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Farragut's demands for the surrender of New Orleans.

Marion A. Baker, the Mayor's Private Secretary.
On the morning of the 25th of April, 1862, there being no longer any doubt as to the approach of the Federal fleet, Mayor Monroe determined to hoist the flag of Louisiana over the City Hall. At his request, I ascended to the roof of the building prepared to execute his design, but with instructions to await the issue of the possible contest at Chalmette, some four miles below the center of the city where our last line of defense was established. I waited accordingly with the flag bent on to the halliards, and my gaze fixed eagerly upon the approaching steamers. Suddenly quick flashes leaping from their dark sides indicated that they were abreast of the redoubts, but their fire was delivered without check to their speed, and in hardly more time than I take to tell of it, they were dark and silent once more.

I reported to Mr. Monroe, who was standing in the street below, that it was all over, and at a signal from him I ran up the flag whose lowering was to be the occasion of so much angry controversy.

There was now nothing left to do but to wait and speculate upon the probable course of the enemy, and we were not long kept in suspense. At half-past 1 came two officers, wearing the uniform of the United States Navy. Mr. Monroe received them courteously and presented them to the Hon. Pierre Soule and a number of other gentlemen who chanced to be present, chiefly councilmen and members of the Committee of Public Safety. The senior officer, Captain Bailey, second in command of the fleet, then stated that he came as the bearer of a demand from Flag-Officer Farragut, for the surrender of the city, the lowering of the State flag on the City Hall, and the hoisting of the United States flag over the Post-office, Custom-house, and Mint.

The interview took the form of an informal, open conference between Captain Bailey and the mayor, Mr. Soule, and the other gentlemen whose connection with public affairs gave them the right to engage in it. The mayor's advisers agreed with him that he had no authority to surrender the city, and that General Lovell was the proper person to receive and reply to that demand. To the second clause, relating to the lowering of the State flag, an unqualified refusal was returned. Mr. Monroe then sent for General Lovell, and while they waited for his coming, conversation turned upon other subjects.

General Lovell appeared promptly, and Captain Bailey repeated his demand to him, prefacing it with the statement that his mission was to the mayor and common council. The general refused to surrender the city or his forces, but stated that he would retire with his troops, and leave the civil authorities to act as they saw fit. The question of the surrender being thus referred back to him, the mayor said that he would submit the matter to the council, and send a formal reply as soon as their advice could be obtained, whereupon the officers withdrew, being furnished with an escort by General Lovell.

The council met at 6:30 that evening, and received a message from the mayor. As a civil magistrate, he held that he was incompetent to the performance of a military act, and thought it would be proper to say that the withdrawal of the troops rendering resistance impossible, no obstruction could be offered to the occupation of the place by the enemy; but that all acts involving a transfer of authority must be performed by the invading force themselves. “We yield to physical force alone,” said the mayor, “and maintain our allegiance to the Government of the Confederate States. Beyond this a due respect for our dignity, our rights, and the flag of our country does not, I thinly, permit us to go.”

The council, unwilling to act hastily in so important a matter, simply listened to the reading of this message, and adjourned to meet again at 10 A. M. of the next day. I saw the mayor at his own house that evening, and he requested me to go off to the Hartford as early as possible the next morning, and explain to Flag-Officer Farragut that the council would meet at 10 that morning, and that a written answer to his demands would be returned as soon as possible after that hour. Mr. Monroe took this step entirely upon his own responsibility, fearing probably that the delay in the official reply might in some way be construed to our disadvantage. About 6 o'clock the next morning, Mr. McClelland, chief of police, and myself took a boat at the foot of Lafayette street, and hoisting a handkerchief upon a walking-stick by way of a flag of truce, were pulled out to the flag-ship. Having made myself known as the bearer of a message from the mayor of the city to Captain Farragut, we were invited on board, and shown to the flag-officer's cabin, where we found assembled the three commanders, Farragut, Bailey, and Bell.

Captain Farragut, who had known me from my boyhood, received me with the utmost kindness, and when my errand was disposed of readily answered my inquiries about the battle at the forts. He took me over the ship and showed me with almost boyish interest the manner in which the boilers were defended, and the scars upon the ship's sides where the shots had taken effect. Then making me stand beside him upon the very spot where he had stood during the passage of the forts, he described in eloquent terms the conflict, perhaps the most terrific that had ever been with-stood. “I seemed to be breathing flame,” said the captain. It was still quite early when we reached the wharf on our return, and the levee appeared deserted, but, though we saw nobody, we were seen. We went at 8 o'clock to the mayor's office to make our report. While still with him Mr. Soule entered, accompanied by his son, and with much excitement made known the fact that two [96] persons, traitors beyond doubt, had that very morning been seen to leave one of the enemy's ships and land at the levee. He strongly urged the arrest and punishment of the guilty persons, and the mayor blandly promised that it should be attended to, while the guilty persons silently enjoyed the little joke.

The council met at the appointed hour, and, having listened to a second reading of the mayor's message, unanimously resolved, that being “informed by the military authorities that the city was indefensible” no resistance would be made to the forces of the United States. Also that the “council and the entire population of this metropolis concurred in the sentiments expressed by the mayor, and that he be respectfully requested to act in the spirit manifested in said message.” In anticipation of such a result, a letter had already been prepared embodying the views contained in the message, and reiterating the determination neither to hoist the United States flag nor lower that of our own adoption.

Mr. Monroe, though a man of much energy and decision of character, was entirely a : “self-made” man, and his secretary was very young. Both were inexperienced in diplomatic correspondence; indeed, the emergency was one quite unexampled in the experience of the chief magistrate of an American city. We had, therefore, called to our assistance Mr. Durant da Ponte, at that time one of the editors and proprietors of the New Orleans Delta, with which paper I had been connected previous to my appointment as private secretary to the mayor. At the invitation of the council I appeared before them and read the letter we had prepared. It was well received, and from expressions let fall by some of the members I retired with the impression that it was entirely satisfactory. Shortly afterward, however, a message was brought the mayor, requesting his presence in the council chamber. The object of this summons was to gain his consent to the substitution of a letter written by Mr. Soule, and submitted to their consideration by one of the members.

The relations between the mayor and the council had not been of the most harmonious character, and he, wishing to conciliate them at this unfortunate juncture, yielded to their wish.

Before a copy of this letter could be made ready for transmission to the fleet, two officers, Lieutenant Albert Kautz and Midshipman John H. Read, appeared bearing a written demand, couched in the most peremptory terms, for the “unqualified surrender of the city,” the hoisting of “the emblem of the sovereignty of the United States” over the Mint, Custom-house, and City Hall by meridian of that day (Saturday, April 26th), and the removal of all emblems of sovereignty other than that of the United States from all public buildings by that hour.

Mr. Monroe added a paragraph to the letter acknowledging the receipt of this last communication and promising a reply before 2 o'clock, if possible. I set out at once to convey it to Captain Farragut. As a matter of fact, the United States flag had already been raised on the Mint, and I called the attention of the Federal commander to the fact that a flag had been raised while negotiations were still pending. Captain Farragut replied that the flag had been placed there without his knowledge, but he could not now order it down. His men, he said, were flushed with victory, and much excited by the taunts and gibes of the crowd on the levee. Pointing to the “tops” where a number of men were stationed, some armed with muskets, others nervously clutching the strings of the howitzers, he called my attention to their excited appearance, and remarked that it was as much as he could do to restrain them from firing on the crowd, and should he attempt to haul that flag down, it would be impossible to keep them within bounds.1

I returned to the City Hall before Lieutenant Kautz and Midshipman Read had concluded their visit. A large and excited crowd were outside. Some of them pressed their way up the front steps, and seemed intent upon entering the building. In order to prevent their forcing an entrance, the mayor ordered the heavy doors to be closed. Upon [97]

Pierre Soule. from a Daguerreotype taken about 1851.

my arrival, I learned that the United States flag had just been torn down from the Mint.

Mr. Monroe, thinking it unwise for the officers to attempt to return openly to their boat, proposed to send them back under military escort. Lieutenant Kautz thought that quite unnecessary, but the mayor persisting that there was danger, a carriage was sent for and was stationed at the corner of Carondelet and Lafayette streets. Aided by two special officers of the police, I conducted them through a rear entrance while the mayor occupied the crowd in front, and got them into the carriage, but we were discovered as we drove away, and some of the crowd started up St. Charles street with the evident expectation of heading us off. I ordered the driver to whip up his horses and turn into Julia street, the second street above, and drive post-haste to the river. Many of our pursuers were armed, and I expected that we would be fired at as we crossed St. Charles street, but we went by so rapidly that they had no opportunity to fire, even had they so intended. They kept up the chase for some distance, but we so outstripped them that the most enduring finally gave it up. The officers' boat was found lying some little distance off in the stream, and the coxswain explained that he had been compelled to push out from the landing to prevent his tiller-ropes from being cut. No violence was offered to our party. As we took our places in the boat a shot was fired from the bow-gun of the Hartford, and for a moment I fancied that the fleet was about to bombard the city, but the officers explained that it was the signal recalling them to the ship.

The police force being clearly inadequate for the preservation of order, the mayor now called to his assistance the European Brigade, an organization made up of foreign residents, and commanded by General Paul Juge, fils. This general issued a proclamation assuming command of all foreign troops “by order of his Honor John T. Monroe,” and asking the aid of all good citizens in the preservation of order.

The mayor was thus constituted commander-in-chief of an army, as well as of the civil forces, and the City Hall became a sort of military Headquarters. Officers in gorgeous uniforms glittering with gold lace clanked their swords across the [98] marble-paved halls, and from one to half a dozen mounted orderlies were constantly in waiting in the street, while I and the whole clerical force of the office were kept busy issuing requisitions for arms, horses, forage, and provisions for the home brigade, and orders for transportation, by steam-boat and rail, for Confederate troops, en route from the outlying fortifications to General Lovell's Headquarters, at Camp Moore. Martial law reigned, and a countersign was communicated to the patrol every night, without which no citizen was allowed to pass after 9 o'clock. A dispute arising between two officers of the French Legion as to precedence in rank, the matter was referred to the mayor for decision. Mr. Munroe improvised a military court, before which the disputants appeared, represented by learned counsel. Mr. Soule was advocate for one side, and under the threatening guns of the fleet the momentous question was gravely argued and decided. I have still before me the dramatic figure of the victor as he issued from the tribunal, waving his cap in triumph, closely followed by the gorgeously equipped members of his staff.

Sunday passed without intercourse with the fleet, but Monday brought a still more vivid excitement in the shape of a communication from Flag-Officer Farragut, reciting all the evidences of insubordination and contumacy on the part of the citizens and authorities, and admonishing us that the fire of the fleet might be drawn upon the city at any moment. “The election is with you,” says the flag-officer, “but it becomes my duty to notify you to remove the women and children within forty-eight hours if I have rightly understood your determination.”

This communication was brought to the City Hall by Commander Henry H. Bell, who was accompanied by Acting Master Herbert B. Tyson. After reading it Mr. Monroe said: “As I consider this a threat to bombard the city, and as it is a matter about which the notice should be clear and specific, I desire to know when the forty-eight hours began to run.”

“It begins from the time you receive this notice,” replied the captain.

“Then,” said the mayor, taking out his watch and showing it to the captain, “you see it is fifteen minutes past 12 o'clock.”

Commander Bell acknowledged the correctness of the mayor's time, and went on to say that he was further charged to call attention to the “bad faith” of the commander of the McRae, the steamer which had brought up the wounded and dead from the forts under a flag of truce, in either sinking or allowing his steamer to sink without reporting to the flag-officer his inability to keep his pledge and take it back to the forts.

The council was convoked for the consideration of Captain Farragut's letter, and the mayor appeared before them and gave his views regarding the answer to be returned. Captain Farragut had assumed as his own act the raising of the flag on the Mint and alluded to an attempt having been made by him to place one upon the Custom-house. The mayor's reply, which was drafted by Mr. Soul6, renews his refusal to lower the flag of Louisiana. “This satisfaction,” he says, “you cannot obtain at our hands. We will stand your bombardment, unarmed and undefended as we are.”

Accompanied by Mr. Soul6 I conveyed this reply to the Hartford early on the morning of the 29th. On our arrival Mr. Soule at once entered upon a discussion of international law, which was listened to patiently by the flag-officer and Commanders Bailey and Bell. When Mr. Soul had concluded, Captain Farragut replied that he was a plain sailor and it was not expected that he should understand the nice points of international usage; that he was simply there as the commander of the fleet and aimed only to do his duty in that capacity.

Mr. Soule, having apparently fulfilled his mission, now asked to be set on shore, as he had an engagement at 9 o'clock. This engagement was to meet the mayor and some others, including, if I remember aright, General Lovell (who had come down to the city from Camp Moore), with a view of urging upon them a scheme for making a combined night attack, by means of a flotilla of ferry-boats, upon the fleet, whose ammunition it was generally believed had been exhausted. There had been an informal conference at the mayor's residence the evening previous, at which I was present, when Mr. Soul6 unfolded his plan of the contemplated night attack and urged it strongly upon the mayor's attention. The meeting at 9 o'clock the following morning was for the purpose of discussing this matter more freely. It was, however, too late for such an undertaking, even had the plan been a much more feasible one. The forts had surrendered! Captain Farragut had already dispatched a message to the mayor notifying him of that event, and adding that he was about to raise the United States flag on the Mint and Custom-house. He still insisted that the lowering of the flag over the City Hall should be the work of those who had raised it, but before I left the ship he had yielded that point also, and I reported to my chief that there would be no bombardment and that the ungrateful task of lowering our flag would be performed by those who demanded its removal.

Mayor Monroe at once issued a proclamation requesting all citizens “to retire to their homes during these acts of authority which it would be folly to resist,” and impressing upon them the melancholy consolation that the flag was not to be removed by their authorities, “but by those who had the power and the will to exercise it.” I carried a copy of this proclamation on board the flag-ship.

The duty of raising and removing the flags was intrusted to Captain Bell. I left the ship in advance of his force, and returned to the City Hall to report their coming. The stage was now set for the last act, and soon the officers, marines, and sailors appeared in Lafayette square with bayonets and two brass howitzers glittering in the sunlight. The marines were formed in line on the St. Charles street side of the square near the iron railing which at that time inclosed it, while the guns were drawn through the gates out into the middle of the street, and placed so as to command the thorough-fare either way. [99]

The crowd flowed in from every direction and filled the street in a compact mass both above and below the square. They were silent, but angry and threatening. Many openly displayed their arms. An open way was left in front of the hall, and their force being stationed, Captain Bell and Lieutenant Kautz passed across the street, mounted the hall steps, and entered the mayor's parlor, Approaching the mayor, Captain Bell said: “I have come in obedience to orders to haul down the State flag from this building.”

Mr. Monroe replied, his voice trembling with restrained emotion, “Very well, sir, you can do it; but I wish to say that there is not in my entire constituency so wretched a renegade as would be willing to exchange places with you.”

He emphasized this speech in a manner which must have been very offensive to the officers. Captain Bell visibly restrained himself from reply and asked at once that he might be shown the way to the roof. The mayor replied by referring him to the janitor, whom he would find outside.

As soon as the two officers left the room, Mr. Monroe also went out and placed himself immediately in front of the howitzer pointing down St. Charles street. There, folding his arms, he fixed his eyes upon the gunner who stood lanyard in hand ready for action. Here he remained until the flag had been hauled down and Lieutenant Kautz and Captain Bell had reappeared. At an order from the officers the sailors drew their howitzers back into the square, the marines fell into marching order behind them, and retired as they had come. As they passed out through the Camp street gate, Mr. Monroe turned toward the hall, and the people who had hitherto preserved the silence he had asked from them broke into cheers for their mayor.

1 This conversation, which was quite informal, did not at the time assume in my estimation the importance lent to it by subsequent events which occurred after I left the city as bearer of dispatches to President Davis at Richmond. In the excitement of the next few hours and the anomalous multiplication of my duties, it is possible that I may have even neglected to report it to the mayor, but it is certain that the impression obtained at the City Hall that the act was entirely unauthorized. Parton, whose account of the capture of the city is, in some respects, very incorrect, and who makes the tearing down of the United States flag from the Mint occur on Sunday the 27th, instead of Saturday the 26th, as shown by the record, says that General Butler arrived a few hours after that event, to share in the exasperation of the fleet and the councils of its chief. It was Butler, according to this historian, who advised the threat to bombard, and the order for the removal of the women and children. It may have been by his advice, also, that Captain Farragut assumed the placing of the flag on the Mint as his act, wishing to give it sufficient weight to make the tearing of it down a punishable offense.--M. A. B.

It will be noted that on page 92 Commander Kautz says the flag was raised over the Mint on the morning of April 26th in accordance with instructions from Farragut to Captain Morris of the Pensacola. But in a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, dated April 27th, Farragut himself says: “This morning at 6 A. M. I sent to Captain Morris, whose ship commanded the Mint, to take possession of it and hoist the American flag thereon, which was done and the people cheered it.”

The apparent contradictions of these various statements cannot be disposed of by a study of the “Official Records.” Neither do military and naval histories shed clear light on the subject. But the facts, half-truths, and explainable misapprehensions that can be sifted from the mass indicate that early on the morning of the 26th a boat's crew from the fleet, without orders from Farragut, raised a flag over the Mint. This flag was hauled down by Mumford on April 27th, as related above by Farragut, and another flag was raised over the Mint in accordance with the flag-officer's instructions to Captain Morris. Before the first flag had been hauled down, the flag-officer, as intimated in his conversation with Mr. Baker, had decided to assume responsibility for the raising of it; this he did officially in a communication to the mayor dated April 28th. Apparently, therefore, Kautz has made the mistake of connecting the first flag with the order for the raising of the second flag.--Editors.

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