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[149]

Book II:—the naval war.


Chapter 1:

New Orleans.

NEW Orleans was the most important of all the cities of the Confederacy, as well on account of its population, numbering one hundred and seventy thousand souls, as by its position on the lower course of the Mississippi. It had within its walls but an insignificant number of slaves, about thirteen thousand, but it was the principal mart of all the rich cotton and sugar plantations which lined both banks of the Mississippi, and which were exclusively cultivated by negro labor. Its inhabitants, therefore, widely divided by the difference of race and language, had always been unanimous in sustaining the cause of slavery since it had played the first part in the political affairs of the republic, nor had they been among the less zealous in raising the standard of secession in 1861. Many of them had fought bravely on the battle-field of Bull Run. Should the Confederacy ever be recognized and enjoy a tranquil independent existence—should it succeed in realizing the dream of that vast association known by the name of Knights of the Golden Circle, and encompass the Gulf of Mexico by annexing Cuba on one side and Mexico on the other—the queen of the Mississippi was certain to become the capital of this new power. So long as the war lasted it was a strategic point of the utmost importance. If the Federals should succeed in taking possession of this city, they would obtain a foothold in the centre of one of the richest rebel States; they would take from their adversaries a port which required a large number of vessels to blockade, and would secure a strong base of operations from which to attack in rear the armies charged with the defence of the upper course of the Mississippi. Consequently, since the

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