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Reminiscent of war-times. [from the New Orleans Picayune, December 1, 1895.]

Eventful days in New Orleans in the year 1862.

Comprised in the diary of a youth at the time, who since became a Well—Known Clergyman—The arrival of Butler's army and Farragut's fleet.

April 25, 1862.—With heart-sickening feelings I seat myself for the purpose of inditing what I have seen and heard on this memorable day. To give one a connected idea of transpiring events, it is necessary that I should take a start a few days back. About a week since the news came of the bombardment of Forts Jackson and St. Philip. All was very cheering from our forces stationed in those forts until our city was suddenly startled by the disheartening yet too true news of the passage of some of the Yankee steamers by the forts at an early hour of yesterday morning. An extra Delta was soon issued, and, like an electric shock, the news spread all over the city. At once the stores commenced to shut up, and this gave full vent to the panic, which was soon at its full height. Before long, at about 10:30 A. M., the general alarm of twelve distinct taps was sounded by the fire-alarm telegraph all over town. As previously agreed upon by our military and civil authorities, it was understood by our citizen soldiery to be the signal for every soldier to report at his armory or headquarters immediately. I went to the armory of the Crescent Reserves and awaited orders. None were sent except to hold ourselves in readiness to answer another general alarm, should one be given in the course of the day or night. The French Legion were exerting themselves carrying on board our floating battery at the foot of Customhouse street large guns and other munitions of war. The regular steamboats, merchant-boats, got up steam at once, and, crowded with passengers, a great many of them left the city during the afternoon and ensuing night. All the draymen of the city were pressed into Government service from 2 P. M. until about 2 or 3 and later this morning, hauling cotton-bales to the respective places which our patriotic authorities had chosen to be the scenes of their conflagration. Away into the ‘wee [183] sma' hours’ the darkness of the night was relieved by the lightness and redness of the clouds, caused by the burning of the cotton. Having been ordered to report this morning at my armory, I did so at 8 o'clock. After that, together with several of my comrades, I went onto the levee, which was the scene of great confusion.

I judged that the enemy's boats must be very near (although I had heard nothing official since the morning of yesterday), for our men were busily engaged setting fire to several of our gunboats lying at the wharf opposite Canal street. It was a beautiful, but a melancholy, sight to behold our boats burning. The floating battery was also on fire, but burning slowly, while our public-spirited little newsboys were throwing overboard from her deck the innumerable shells there collected. Most of those steamboats which had not left yet for up the river now backed out and shortly steamed off with their valuable cargoes of human beings and their riches in freight and baggage. About 10 o'clock this morning the people, with permission of the owners thereof, began to knock in the heads of sugar hogsheads and barrels and help themselves. Numbers were also engaged in rolling off barrels of molasses; and indeed, not only did the draymen carry home to their families full loads of these valuable articles, but even to a late hour in the evening the poor Dutch and Irish women, and even little boys and girls, were to be seen rolling through our streets both hogsheads and barrels of those and other articles. Thus were the poor provided for. The steamboat, or rather gunboat, ram, was set on fire about 1 o'clock and drifted from her moorings down past the city, a bright and glowing sight, but sad in the extreme. However, I should have first mentioned that about 12 or 12:30 o'clock the Yankee steamers, eight in number, hove in sight and were soon riding abreast of the Queen City of the South.

Two officers of the fleet came ashore under a flag of truce and proceeded under escort to the City Hall, where they met our city authorities. They demanded an unconditional surrender of the city and forts, under penalty of being immediately shelled out by them. It was indignantly refused, and I know nothing further. They returned to their fleet, and I do not know how things stand between us and them. We are still burning cotton, boats, etc., giving the sky an artificial lighting which outshines the brilliancy of the stars. The dusky, long, morose, demon-like Yankee steamers still lay like evil messengers of woe at our very front. As our invaders see the spirit shown by us in the flames of our cotton set on fire by [184] ourselves, they should read that we are unconquered and are determined to be free. The altars of prayer are thronged to-night, and may God be with us.

April 26, 1862.—The Yankees have not yet taken possession of our city. They sent several officers ashore to-day under a flag of truce. They came in two boats about 10 A. M. Their boats were well loaded with marines, who were armed with guns of the best and most approved description. Several of them stepped ashore, and it seemed to be the intention to come on land with all their men to escort and protect them on their way to the City Hall. It would have been a suicidal attempt on their part to pass through that excited crowd of enemies with thirty or more Lincoln marines at their back and around them. Lieutenant Birmingham, of the Crescent Reserves, who was standing on the wharf, said to them: ‘Gentlemen, you must not land without a flag of truce, and must not take any men as an escort either.’ One of them answered with an oath: ‘If we are not allowed we shall fire.’ Lieutenant Birmingham replied that he would ‘protect them to the City Hall, but they must take no hirelings with them.’ They cursed him and told him that they should fire. Said he: ‘Fire, then,’ baring his own breast to them. They, however, shortly repented, and the noble Birmingham escorted them safely through the infuriated crowd—three of them went—into the presence of the City Council. Although blamed by some hot-headed fools, still Lieutenant Birmingham did only his duty. They brought with them another demand from Commodore Farragut for ‘the immediate surrender of the city,’ and that we should pull down our State flag from the City Hall, whereon we should hoist an American flag, as well as hoist one on the mint, the custom-house, etc. Our mayor, Hon. John T. Monroe, sent the Commodore an answer, stating in substance that he deemed, and the city deemed, that he could not, being a civil officer, perform the military act of surrendering the city. Therefore he refused to surrender, adding that since our military under Lovell had all left the city, he had no army at the head of which he could put himself to resist them. Hence, if they wished that the American flag should float over our city, they must place it in position themselves, and that the miscreant citizen of New Orleans did not live who would dare to raise such a flag. So much for that interview.

It is stated by the knowing ones that the French, English, and all the consuls have entered a solemn protest against the shelling of this city by the Yankees. It is also said that word has been sent to the [185] French and English fleets below to come up and protect foreign property in our midst from destruction by the enemy. Several of the Yankee steamers have passed up by the city, probably to look after Memphis and other points above. At about 11 o'clock this morning I was startled, as were the crowd, by the rushing of some citizens through the crowd with an American flag wrapped around them. They took it into an empty room of the ground floor of the police-station, opposite the City Hall, on the corner of Lafayette and St. Charles streets. The crowd at once broke in the windows and soon the flag was in shreds. I was so fortunate as to secure a piece about an inch square. It seems that early in the morning an American boatload had landed by the mint and had raised their gridiron over the mint. About 10:30 A. M. a posse of our patriotic citizens assembled and pulled the flag down. While they were so doing the Yankees sent three shots at the brave man who had climbed the pole to get the flag. Fortunately he was unhurt, and the flag met with a fate that should attend all Yankee bunting. There are rumors in town that there has been a fight at Yorktown, on the Peninsula, and that we have been whipped, and that Richmond is laid in ashes. I don't believe that report. Again, there is circulating a report of a bloody fight at Monterey, in Tennessee, and that we have cut the enemy all to pieces. I pray to God that it may be true. However, rumors are so plentiful and frequently so untrue, that we should be slow to believe anything in times like these. The fall of New Orleans is probably a just punishment of her people, for we have been a proud and wicked people. Whom God would exalt he humbleth, and we are being humbled in the dust. May we, as a people, and as a city, come out in the end right side uppermost, and all the better for our present humiliation. God be with us and bless our absent dear ones, who are nobly battling for our rights and theirs. We know that thou wilt not desert a just and righteous cause, but will ever give strength to those who need it, whenever they acknowledge thee. We have not done enough for ourselves and God helps those who help themselves. Be glory and honor to his name forever, and may all the nations of the earth be subject to and serve him all the years of their existence.

April 29, 1862.—I shall have to commence with what took place on yesterday. There was very little of importance which happened, with the exception that there appeared to be a great deal more or excitement than on the day previous. At about 10 A. M. a party of officers came ashore, under a flag of truce, and brought a barbarous [186] communication from Commodore Farragut, demanding that we should surrender and haul down our State flag and hoist the Yankee flag over our public buildings. It was the same demand as before renewed, but the ultimatum of the bombardment of the city, if we still refused and continued so to do for forty-eight hours, from 12 M. of yesterday. The mayor made them at the time only a verbal answer, reaffirming what he had before said, that the people would never consent to such an act of humiliation. They then returned to their ships. At about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, the crowds on the levee were startled by the approach of the Yankee boats and the landing by them of one of our citizens. He would have been torn to pieces by the mob had not a company of the European Brigade arrived promptly on the spot. They took him in charge, and carried him and locked him up in the police-station, just above the City Hall. His name is Nolan, I think, and it seems that when the Yanks had been ashore in the fore part of the day, just as they were pushing off, he jumped into their midst and went with them to Hartford. I cannot imagine their reason for so doing, but they set him ashore again. As they did so, they said to him: ‘Don't you be afraid. If they harm you, we will fix them.’ He is a barkeeper, I hear. It yet remains to be seen what is to be done. During the rest of the day and evening, the talk on the streets and at the homes was in relation to the threat of the Federal commodore to shell us on Wednesday (the 30th) at 12 M.) All agreed that it was better to be shelled and killed than to lower our honor by giving up to their cruel demand. The ladies of New Orleans signed a petition and handed it to the mayor, requesting him not to give up to the demands of the Yankees. Nothing further occurred on yesterday.

To-day, at about 11 or 12 o'clock, the Federals came on shore, and under a strong guard of two or three Howitzers well-manned, and three hundred or more marines armed cap-a-pie, hoisted their bunting on the mint and post-office. They then proceeded to the City Hall, where they brought their Howitzers into position in front of the Hall on St. Charles street. They stationed their three hundred men with loaded muskets just inside the square in two ranks, back to back and about two feet between each rank. Then an officer with a guard of four men ascended into the City Hall, and mounting to the top, lowered the flag of the independent State of Louisiana. It was an unwarrantable act, and the people hissed and groaned and showed that they were not overcome by the presence of soldiery. The above step was taken by Commodore Farragut, as he stated in [187] a note to Mayor Monroe, on account of the surrender of General Duncan and the forts. Duncan was put ashore by the enemy on his parole, and the cheers that rung from the lips of his fellow citizens showed that he had secured a fast affection in their hearts by his gallant defense of the forts below. I have been told that the United States flag has been raised on the City Hall this afternoon, but not having been down town since 12:30 o'clock, I cannot tell. There is nothing further to note for the day.

May 2, 1862, 6.30 P. M..—There was very little of interest occurring yesterday, except that all the morning the Yankee boats were landing our soldiers and officers from below, having been released on parole. Everything throughout the day remained as before, only that the mayor earnestly called upon the citizens to help the European Brigade in the maintenance of order in town. General Paul Juge Fils deserves great credit for the manner in which he has kept the city from being a scene of riot and bloodshed. On yesterday, the 1st day of May, about 3:30 or 4 P. M., the Yankee transports hove in sight of the city and went up to the steamship landing and tackled alongside of the wharf. There were six or seven of their large ships and steamships loaded down, literally covered and crammed with their troops, looking for all the world like lumps of sugar covered with flies. The steamboat Diana, too, which they had captured, came up loaded with Yankees. She disgorged her crowd of them on the levee, as did the steamship Mississippi, of Boston. The former held a regiment of Wisconsin troops and the latter about fifteen hundred New England troops. Among them I noticed there were a great many foreigners—Irishmen and Germans, Hessians fighting for pay. Some of them went to the Jackson railroad to take possession of it, and some went to the custom-house. May God preserve us from these ravening wolves intruded upon us.

May 3, 1862, 9 P. M..—There were two or three thousand more of troops landed on yesterday from the Yankee transports. It seems that at 10 o'clock Thursday night (May 1), General Butler sent several of his officers to the True Delta office, with a request for that paper to publish a proclamation of his. None of the editors were in at the time, and the clerk informed them that ‘the editors not being in, he could give no definite answer.’ They left and did not return any more that night, but early next morning presented themselves, the editor being present, and requested that he publish the proclamation. He refused to do so, as he would thereby render [188] himself and his paper obnoxious to the citizens. They again left, but at 10 A. M. appeared with a platoon of soldiers and posted guards at the doors and detailed a squad of printers from their ranks to print said proclamation of said Butler. During yesterday morning the Yanks took possession of Lafayette square for a camp, and of the City Hall, posting guards inside and on the immediate outside of the latter. General Butler also ordered the occupation by his men of the St. Charles Hotel, which the proprietor had closed. Butler has there established his headquarters, and has it thoroughly guarded, and even has four field-pieces planted on the St. Charles street sidewalk. He means to be well protected himself. There are very many troops in the custom-house, and some are also quartered in Lytle's and Beard's warehouses, fronting the levee. Nothing of great moment happened to-day, except that the grand proclamation came out. I have read it and think nothing of it, though there is something in it to which to object. It is written in the regular Butler style of nonsensical bombast. The Ninth regiment of Connecticut volunteers arrived to-day, and they appeared to be a very rough set of fellows, being mostly foreigners. Rumors have been reaching us for several days of a great fight on the Peninsula, and that we have been successful and have cut the invaders to pieces. God be thanked for it, if true. I have two brothers under Magruder, and I pray God they may be safe. Good-night.

P. S.—I forgot to state that the telegraph offices were seized yesterday by the Yanks, and that they also look possession of the Evans House, on Poydras street, to use as a hospital. A couple of Federal officers entered the book-store of Thomas L. White, on Canal street, and asked if they had any copies of the maps of the Mississippi river. The proprietor answered, ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Well,’ said they, ‘we want to buy one. How much is it?’ Mr. White mentioned that he did not sell them. They then left, and shortly after appeared with a squad of soldiers and demanded that Mr. White sell them a copy. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘gentlemen, I should like to accommodate you, but there is nothing left of them but their ashes, and that would be of no use to you.’ Those Yankee officers left at once, feeling rather cheap, I should imagine. To my knowledge, there have been no Union flags displayed by any of our people, and it is to the everlasting honor of the Crescent City. Long live the glorious stars and bars of our beloved South.

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