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[164] The fire of Fort Jackson was soon joined by that of St. Philip, which enfiladed the river and the Federal fleet without eliciting a single shot in return. The mortars had been directed to respond for them, and continued firing without intermission, while the gun-boats attached to their service, and the sailing-ship Portsmouth, had gone up within easy range of Fort Jackson and covered it with shells.

Both Farragut and Bailey found the passage between the dismantled vessels which were to arrest their course; the fires tardily kindled by the Confederates to light up the scene of the battle served them as guides; the two columns followed them and immediately discharged their guns against the two forts. The river was soon enveloped in smoke, which augmented still further the obscurity of the night and the difficulty of manoeuvring. The last gun-boats of the two columns lost sight of those that preceded them. The Kennebeck on the right, the Winona on the left, became entangled among the chains stretched between the brig-hulks; the former sunk one of the hulks, but wasted much precious time in getting free. At the same time, the Itasca, which preceded the Winona, was struck by a cannonball, which penetrated her boiler and disabled her; the two vessels ran foul of each other. The Itasca was carried away by the current, and the Winona, left alone after having tried in vain to find her way, was obliged to descend the river once more with the Kennebeck, under the concentrated fire of all the enemy's guns. While these events were taking place, the remainder of the fleet had, passed Fort Jackson, responding as best it could to the salvos of the Confederate batteries. Higgins' soldiers, crippled by Porter's projectiles, exhausted by six days bombardment, serving guns nearly all of which were in a damaged condition, in ruined casemates, had no means for stopping the Federal vessels, which escaped them with but trifling damage. In the midst of the darkness nothing but a fortunate chance cold have enabled them to sink one of those vessels in their passage.

But Fort St. Philip, which had scarcely sustained any damage from the bombardment, was more formidable. Bailey had already passed it with the Cayuga, after having fired grape into the embrasures, in conformity with the instructions of the commodore;

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