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[214] by fever. The Confederates, moreover, were more and more threatening the communications of the two squadrons with their bases of operations, Memphis and New Orleans. Price was assembling his troops above Vicksburg, as if he intended to return to Arkansas. The disasters of the Federals in Virginia called for the exercise of the utmost prudence. Davis and Farragut determined to abandon all offensive operations for the moment. The former reascended the Mississippi as far as Helena, a little town situated on the right bank three hundred miles higher up. As throughout that section of the river there was not a single bluff to be met, upon which could be erected one of those batteries whose slanting fire was alone dreaded by the gun-boats, Davis felt sure of being able to descend the river as far as the vicinity of Vicksburg whenever he should think proper to do so.

The draught of Farragut's sloops-of-war would have sufficed to oblige him to bring them nearer to the mouth of the Mississippi when its waters were at the lowest point. On the 28th of July, he cast anchor before the levees of New Orleans, having left W. D. Porter with the Essex and Sumter below Vicksburg, and the two gun-boats Katahdin and Kineo at Baton Rouge. Williams' troops had been landed near that city, which thus became the last stage of the Federals above New Orleans.

Encouraged by this double retreat, Van Dorn sent Breckenridge, with about six thousand men and eleven cannon, to attempt the recapture of Baton Rouge. By seizing the official capital of Louisiana, the Confederates would have obtained a twofold advantage. The moral effect would have been considerable, while the capture of this place would have secured to them the possession of that portion of the river which receives the waters of Red River—a necessary line of communication, as we have said, for their supplies. The Arkansas, which had received a new sheathing of iron and cotton, was to unite with two gun-boats, the Webb and the Music, lying in Red River, and co-operate with Breckenridge's division in an attack upon Baton Rouge. The Federals had two gun-boats and the ram Essex with which to oppose them on the water, and on land four thousand men debilitated by sickness, with eighteen cannon. They had not been able to entrench themselves effectively, when on the 5th of August, at one

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