getting above the raft. He was also required to take entire control of the fire-barges (see attached document B), to reconnoitre the enemy above the head of the passes, and to keep a watch boat below every night, near the point of woods, to signal the approach of the enemy. The diagram will illustrate all the points referred to in this report. The same instructions were given to Captains Kennon and Grant, and, upon his arrival, Captain Renshaw was duly informed of the arrangements made, in which he promised heartily to co-operate. While the enemy remained at the head of the passes, twenty-two and a half miles below the forts, and, subsequently, when he came up to the Jump, or Wilder's Bayou, the boats of the river fleet took turns in running down and watching his movements. For a few nights, also, at this time, one of them was kept below as a guard boat. We had telegraphic communication, besides, down to within half a mile of the Jumps, nine miles below the forts, which, together with scouts operating in the bays to the east and west of the river, in skiffs and perogues, kept us duly posted, meanwhile, of the enemy's movements below, as far down as the South-west Pass. The enemy was not, meanwhile, idle in the interim. His large vessels worked over the South-west Bar, after failing to make an entrance at Pass a l'outre, and the mortar fleet was brought up as far as the South-west Pilot Station, where the mortars were scaled and afterwards tested. From seven to thirteen steam sloops of war and gunboats were constantly kept at the Head of the Passes or at the Jump, to cover his operations below, and to prevent our observing his movements by way of the river. By gradual and regular approaches he carefully closed up the forts, day by day, and opened the attack as hereinafter detailed.
April 9.One of our reconnoitring steamers was chased and followed up by two of the enemy's gunboats as far as the point of woods below Fort Jackson, but were soon forced to retire by a few shots from our batteries. This was his first reconnoissance and our fire was not returned.
April 13.Several of the hostile gunboats again came up to make observations. They would occasionally show themselves, singly or in pairs, above the point of woods, and exchange a few shots with the forts, and then retire again behind the point. Our sharpshooters obtained a few shots on this occasion, but with very partial result, owing to the lowness of the surrounding country and the extreme rise in the river. Many of the men were up to their waists in water, and in consequence, sickness prevailed among them, and unfitted them for duty. The enemy spent the principal part of the day in firing grape and canister, and in shelling the woods to drive them out. This was repeated the following day, the enemy not coming within range or sight of the forts, but confining himself to shelling the woods below. The sharpshooters were all driven out by this second day's firing. Our telegraphic communication below was also broken up, as the wires were removed, and many of the posts cut and torn down by the enemy. There being no other point, above or below, where the sharpshooters could profitably act in that capacity, and as many of them were unfit for duty from exposure, I deemed it advisable to dispense with their services and send them to the city, which was accordingly done. It being of the highest importance, however, to keep up the telegraphic communication below, Lieutenant T. J. Royster's Company, sappers and miners, Twenty-second Louisiana volunteers, volunteered his services with fifteen men of his company, to act as sharpshooters in perogues, and cover the operator in repairing the line and re-establishing the connection with the forts above, as well as to annoy the enemy. This also failed, from the great difficulty of managing the perogues effectively in the dense undergrowth of the swampy woods below, and the telegraph and the sharpshooters had to be abandoned in consequence.
April 15.The enemy brought up his whole fleet, extending the same from the Head of the Passes to the point of woods below the forts. Orders were repeatedly given to Captain Stephenson, of the river fleet, to cause the fire-barges to be sent down nightly upon the enemy; but every attempt seemed to prove a perfect abortion, the barges being cut adrift too soon, so that they drifted against the banks directly under the forts, firing our wharves and lighting us up, but obscuring the position of the enemy. In consequence, I turned the control of them, as well as the boats employed to tow them into the stream, over to Captain Renshaw, the senior naval officer present. I also directed Captains Kennon and Grant to report to him for orders, as I found great difficulty in communicating with or controlling the vessels afloat, and directed Captain Stephenson, with his four boats, to co-operate with Captain Renshaw in every possible way. These boats of the river fleet, it seemed, could not be turned over directly to the immediate command of naval officers, owing to certain conditions imposed by the Navy Department.
April 16.From half-past 7 o'clock A. M., the enemy's gunboats came round the point repeatedly for observation, but were invariably forced to retire by our fire. In the meantime he was locating the position of the mortar-flotilla, composed of twenty-one schooners, each mounting one thirteen-inch mortar and other guns, close against the bank on the Fort Jackson side, and behind the point of woods. At half-past 4 o'clock P. M., the enemy run out a gunboat and fired upon the fort, under cover of which two mortar-boats were brought out into the stream.