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[162] the fort would have been destroyed in two or three days. General Duncan and his two lieutenants, Colonels Higgins and McIntosh, encouraged, however, their soldiers by their own example. The five or six heavy guns which alone would reach the station occupied by the Federal ships were constantly at work; fire-ships came down the river every night. There was nothing, therefore, to indicate the termination of the struggle; to put an end to it, Farragut determined to attempt a bold stroke, and to force the passes under the fire of the enemy's guns.

Nor was this an alternative resorted to in a moment of embarrassment, but rather a plan long cherished by that mind at once so calculating and so bold. Combining the two greatest qualities of a warrior, forming his plans with calm deliberation, foreseeing every danger which they could present, and executing them without hesitation, Farragut had promised the government at Washington to capture New Orleans. He had announced before embarking that he should, if necessary, place himself with his wooden vessels before the enemy's forts, that, instead of fighting them at a distance, he should approach them within short range, to fill the embrasures of their casemates with grape, and that by sacrificing one or two of his ships he would secure a passage for the rest of his fleet. This was the manoeuvre he was about to attempt, which, often repeated by him with the same intrepidity and success during the war, was to place him in the highest rank among the naval commanders of our epoch. He may probably have been engaged on other occasions in more desperate conflicts than the one for which he was preparing on the 23d of April, 1862, but on this day he was going to make the first trial of a new system; and as the admiral himself said to us in his own graphic language a few years later, ‘It was like the egg broken by Christopher Columbus; it was .necessary to imagine what no one had ever accomplished before under similar circumstances.’ It was necessary, above all, to be able to execute so rash a manoeuvre at a time when the vast superiority of forts over wooden vessels was everywhere asserted. Farragut was fortunately assisted by resolute officers, to whom he was not afraid of saying by way of encouragement that ‘they would have to meet their foe in a kind of warfare most unfavorable to the navy.’

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