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Chapter 19: battle of the forts and capture of New Orleans.

It is desirable in some respects to make this a book of reference, especially in regard to official letters, which seldom or ever are seen by the public, the several reports of Admiral Farragut, also those of his officers, contain details of the battle at the forts, and of the capture of New Orleans, which can best be told by those who were participators in those stirring scenes, and they are appended to the general account of the battle. In the course of a few years these letters will become inaccessible, except from the files of the Navy Department, and they should be treasured as the ground-work of the history of the most important naval battle of modern times,--we do not think any excuse is needed for inserting them here.

Commencement and progress of the bombardment of Fort Jackson.

United States Flag-Ship Hartford, Mississippi River, April 2, 1862.
Sir — We commenced the bombardment of Fort Jackson on the 16th, which was the earliest day possible after the arrival of coal. On the first day the citadel was set on fire, and burnt until two o'clock the next morning. On the 17th we made but little apparent impression on the fort.

On the 18th we dismounted one of their heavy Columbiads and otherwise appeared to damage them, and drove the men from the parapet guns, so that they only appeared occasionally when the gun-boats took part in the bombardment to draw the fire from the bomb vessels. On the 19th a deserter came to us from the fort, and gave the information that I have stated above, and much other information in relation to the armament of the forts and their general condition.

The wind was blowing from the northwest, and chilly, the current running with great strength, so that the ships, when under way, could scarcely stem it, so that I shall await a change of wind and a consequent less violent current before I attack the forts, as I find great difficulty in avoiding collisions among the vessels. Two of the gun-boats, Katahdin and Sciota. have been seriously damaged by getting across-hawse of the ships and running into each other. We lose a great many anchors and cables, and those articles are very much wanted in the squadron. The Hartford is almost the only ship that has not lost both.

On the first day's fire of the enemy they put a shot through one of the mortar vessels and killed one man but did not destroy her efficiency. The second day they sunk one with a rifle shot, but hurt no one materially. They have sent down five firerafts; none produced any effect on the fleet except the last, which only caused the collision of the Sciota and Kineo, both of which vessels dragged across the bows of the Mississippi, and carried away the mainmast of the first, and damaged them both very much otherwise; the raft was turned clear of all the vessels of the fleet, but as the wind and strong current were peculiarly favorable, it gave us more trouble than on any former occasion. [190]

I sent up Commander Bell last evening to destroy the chain and raft across the river, but the current was so strong that he could accomplish but little, in consequence of one of his gun-boats getting on shore, and she was only saved by great exertion, as the enemy was firing on them all the time.

Commander Porter, however, kept up such a tremendous fire on them from the mortars that the enemy's shot did the gunboats no injury, and the cable was separated and their connection broken sufficiently to pass through on the left bank of the river. The petard operator failed to fire his petards, owing to the breaking of his wires, which prevented the full destruction of the chain and the vessels; but great allowance is to be made for the violence of the current, which exceeds anything we have had to contend with since our arival in the river.

In conclusion, I regret to say that the fleet is in want of all the essentials to carry on our work — shells, fuses (15″ and 20″,) serge and yarn, to make cartridge-bags, grape and canister shot — for all of which I made large requisitions, and the articles may be on their way out.

The medical department is miserably supplied for the care of the wounded. General Butler has offered to share with us, in fact. everything he has, which will supply many of our wants; but justice to myself requires me to say that I required all these supplies some time before I left Hampton Roads, and others immediately on my arrival at Key West or Ship Island, and I suppose accidental causes have stopped them on their way out here.1

My coal arrived just in time.

All of which is respectfully submitted by your obedient servant,

D. G. Farragut, Flag-officer, Western Gulf Blockading Squadron. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

Attack on forts Jackson and St. Philip.

United States Flag-Ship Hartford, at anchor off New Orleans, April 25, 1862.
Sir — I have the honor to inform the department that on the 24th instant, at about half-past 3 A. M., I attacked Fort St. Philip and Fort Jackson with my little fleet. while Commander Porter most gallantly bombarded them, and, besides, took them in the flank with his steamers, aided by the Portsmouth. Such a fire I imagine, the world has rarely seen, but, thank God, we got past the forts with a loss of only twenty-four killed and eighty-six wounded; but as I have not heard what became of the three gun-boats, Kennebec, Itasca, and Winona, I fear they were lost in passing, and the Varuna was run into by two of the Confederate steamers, and finally sunk: I took (and burnt) eleven steam gun-boats, and two hundred troops or upwards. I then pushed up for the city of New Orleans, leaving two gun-boats to aid General Butler in landing at the quarantine, and sent him a communication by Commander Boggs, requesting him to come up at once. I came up to within six or seven miles of the city, when two forts opened on us, but we silenced them in fifteen or twenty minutes, although it was warm work while it lasted. I have not yet heard of the killed and wounded. We only lost one man and none wounded, although Captain Bailey, in the Cayuga, with Lieut. Com. Harrison, and this ship, stood the first brunt of the action, before the other vessels could get up. We drove them from their guns, and passed up to the city in fine style, and I now send this notice of our having taken possession of the city at meridian or a few minutes P. M.

But I must say I never witnessed such vandalism in my life as the destruction of property; all the shipping, steamboats, etc., were set on fire and consumed. The new iron-clad ram, just finished, but without her machinery, went floating by us. While I am finishing this report, Captain Bailey has been sent to demand the surrender of the city to me in the name of the United States.

I shall now send down with this letter Commander Smith, in the Mississippi, to look after General Butler, and a ram, which it appears we left behind at Fort Jackson, as it might be more than a match for the two gun-boats I left behind.

In conclusion, I hope I have done all I proposed to do, which was, to take the city of New Orleans; and I will now, in conjunction with the Army, General Butler, reduce the forts, and take care of the outlet from the west, and purpose immediately to ascend to meet Flag-officer Foote.

The conduct of the officers and men has been such as to command my highest admiration, and shall hereafter be a subject of more special commendation.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. G. Farragut, Flag-officer, Western Gulf Blockading Squadron. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.


Announcement of the capture of forts Jackson and St. Philip and surrender of New Orleans.

United States Flag-Ship Hartford, at anchor off New Orleans, April 29, 1862.
Sir — I am happy to announce to you that our flag waves over both Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and at New Orleans over the custom-house. I am taking every means to secure the occupation by General Butler of all the forts along the coast. Berwick's Bay and Fort Pike have been abandoned; in fact, there is a general stampede, and I shall endeavor to follow it up. * *

I am bringing up the troops as fast as possible. We have destroyed all the forts above the city, four in number; which are understood to be all the impediments between this and Memphis.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

D. G. Farragut, Flag-officer, Western Gulf Blockading Squadron. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

Flag-officer Farragut's detailed report of the battles of the Mississippi.

United States Flag-Ship Hartford, at anchor off New Orleans, May 6, 1862.
Sir — I have the honor herewith to forward my report, in detail, of the battle of New Orleans. On the 23d of March I made all my arrangements for the attack on, and passage of,

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