with Forts Pike and Macomb. Immediately after I assumed command of the department, finding that there were no guns of the heaviest calibre, I applied to Richmond, Pensacola, and other points, for some ten-inch columbiads and sea-coast mortars, which I considered necessary to the defence of the lower river, but none could be spared; the general impression being that New Orleans would not be attacked by the river, and I was therefore compelled to make the best possible defence with the guns at my disposal. Twelve forty-two-pounders were sent to Forts Jackson and St. Philip, together with a large additional quantity of powder, and being convinced that with the guns of inferior calibre mounted there we could not hinder steamers from passing, unless they could be detained for some time under the fire of the works, I pushed forward rapidly the construction of a raft, which offered a complete obstruction to the passage of vessels up the river, except through a small opening, and then only one at a time. The forts had seventy-five or eighty guns that could be brought successively to bear upon the river, were manned by garrisons of well-trained artillerists, affording a double relief to each gun, and commanded by officers who had no superiors in any service. Under these circumstances, although I feared the high water in the Spring, with the accompanying drift, would carry away the raft, yet every confidence was felt that the river would remain closed until such time as the iron-clad steamers Mississippi and Louisiana could be finished, which I was confidently informed would not be later than the first of February. The first raft constructed was not carried away by the high water and drift until the latter part of February. But with funds placed at my disposal by the citizens of New Orleans, another was placed in position in March, by the energetic labors of Colonel Higgins and others, and the position was again temporarily secure. No heavy guns had yet been received, although strenuous applications were made by me to get some from Pensacola, when that place was abandoned. The general impression of all those to whom I applied was, that the largest guns should be placed above New Orleans, not below, although I had notified the department, on the twenty-second of March, that in my judgment the fleet only awaited the arrival of the mortar vessels to attempt to pass up the river from below. By means, however, of an energetic and persevering officer, Major W. P. Duncan, Commissary of Subsistence, three ten-inch columbiads and five mortars were finally procured and brought over just in time to be put up as the firing commenced. Thinking that the enemy's troops at Isle Breton were intended to land at Quarantine and act in rear of Fort St. Philip, I ordered Colonel Sysmauski's regiment of ninety days men, armed with shot guns, to that point as a protection. I had, likewise, organized two companies of sharpshooters and swamp hunters, under Captains Mullen and Lartique, which were sent down for operation upon the enemy's vessels from the banks of the river, but the high water keeping the men day and night nearly waist deep in water, soon compelled them to abandon their positions. I will here state that every Confederate soldier in New Orleans, with the exception of one company, had been ordered to Corinth to join General Beauregard, in March, and the city was only garrisoned by about three thousand ninety day troops — called out by the Governor, at my request — of whom about one thousand. two hundred had muskets, and the remainder shot guns of an indifferent description. The river rose rapidly in April, and soon drove out Sysmauski's regiment, which was removed to the west bank, about six miles above Fort Jackson. The whole country became one vast sheet of water, which rose in the forts and covered places heretofore safe from its encroachments. Under the tremendous pressure of this current and a storm of wind and rain, the second raft was broken away in the night of Friday, the eleventh of April, two days before the enemy first opened fire. The fourteen vessels of Montgomery River defence expedition had been ordered by the department, when completed, to be sent up to Memphis and Fort Pillow, but believing the danger of attack to be greater from below, I detained six of them at New Orleans, of which change the department was fully advised. At my suggestion, Governor Moore had also fitted up two steamers, which were sent to the forts below the city. A large number of fire-rafts were also. constructed and steered down, and two small steamers were employed for the special purpose of towing these rafts into position where they could be most effective, so as to leave the armed vessels free to operate against the enemy. I telegraphed General Beauregard to send down the iron-clad ram Manassas, and when the Secretary of the Navy ordered the steamer Louisiana to be sent also up the river, I protested through the War Department, being satisfied that we required more heavy guns below. She was eventually permitted to go down the river on Sunday, the twentieth of April, but not in a condition to use her motive power with effect. It was hoped that, notwithstanding this, she would be able to assume a position below Fort St. Philip, discovering the location of the mortar boats, and being herself proof against direct fire, dislodge the enemy with her guns, which were of very heavy calibre. Knowing, also, that the incessant bombardment kept General Duncan closely confined to Fort Jackson, so that he could give no orders to the river defence steamers, I placed the whole under the control of Captain Mitchell, the armed steamers as well as the tugs intended to tow down the fire-rafts. I will here state, that the river defence fleet proved a failure, for the very reasons set forth in my letter to the department of the fifteenth of April. Unable to govern themselves, and unwilling to be governed by others, their almost total want of system,
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Doc . 62 .-Hoisting the Black flag ��� official correspondence and reports.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.