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 from river boats the most likely to succeed. In this connection it may be remembered that, during the war, John Taylor Wood, Colonel and A. D. C. to the President, who had been an officer of high repute in the ‘old Navy,’ did in open boats attack armed vessels, board and capture them, though found with nettings up, having been warned of the probability of such an attack.1 Many causes have been assigned for the fall of New Orleans. Two of them are of undeniable force: first, the failure to light up the channel; second, the want of an obstruction which would detain the fleet under fire of the forts. General Duncan's report and testimony justify the conclusion that to the thick veil of darkness the enemy was indebted for his ability to run past the forts. The argument that the guns were not of sufficiently large caliber to stop the fleet is not convincing. If all the guns had been of the largest size, that would not have increased the accuracy but would have diminished the rapidity of the fire, and therefore in the same degree would have lessened the chances of hitting objects in the dark. Further, it appears that the forts always crippled or repulsed any vessels which came up in daylight. The forts would have been better able to resist bombardment if they had been heavily plated with iron; that would not, however, have prevented the fleet from passing them as they did. Torpedoes might have been placed on the bar at the mouth of the river before the enemy got possession of it, and subsequently, if attached to buoys, they might have been used in the deep channel above. Many other things which were omitted might and probably would have been done had attention been earlier concentrated on the danger which at last proved fatal. If the volunteer river-defense fleet was ineffective, as alleged, because it was not subject to the orders of the naval commander, that was an evil without a remedy. The governor of Louisiana had arranged with the projectors that they should not be subject to the naval commander, and the alternative of not accepting them with that condition was that they
1 Captain Wood had a number of light rowboats built, holding each about twenty men. They were fitted with cradles to wagons, and could be quickly moved to any point by road or rail. He writes: ‘In August, 1863, I left Richmond with four boats and sixty men for the Rappahannock, to look after one or two gunboats that had been operating in that river. Finding always two cruising together, I determined to attempt the capture of both at once. About midnight, with muffled oars, we pulled for them at anchor near the mouth of the river. They discovered us two hundred yards off. We dashed alongside, cut our way through and over the boarder nettings with the old navy cutlass, gained the deck, and, after a sharp, short fight, drove the enemy below. The prizes proved to be the gunboats Satellite and Reliance, two guns each. Landing the prisoners, we cruised for two days in the Chesapeake Bay. A number of vessels were captured and destroyed.’
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