« AnteriorContinuar »
run hard upon the rocks five miles from land, off Cape Fear, while going at full speed. Her Captain, bewildered, gave the order to let go the bow anchor, when she instantly drove upon its fluke, piercing her forward compartments and letting in a deluge of water. An hour later, she was hard and fast upon Frying Pan Shoals, one compartment filled to the water-line, and her forward berths afloat, her Captain manifestly incompetent, and now nearly distracted. The coast in sight was strongly held by the enemy, whose horse patrol could be descried from the ship; and any Confederate cruiser, darting out from Cape Fear river, would have found the steamship and all on board an easy prey. An ordinary *Tall would very soon have broken "p the vessel and strewed her wreck , along the sands. Toward noon, a steamer hove in sight, which, cautiously approaching, Proved to be the U. S. gunboat Mount Vernon, of the squadron blockading Wilmington. Her commander, O. S. Glisson, came on Marl and placed his vessel at the . of Gen. Butler. A hawser to *o was attached itemo, Pl, and many fruitless "l" made to drag her off. Three "red of the soldiers Wel'C trans
* thrown overboard; and every * known to nautic o o, the imperiled ship— the win ro. S tle Sun went down, till the hus o o the waves swelled, beat So ship began to roll and o the rocks, the danger of length, o A- increasing. At the tide was whi. o- i. aud when an hour of flood,
she moved forward a few feet and was fairly afloat; slowly following the piloting Mount Vernon—the lead for a whole hour showing but six inches of water under her keel. At midnight, both came to anchor in the Cape Fear, and were next morning, which was calm, on their way to Port Royal, where the Mississippi was unladen and repaired; but was run aground again while moving down to the mouth of the harbor. The Captain was now deposed, Acting-Master Sturgis, of the Mount Vernon, appointed to his place; the troops once more debarked, and the ship pulled into deep water by the help of all the tugs in port. She again put to sea March 13th, having been eleven days in the port; and seven more brought her safely in sight of Ship Island; where so heavy a gale was blowing that landing troops was for two days impossible. It was the 25th of March when—30 days from Hampton Roads—they were debarked on that desolate sandbank; where Gen. Butler was soon deep in consultation with Captains Farragut and Bailey, of the Navy, as well as with his military associates. Of these, Lt. Godfrey Weitzel, who had for two years been stationed at Fort St. Philip, and who had traversed all the adjacent country, duck-shooting, was able to give the fullest and most valuable information. Gen. Butler made him his chief engineer.
! It was decided that the first attack on the forts defending the passage of the Mississippi below New Orleans should be made by the fleet; Capt. 'Porter, with his 21 bomb-schooners, anchoring below them and bombarding them till they should be reduced,
or his ammunition nearly exhausted. Capt. Farragut, with his larger and stronger vessels, would remain just out of fire as a reserve, awaiting the issue of the bombardment. That failing, he should attempt with his steamers to run by the forts. If he succeeded in this, he would try to clear the river of the enemy's fleet, isolate the forts, and push on so far as circumstances should dictate. Gen. Butler, so soon as Capt. Farragut had passed, was to land his troops from their transports in the rear of Fort St. Philip, and attempt to carry it by assault; while the enemy, supposing the swamps in that quarter impassable, should be entirely absorbed in his contest with the fleet. The forts being thus reduced, the whole expedition would advance upon the city, in such manner as should then seem expedient. Gen. Butler engaged to have 6,000 men embarked on transports and ready for service in seven days; Capt. Farragut sailing at once for the mouths of the river, to prepare his fleet for action. The troops were formed into three brigades, under Gens. Phelps and * The New Orleans journals, frequently brought over from Biloxi, bristled with such awe-inspiring paragraphs as the following:
“The Mississippi is fortified so as to be impassable for any hostile fleet or flotilla. Forts Jackson and St. Philip are armed with 170 heavy guns (63-pounders, rifled by Barkley Britton, and received from England). The navigation of the river is stopped by a dam about a quarter of a mile from the above forts. No flotilla on earth could force that dam in less than two hours; during which it would be within short and cross range of 170 guns of the heaviest caliber, many of which would be served with red-hot shot; numerous furnaces for which have been erected in every fort and battery.
“In a day or two, we shall have ready two iron-cased floating batteries. The plates are 44 inches thick, of the best hammered iron, received from England and France. Each iron-cased battery will mount twenty 68-pounders, placed
Williams, and Col. Shepley; 100 carpenters detailed to make scaling-ladders; 100 boatmen to manage the 30 boats which were to make their way through the reedy creeks and marshes to the rear of Fort St. Philip. On the sixth day, 7 regiments and 2 batteries were embarked, awaiting the word to move from Capt. Farragut ; but high winds and low tides obstructed the movements of the fleet; several of the larger vessels being many days in getting over the bar; so that Gen. Butler was obliged to disembark his troops and wear out another fortnight as patiently as he might. Meantime, the Rebels alongshore, who had by this time become satisfied that New Orleans was aimed at, resorted to the expedients which had proved effective with most of our commanders up to that time, and which stood them in good stead with several for many months afterward. Having been compelled nearly to deplete the Gulf region of soldiers in order to make head against Grant and Buell on the Tennessee, they supplied their places with imaginary regiments and batteries” in generous
So as to skim the water, and strike the enemy's
hull between wind and water. We have an abundant supply of incendiary shells, cupola furnaces for molten iron, congreve rockets, and fire-ships. “Between New Orleans and the forts, there is a constant succession of carthworks. At the Plain of Chalmette, near Janin's property, there are redoubts, armed with rifled cannon which have been found to be effective at five miles' range. A ditch 30 feet wide and 20 deep extends from the Mississippi to La Ciprione. In Forts St. Philip and Jackson, there are 3,000 men; of whom a goodly portion are experienced artillery-men and gunners who have served in the navy. “At New Orleans itself, we have 32,000 infantry, and as many more quartered in the immediate neighborhood. In discipline and drill, they are far superior to the Yankees. We have two very able and active Generals, who possess our entire confidence—Gen. Mansfield Ilovell and Brig.-Gen. Ruggles. For Commodore, we have old Hollins—a Nelson in his way.”—N. O. Pica
1/une, April 5, 1862.
profusion; but these were not the forces required to paralyze such commanders as Butler and Farragut. At length," the joyful tidings reached the former from the latter that his fleet was all over the bar, reloaded, and ready for action; and that he hoped to move up the river next day. Two days later, Gen. Butler, with his 8,000 troops, was at the mouth of the river. New Orleans, situated on the left bank of the Mississippi, 100 miles above its mouths, with the large sheet of water known as Lake Pontchartrain closely approaching it on the north, and the smaller Lake Borgne some 20 miles distant on the east, was by far the largest and most important city of the Confederacy, with a population of 170,000, and the greatest export trade, just prior to the war, of any city in the world.
Unable to perceive the wisdom of
expatriating those magnificent feeders of its commerce, the Missouri, the Ohio, and the upper Mississippi, a majority of its people had opposed Secession, until the carefully nursed tempest of pro-Slavery folly, fury, fanaticism, and ruffianism, stifled all outspoken dissent, about the time the war was formally opened by the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. Thenceforward, New Orleans became the virtual heart of the Confederacy; and its immense wealth of coin and produce was lavished in all directions in support of the military operations directed from Richmond. Regiment after regiment of Louisianians and foreign residents were raised and equipped here; but most of them had, when the hour of peril came, been drafted off, from time to time,
*April 15, 1862.
THE DEFEN SES OF NEW OR I, E. A. N. S. S5
to meet pressing exigencies on the Potomac and higher Mississippi, or the Tennessee; so that but about 3,000 of these, neither well armed, well drilled, nor particularly well af. fected to the cause, remained to dispute the advance of the Yankee invaders. Gen. David E. Twiggs had been rewarded for his stupendous treachery to the Union in Texas, by the command of the Confederate defenses of New Orleans, until stern experience proved him as incapable, superannuated, and inefficient, as even our own Scott. At length, on a plea of declining health, he was sent home to die; and Gen. Mansfield Lovell, who had abandoned a lucrative office under the Democratic municipality of New York to take service with the Confederates, was appointed his SUICCeSSOI’. On assuming command,’ Lovell found the defenses of the great slavemart more pretentious than formidable. The variety of water approaches by Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne, and the Bayous Barataria and La Fourche, all needed defenses against an enemy of preponderant naval force; while even the Mississippi required fortifying and watching above as well as below, to render the city entirely safe. Artillery by parks was indispensable; and a good many guns had been supplied from . the plunder of the Norfolk Navy Yard, and elsewhere; but most of them were old, of moderate caliber, unrifled, and every way unsuited to the requirements of modern warfare. He telegraphed to Richmond, to Mobile, and other points, for heavier and better cannon; but obtained very 7 Oct. 18, 1861.
few, mainly from Pensacola, when that place was abandoned; and had just begun to cast new ones, adapted to his needs, as also to provide himself with iron-clads, when confronted by a military necessity for leaving that part of the country. Lovell, knowing far better than our commanders the essential weakness of his position, and early warned of his danger by the gathering of our forces on Ship Island, seems to have exerted himself to the utmost. He had fortified and guarded all the land approaches to the city; so that, though Gen. Butler's army, had it advanced otherwise than by the Mississippi, would probably have carried it, the cost in time, effort, and blood, would doubtless have been far greater
than that actually incurred. But the operations of Farragut, in and about the passes, gave unmistakable indications of the real point of danger; so that the Rebel General’s forces and means of annoyance were mainly concentrated in and around Forts Jackson and St. Philip, which, from opposite banks, command the passage of the river, 75 miles below . New Orleans. Beside these respectable and regularly constructed fortresses of brick and earth, abundantly supplied with smooth-bore 24 and 32-pounders, and a few better guns, Lovell and his naval compatriots, after blocking up most of the water approaches to New Orleans from the Gulf with strongly-braced piles, green live-oaks, and other obstructions, and
REBEL DEFENSES BELOW NEW or LEANs.
calling" on the Governor of Louisiana for 10,000 militia—receiving for answer that there were but 6,000, of whom half had just been sent to Tennessee, upon the requisition of Gen. Beauregard—and placing his department under martial law,” turned their attention almost entirely to the lower Mississippi. It was high time. A great raft, or boom, composed of cypress-trees 40 feet long and 4 to 5 feet through, standing 3 feet apart, and fastened to two great 23-inch chain-cables, had been stretched across the river just under the guns of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and made fast to large trees, immense anchors, timbers, &c., imbedded as firmly as possible; but the annual flood in the Mississippi, which commences early in the year, had, by the first of March, brought its surface considerably above the country outside of its levees, and piled against the obstructions a large amount of drift-wood; softening the earth and strengthening the current, until the anchors and other hold-fasts gave way, and the raft, with its chains snapped and its timbers swept down stream, ceased to be an impediment. But for the delays and disappointments which so sorely taxed Gen. Butler's patience, it is likely that our fleet would have found this their most formidable antagonist. Lovell at once sent down Col. Higgins to repair it, clothed with the amplest powers; but the Father of Waters refused to recognize them. A new obstruction was patched up, composed of parts of the old raft, with schooners anchored in the interstices, and all fastened together with such chains as could be procured; but the
*Feb. 25, 1862.
* March 15, 1862.
net result was more formidable in appearance than in reality. And still the river kept on rising, until nearly all the adjacent country was submerged, becoming temporarily a part of the Gulf of Mexico. Even the parade-plain and casemates of Fort Jackson were from 3 to 18 inches under water, and its magazines were only kept dry by incessant pumping.
Hollins had been superseded as naval commandant by Commodore Whittle, whose fleet consisted of the new iron-clad Louisiana, mounting 16 guns, many of them large and excellent, with Hollins's ram Manassas and 13 gunboats—that is, commercial steamboats, impressed or lent for this service, and armed and manned as well as might be—with a number of old sailing craft fitted up as fireships, and very dangerous to wooden vessels attacking from below, by reason of the uniform strength of the Current.
Gen. J. K. Duncan, who had been appointed by Lovell to the command of the coast defenses, and had thereupon repaired" to Fort Jackson, had been working the garrisons of both forts night and day, covering their main magazines with sand-bags; which had been barely completed when our fleet hove in sight. Two gunboats had appeared, reconnoitering, four days before.
Ournaval force consisted of 47 armed vessels, 8 of them large and powerful steam sloops-of-war; 17 heavily armed steam gunboats, 2 sailing sloops-of-war, and 21 mortar-schooners, each throwing a 215-pound shell. The steam sloops carried from 9 to 28 guns; the gunboats, 5 to 6 guns 19 March 27.