to fire through. The port column was composed of the Iroquois, the leading ship, and the Oneida, ahead of the Richmond on her port bow, the Wissahickon and Sciota between the Richmond and the Hartford, the Winona and Pinola between the flag­ship and the Brooklyn, and in the rear, on the port quarter of the Brooklyn, the Kennebec and the Katahdin. At four o'clock the mortars opened fire, and at the same moment the enemy, the vessels of the fleet replying as their guns bore. As the Hartford passed, the steamers of the mortar flotilla, Octorara, Miami, Jackson, Westfield, Clifton, Harriet Lane, and Owasco, moved up on her starboard quarter, engaging under way the water battery, at a distance of twelve hundred to fifteen hundred yards, and maintaining this position till the fleet had passed. The leading vessels, as far as and including the Pinola, continued on, silencing the batteries when fairly exposed to their broadsides, but suffering more or less severely before and after. The prescribed order was not accurately observed, the lack of good pilots leading the ships to hug the bank on the town side, where the shore was known to be bold, and throwing them into line ahead; the distances also lengthened out somewhat, which lessened the mutual support.

The flag-ship moved slowly, and even stopped for a time to wait for the vessels in the rear; seeing which Captain Palmer, of the Iroquois, who had reached the turn, also stopped his ship, and let her drift down close to the Hartford to draw a part of the enemy's fire, and to reinforce that of the flag-officer. The upper batteries, like all the others, were silent while the ships lay in front of them; but as soon as the Hartford and Iroquois moved up they returned to their guns, and followed the rear of the fleet with a spiteful fire till out of range.

The cannonade of the enemy could at no time have been said to be discontinued along the line. The Brooklyn, with the two gunboats following, stopped when above the mortar-steamers, and engaged the batteries within range at a great disadvantage; those ahead having a more or less raking fire upon them. The three remained there for two hours and then retired, the remainder of the fleet having passed on beyond and anchored above, at 6 A.M.

Having thus obeyed his orders, the flag-officer reported that the forts had been passed and could be passed again as often as necessary, a pledge frequently redeemed afterward; but he added, it will not be easy to do more than silence the batteries for a time." The feat had been performed with the steady gallantry that characterized all the similar attempts on the river. Notwithstanding the swift adverse current, the full power of the vessels was not exerted. The loss was 15 killed and 30 wounded, eight of the former being among the crew of the Clifton, which received a shot in her boiler, scalding all but one of the forward powder division. The Confederates reported that none of their guns had been in­jured, and they mention no casualties.

The action of the three commanders that failed to pass was severely censured by the flag-officer; nor is it surprising that he should have felt annoyed at finding his fleet sepa­rated, with the enemy's batteries between them. It seems clear, however, that the smoke was for a time so thick as to prevent the Brooklyn from seeing that the flag-ship had kept on, while the language of the flag-officer's written order governing the engagement was explicit. It read thus

When the vessels reach the bend of the river, should the enemy continue the action, the ships and Iroquois and Oneida will stop their engines and drop down the river again, keep­ing up the fire until directed otherwise. In view of these facts, Captain Craven was certainly justified in maintaining his position until he saw that the flag-ship had passed; then it may be doubtful whether the flag-officer's action had not countermanded his orders. The question will be differently answered by different persons; probably the greater number of officers would reply that the next two hours, spent in a stationary position under the batteries, would have been bet­ter employed in running by and rejoining the fleet. The error of judgment, if it was one, was bitterly paid for in the mortification caused to a skilful and gallant officer by the censure of the most distinguished seaman of the war.

Above Vicksburg the flag-officer communicated with one of the rams under Lieutenant-Colonel Ellet, who undertook to forward his communications to Davis and Halleck. The ships were then anchored.

On the 1st of July Davis's fleet arrived. On the 9th an order was received from Washington for Commander Porter to proceed to Hampton Roads with twelve mortar­schooners. The next morning he sailed in the Octorara with the schooners in company. On the way down he not only had experience of the increasing difficulty of navigation from the falling of the water, but also his active mind as­certained the extent of the traffic by way of the Red River, and its worth to the Confederacy; as also the subsidiary value of the Atchafalaya Bayou, which, extending through the delta of the Mississippi from the Red River to the Gulf, was then an open highway for the introduction of foreign supplies, as well as the transport of native pro­ducts. The object and scope of the next year's campaign are plainly indicated in a letter of his addressed to Farragut during his trip down the river. It was unfortunate that an attempt was not made to hold at once the bluffs below the point where those two highways meet, and blockade them both, instead of wasting time at Vicksburg when there was not then strength enough to hold on.


[1] For particulars of batteries, see Appendix.

[2] These threw projectiles weighing from sixty to eighty pounds.

[3] Mitchell's conduct was approved by a Naval Court of Inquiry. Higgins, who was most emphatic in his condemnation, could not appear as a witness, the War Department not being willing to spare him from his duties. The difference was one of judgment and, perhaps, of temperament. From Higgins's character it is likely that, had he commanded the naval forces, the Louisiana would either have done more work or come to a different end. As the old proverb says, "He would have made a spoon or spoiled the horn.”

[4] As this feat has been usually ascribed to the Manassas, it may be well to say that the statement in the text rests on the testimony of the commander of the ram, as well as other evidence.

[5] There were two Jacksons, the naval steamer Jackson and the River Defence boat Stonewall Jackson.

[6] Colonel Lovell of the Confederate army, who was ordnance and disbursing officer of the River Defence Fleet, and had been twelve years an officer in the United States Navy, testified there was no organization, no discipline, and little or no drill of the crews. He offered to employ a naval officer to drill them, but it does not appear that the offer was accepted. He also testified that he had examined the Ellet ram, Queen of the West, and considered most of the River Defence boats better fitted for their work. The night before the fight, one of them, with Grant, captain of the Quitman, went on board the Manassas, and there told Warley that they were under nobody's orders but those of the Secretary of War, and they were there to show naval officers how to fight. There is plenty of evidence to the same effect. It was impossible to do anything with them.

[7] Quarterly Return of the ordnance officer of the post, June 80, 1862.

[8] The writer is inclined to think these were not ready on June 28th, but were the new battery mentioned in Union and Confederate reports of July 15th.

[9] This, known to the fleet as the hospital battery, was commanded by Captain Todd, a brother-in-law of President Lincoln.

Return to the main USNLP page
Return to the "Our Navy" table of contents -or- to the next chapter
Return to the NMLHA web site
Return to "On Deck!" table of contents