three largest ships — the Hartford
, and Brooklyn
— was to keep near the western bank, fighting Fort Jackson
; while Capt. Bailey
, with the Cayuga
, Pensacola, Mississippi
, Varuna, Katahdin, Kineo
, and Wissahickon
, was to hug the eastern bank, exchanging compliments with Fort St. Philip
. Capt. Bell
, with the third division--consisting of the Scioto
, and Kennebec
— was to keep the middle of the river, and, disregarding the forts, to attack and vanquish the Rebel
fleet in waiting above.
had wisely suggested that, as the guns of the forts had been fired at a high elevation in order to reach their remote assailants, and as the vessels would naturally be expected to keep the middle of the river, the Rebel
gunner would be pretty sure to fire over them if they kept close to the respective shores.
All being ready, Gen. Butler
and his staff went on board the Saxon
; every naval officer was at his post; and the silence was only broken by an occasional fire from the mortar-sloops.
At 11 P. M., a signal from the Itasca
announced that the opening in the cable was still unclosed.
The night was dark and heavy; the moon — what there was of it — would rise at 3 A. M.
all hands were called, steam got up, the last preparations made, and at 2 the signal to weigh anchor was given from the flag-ship.
Half an hour later, Farragut
's division was ready.
, a little slower, was farther away; it was 3 1/2 before the latter was fairly abreast of Farragut
, when each division moved silently up stream.
The current was so swift, the night so heavy, that the fleet advanced but four miles per hour.
The silence was broken by our mortars, whose gunners, prepared for the rapidest possible fire, at once filled the air with their shells, and roared out to the Rebels
their warning that the hour had come.
As our slips in their three lines closely followed each other, Capt. Bailey
, in the Cayuga
, was first observed and opened upon by both forts as he was passing through the breach in the barrier.
He did not choose to give better direction to the enemy's fire by replying; and, though their balls were abundant, they mainly passed over and around him. Approaching Fort St. Philip
, he ran close under her guns, giving her broadsides of grape and canister as he passed; the Pensacola, Mississippi
, and Varuna, pressing closely in his wake, followed his commendable example.
All of his division passed the forts essentially uninjured.
's division was less fortunate.
, and Iroquois
, ran the gauntlet of the forts unharmed ; but the Itasca
, when directly opposite St. Philip
, received a volley of balls, one of which pierced her boiler and compelled her to drift down the river.
The Winona recoiled from that fire, and failed to pass.
was caught in the cable; and, when liberated, lost her way in the dense smoke; finally returning to her former anchorage below the forts.
, in the fore rigging of the Hartford
, anxiously watching every visible movement through his night-glass, had advanced within a