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Chapter 31: operations of Farragut's vessels on the coast of Texas, etc.

While Flag-officer Farragut was engaged in the operations before Vicksburg, down to the time when he passed the batteries at Port Hudson, many events occurred in the fleet which have not been mentioned heretofore, as it could not have been done without interrupting the narrative of current events.

Farragut's command up to May, 1863, included the Mississippi River as far as Vicksburg, and all its tributaries below; also the coasts of Louisiana, Florida and Texas, extending from Pensacola on the east to the mouth of the Rio Grande, including that network of bays, streams, inlets, bayous, sounds, and island groups which extends from the mouth of the Mississippi as far west as Sabine Pass, and the difficult bars and channels leading to Galveston, Matagorda and Corpus Christi, where none but the smallest vessels could enter, and which afforded safe refuges for blockade-runners during the entire war.

This coast, with its indentations, is over 600 miles in length, and had to be guarded with great care to prevent supplies reaching the Confederates through the numerous gates leading into Louisiana and Texas.

The Federal officers had to exercise great watchfulness in guarding against the people they had to contend with, for they were a brave, hardy set of men, regardless of danger, and amply supplied with smallarms and field-artillery to withstand any attack that could be made upon then by the combined forces of our Army and Navy.

The blockade of this part of the Southern coast had been indifferently carried on while Farragut was confined to his operations in the Mississippi, for it took every vessel he had to control that part of the river which was under his command; and it was not until after the fall of Port Hudson, when the navigation of the river was once more free, that the smaller vessels could be spared.

All this time the Confederates on the coasts of Louisiana and Texas kept up active operations with their blockade-runners, which had nothing to interfere with them until August, 1862, when Farragut sent down a small force of sailing-vessels and one small steamer (the Sachem) to try and close some of the Texan ports.

Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant J. W. Kittredge, with the bark Arthur, the abovementioned steamer, and an armed launch, proceeded on this duty. He captured Corpus [346] Christi and the adjacent waters, from whence so many small craft had been running to Havana

Lieutenant Kittredge showed not only great cleverness in the performance of this duty but cool courage. He had under his command a small yacht (the Corypheus) and with the aid of her crew he removed some obstructions which the Confederates had placed in Corpus Christi “dug-out” to protect several small schooners which they had collected at that point. Lieutenant Kittredge ran his vessel through the gut and attacking one of the schooners, she was soon driven ashore and burned. Another one was also set on fire by the enemy. He then ran across the bay to Corpus Christi, with his little flotilla following him, and called upon the authorities to surrender and for the military forces to evacuate the town.

The Confederates set fire to a sloop on his approach and asked for a truce of forty-eight hours. At the end of that time they refused to evacuate the place, and on August 16th opened fire on Kittredge's vessel from a battery planted behind the levee. This was replied to with spirit by the Union vessels, which kept up such an incessant and accurate fire on the enemy, that they were three times driven from their guns on that day. At night-fall the Union forces withdrew out of range. The next day the Confederates set fire to a steamer that had run aground and could not be moved.

On August 20th, Lieutenant Kittredge went to work again on the enemy. He landed a 12-pounder howitzer under command of Master's Mate A. H. Reynolds, placed the schooner Reindeer, Master's Mate William Barker, in position to cover the landing party, and proceeded to enfilade the enemy's battery and pour shrapnel and canister into his flank.

Master's Mate Reynolds moved up his howitzer to within musket range, and mowed the enemy down, the latter deployed 100 infantry to the right of the land party with the intention of flanking it, but they were soon scattered and driven off by the fire of the Reindeer and her consorts. The Confederates then charged the 12-pound howitzer with 250 men, and for a time its capture seemed certain. But Lieutenant Kittredge moved the Corypheus and Sachem close in shore, and met the enemy with so heavy a fire of canister that they wavered and retreated with considerable loss. The engagement continued all day, the enemy's battery was silenced and the vessels shelled the town.

This was a very gallant affair, conducted entirely by volunteer officers, who, although they had not received a regular naval training, displayed as much ability as if they had.

Not leaving the force to hold the town, the flotilla laid out in the bay and blockaded it. Unfortunately the gallant Kittredge was surprised and with his boat's crew captured while reconnoitering.

Galveston, Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi fell into the Federal hands a short time afterwards; the former place being captured by Commander Renshaw without the loss of a man. This for a time put a stop to blockade-running on the Texas coast. Its unfortunate recapture, the loss of the Harriet Lane and the blowing up of the Westfield, have been already related, and Galveston once more became a shelter to blockade-runners, which much rejoiced the hearts of our enemies in Texas. Their success at this point fired the hearts of the Texan soldiers and they assembled in large numbers along the coast, making it very dangerous to attempt any landing operations without the assistance of the army, which it seems was not prepared for such a purpose.

Several unimportant affairs occurred along the coast, but nothing of a very satisfactory nature.

Maj.-Gen. Banks, who had relieved General Butler at New Orleans, wishing to commemorate his appointment by a signal victory over the enemy, proposed a combined expedition against Sabine Pass, which had been retaken and fortified by the enemy. The defences on shore, it was supposed, consisted only of two 32-pounders, while on the water the Confederates had two steamboats converted into rams.

The Army organization consisted of 4,000 men under General Franklin; and Commodore H. H. Bell, who commanded the naval force at New Orleans in the absence of the Flag-officer, detailed Volunteer-Lieutenant Frederick Crocker to command the naval part of the expedition, consisting of the steamer Clifton, the steamer Sachem, Volunteer-Lieutenant Amos Johnson; steamer Arizona, Acting-Master H. Tibbetts, and steamer Granite City, Acting-Master C. W. Lamson. This force was considered quite sufficient for the purpose intended.

It was concerted with General Franklin that the gun-boats should make the first attack alone, led by Lieutenant Crocker, assisted by 180 sharp-shooters divided amongst the vessels, and after driving the enemy from his defences and destroying or driving off the rams, the transports were to advance and land the troops. In all, these vessels carried twenty-seven guns, which one would suppose was enough to dispose of the few guns the enemy had mounted.

The attack, which was to have been a surprise at early dawn, was not made until [347] 3 P. M. on the 8th of September, 1863, twenty-eight hours after the expedition had appeared off the Sabine.

A reconnaissance had been made in the morning by Generals Franklin and Weitzel and Lieutenant Crocker. when they decided on a plan of attack. Commodore Bell had sent two good pilots down in the Granite City. At 3 P. M. the transports were over the bar, the Granite City leading them in, for the purpose of covering the landing of the troops

The Clifton, Sachem and Arizona engaged a battery of seven guns. A shot struck the boiler of the Sachem and she was soon enveloped in steam. The Clifton ran directly under the fort and for twenty minutes fired rapidly grape, canister and shell, receiving a heavy fire in return. She soon afterwards got on shore, and not being able to back off, hauled down her colors — as did also the Sachem.

The Arizona stood down the channel and took her station ahead of the transports. She got ashore also; several of the transports were aground and the Granite City went to the support of the Arizona, which it was necessary to do, for a Confederate steamer (probably one of the rams) was coming down the river. This steamer, whatever she was, got the Clifton and Sachem afloat and towed them up the river.

The Arizona, Granite City and trans ports got over the bar and made the best of their way to South West Pass, the army having made no attempt to land. The Granite City and Arizona do not appear to have received any injuries, but they made no attempt to rescue the two steamers that had surrendered.

This was rather a melancholy expedition and badly managed It resulted in the loss of some twenty men killed and many wounded on board the Clifton and Sachem, and was somewhat injurious to the prestige of the Navy. It did not, however, reflect any discredit upon the officers of the Clifton or Sachem. as both of these vessels were gallantly fought.

This affair, with some minor matters, ended the operations of the West Gulf blockading squadron on the coast up to September, 1863. The latter year had not been as successful as the one previous, yet the squadron did a great deal of hard work and its officers were engaged in scenes where they gained reputation, and the Union flag was in no ways dimmed.

After Farragut had passed Port Hudson with the Hartford and Arizona, he was quite isolated from the rest of his squadron, but was finally re-enforced by the gun-boat Estrella. which worked its way up through the Atchafalaya into the Red River and joined the other vessels at its mouth, at the same time running the risk of being mistaken for a Confederate rain and getting a broadside from her consorts.

Farragut might have run past Port Hudson with his vessels in the night without firing a gun or receiving a shot, but he was doing more good where he was. Port Hudson was completely cut off from supplies via Red River, and the two gun-boats could patrol it perfectly fifty or more miles up, and prevent any supplies from being sent overland to the side of the river opposite Port Hudson.

It was now simply a case of starving out the garrison, for there seemed no prospect of the place being taken by the Army, for as late as May 8th, 1863, General Banks marched a large portion of his army to Alexandria, La., at the very time he should have been closely besieging Port Hudson. For what purpose he marched no one could ever discern, for the gun-boats under Admiral Porter had arrived there before him, taken possession of and destroyed the defences along the river, and opened it so thoroughly that there was no danger of its being closed against the Federal vessels.

While Farragut was away up the Mississippi, after the passage of Port Hudson, Commodore Morris was left in charge at New Orleans with directions to co-operate with the military commander at that place, and perform all the duties which would have devolved upon the Flag-officer had he been present in person.

Some of the expeditions fitted out by Commodore Morris, and later by Commodore Bell, properly belong to this history, as showing the numerous duties performed by the Navy, and also that, notwithstanding Farragut was not at New Orleans himself to conduct matters, his orders were carried out, and there was the heartiest co-operation between the Army and Navy.

On the 28th of March the Diana, Acting-Master Thos. L. Peterson, was sent into Grand Lake on a reconnaissance, with Lieutenant Allen, U. S. A., of General Weitzel's staff, and two companies of infantry on board. She was ordered to proceed down the Atchafalaya River as far as the mouth of the Teche and return by the lake.

Disobeying this order, Acting-Master Peterson attempted to return to Berwick Bay by the way of Atchafalaya. After passing the mouth of the Teche lie was attacked from shore by field-pieces and sharp-shooters. The men fought well, and the action lasted two hours and three-quarters. The captain of the Diana was killed early in the action, and his executive officer, Acting-Master's Mate Thomas G. Hall,was mortally wounded; also Master's Mate Geo. C. [348] Dolliver and Engineer Jas. McNally, leaving only one officer (Master's Mate Charles P. Weston), who carried on the fight and behaved most admirably. The tiller-ropes were shot away and the engine disabled so that the Diana became unmanageable and drifted ashore, when it was impossible to longer defend her.

As soon as the firing was heard at the bay, the Calhoun, Acting-Master M. Jordan, was sent into the lake to ascertain the cause of it. She arrived at the mouth of the Atchafalaya, where she grounded and remained until midnight.

Several of the crew of the Diana had escaped, and they informed the commanding officer of the Calhoun that the Diana had been captured near Petersonville. Acting-Master Jordan threw overboard part of his ballast, his coal, provisions, and even ammunition, and finally reached the bay at 2 A. M.; but the Diana was a prize to the enemy.

Another of the United States vessels was lost a short time after, the Barrataria, Acting-Ensign Jas. T. Perkins, at the mouth of the Amite River, on Lake Mariposa She was on a reconnaissance with some army officers in Lake Mariposa, intending to examine the mouth of the Amite River. The pilot stated that there was always five feet of water there, but the vessel struck on a sunken snag and stuck fast. Everything possible was being done to relieve the vessel and get her off, when they were attacked by a force of concealed riflemen and a brisk engagement took place, in which the Barrataria used her guns and also musketry with good effect.

There were on board the Barrataria Colonel Clarke, Captain Gordon, Lieutenant Ellis, and ten privates of the 6th Michigan Volunteers; the latter did good service with their rifles. The engagement lasted over half an hour, when the enemy ceased firing.

Efforts were still made to get the Barrataria off, but without avail. The bow gun was spiked and thrown overboard and the water blown out of the boilers; the Barrataria still stuck fast.

Fearing that the vessel might fall into the hands of the enemy, Acting Ensign Perkins got his crew and passengers into boats, and after spiking all the guns, shoved off under a fire of musketry from the concealed enemy. Mr. Gregory, Acting-Master's Mate, who was left behind to set fire to the vessel, then ignited the inflammable matter and shoved off in a small boat. The vessel was soon in flames and shortly afterwards blew up. After being assured of the vessel's destruction, the party made the best of its way back and arrived at South Pass in safety.

In the case of the Diana there were six killed and three wounded; in the case of the Barrataria there was only one wounded. Affairs of this kind were very provoking and harassing to a Commander-in-chief, but the officers seem to have performed their duty faithfully. Some of them died at their posts — there could be no fault found with them.

The navigation through all these lakes, bayous and so-called rivers was full of snags and shoal places, and was of the most perplexing kind. Most of the officers in the above-mentioned vessels were volunteers, full of zeal and courage and anxious not to have it said of them that the case would have been better managed if a regular line-officer had been present. Acting-Ensign Perkins may have lacked a little in judgment in pushing ahead, but when it came to the point about letting his vessel fall into the enemy's hands, there was nothing wanting, and he abandoned his command in open boats at the risk of the lives of his crew, conscious that the enemy could derive no benefit from anything left behind.

A short time afterwards an expedition was fitted out in Berwick Bay under Lieutenant-Commander A. P. Cooke, who, with the Estrella and other vessels, engaged the Queen-of-the-West (formerly captured from Colonel C. R. Ellet), and after a fight of twenty minutes destroyed her. He also, a short time after, destroyed two other steamers, the Diana and Hart.

Farragut was relieved by Acting-Rear-Admiral Porter at the mouth of the Red River, May 7th, 1863, and crossing overland, joined his squadron below Port Hudson. He might have run by the batteries at night, but the old Hartford he thought had been subjected to enough of that kind of work, and it was scarcely worth while to expose her officers and crew to any more such trials, especially as it was expected that Port Hudson would soon be evacuated by the enemy. So Captain Palmer remained with the Hartford at the mouth of Red River until after the fall of Port Hudson, it having been left discretionary with him to pass the batteries or not.

Before Farragut's departure overland he had sent an expedition up the Red River to co-operate with General Banks, who was expected at Alexandria with a large military force (he being under the impression that there were military stores at this point and that it was heavily fortified on the water side, or would be in a short time).

There were also some other military movements under consideration to disconcert General Kirby Smith (Confederate), who had gone to Alexandria, so it was said, to provide troops with which to reinforce General Dick Taylor. Neither of these generals had any idea of operating below [349] Alexandria, which was their natural base; for the gun-boats might get up that far very easily, but would find it a difficult matter to proceed further, as was proved in the end.

The expedition sent by Farragut was composed of the wooden gun-boats Albatross, Estrella, Lieutenant-Commander A. P. Cooke, and Arizona, Volunteer-Lieutenant-Commander D. P. Upton, all under Lieutenant-Commander John E. Hart. It arrived off Fort de Russy on May 3d, and found the enemy in the act of abandoning the works and removing their guns. Two steamers were engaged in this duty, and two others were moored to the bank alongside the earthworks, with their bows down stream. Lieutenant-Commander Hart at once attacked them with

Lieutenant Commander (now Captain) Augustus P. Cooke, U. S. N.

his broadside guns and a regular battle commenced, the Confederate steamers returning the fire promptly, and it was kept up on both sides until a dense smoke enveloped the river.

Lieutenant-Commander Hart states that the enemy had the most guns and fired shot and shell with great rapidity, and certainly with accuracy. The Albatross went into action alone, but the enemy had too many guns for her and she was considerably cut up, and finally obliged to retire, having got aground on the very spot where the Queen-of-the-West had been disabled and captured. Hart claims that the other two vessels did not assist him; but the probability is that the pilots did not think there was room for three vessels to get into action at one time, as this was the worst point on the river to manage a vessel in — the current ran rapidly and the eddies were very annoying to the best pilots; besides, that class of vessel was not at all suited for this work.

The Albatross lost two killed, one being the pilot, Mr. J. B. Hamilton. and four wounded--a small number, considering that her commander reported such a severe engagement.

The Confederate steamers carried off the guns, but left a large raft across the river to obstruct the passage. The Confederate commanders had already heard of the arrival at the mouth of the river of a large force of iron-clads, and of the advance of Bank's Army, and their object now was to get the guns to Shreveport. All idea of fortifying Alexandria was abandoned and two or three days afterwards the place surrendered to Rear-Admiral Porter without any resistance.

On Farragut's arrival below Port Hudson he again commenced operations against that place, in conjunction with General Banks, who, as he reported, had the forts closely invested.

Farragut furnished a breaching-battery of four 9-inch guns, under Lieutenant Terry, and the army mounted four 24-pounders. These guns were kept firing day and night to harass the enemy, and also when the Confederates opened fire upon the Federal troops. The mortar schooners also kept up a continuous fire upon the interior of the works, to distress the enemy as much as possible.

It was expected that Port Hudson would hold out as long as Vicksburg did, for the officers of the fort declared that they would never surrender as long as that stronghold remained to them.

In the meantime the enemy were assembling quite a large force from Texas, under a very clever leader (General Green). Demonstrations had been made by this party against Donaldsonville, but they were driven off by the fire of the gun-boats, and finally settled down in Brashear City to await the arrival of their main body of troops from Texas. The object of this raid was no doubt to raise the siege of Port Hudson, or draw off enough of General Banks' troops to enable the garrison to evacuate that place.

As soon as Admiral Farragut heard of these Confederate movements he went down the river to attend to affairs personally, and placed the gun-boats where they would do the most good. Unfortunately, there was only one vessel (the Princess Royal, Commander M. B. Woolsey) stationed at Donaldsonville, the place the enemy [350] was marching to attack, but this officer was equal to the emergency.

About noon on the 27th of June, hearing the long roll beaten in the fort where the Federal troops were assembled, he sent to inquire the cause, and was informed that General Green had written a letter to the commander of the post to notify the women and children of the town to remove three miles outside of it, as it was his intention to attack the place. A reply was sent back by the flag's truce notifying the Confederate general that the inhabitants would be duly warned. Commander Woolsey got under way early in the evening — his vessel cleared for action — ready to take any position that might be required of him. At midnight a red light was burned in the fort (the pre-arranged signal denoting that the enemy was in motion), and at a little past 1 A. M. the Confederates attacked the Federal post with musketry, which the latter returned with great guns. At the same moment the Princess Royal opened on the enemy, in a wood to the right of the fort, with shells, and also fired shells over the fort up the bayou for the purpose of disturbing troops that were in the rear.

Finding that the enemy was pressing upon the water-side of the fort for the purpose of assaulting it, the Princess Royal sheered close in to the levee and kept up a rapid fire of shrapnel and canister from all her guns until 2 A. M., when the smoke became so dense that it was impossible to see the fort from the steamer. Commander Woolsey then stood up the river two hundred yards and continued his fire upon the enemy, who were in a wood north of and at a distance of four hundred yards from the Federal fort. Their position was indicated by their yelling, as the flashes of their guns could not be seen for the smoke.

The Princess Royal then stood up river for an opening in the levee which her commander remembered. and when abreast of it, he poured in upon the enemy grape and canister at point-blank range and enfiladed them.

The enemy then attacked the steamer with rifles and she turned down river and presented her other broadside. The enemy opened on her from the town, when Commander Woolsey fired one broadside up the main street and another one up the north side of the bayou. He then stood up stream again and took position to enfilade the north side of the fort. In fact this flying battery of heavy guns seemed to be everywhere at the same time, disconcerting all the plans of the Confederate general, who had evidently placed his men expecting to have an easy victory.

This fire was kept up until 3.30 A. M., while the Confederate riflemen returned it so steadily that the men of the Princess Royal had several times to lie flat on the deck until the line of fire was passed.

At about 4 A. M., the yelling of the Confederates ceased and their fire slackened, and shortly afterwards cheers went up from the Federal ramparts.

At this moment the gun-boat Winona. Lieutenant-Commander A. W. Weaver, joined in the engagement, and continued in it until the end.

At daylight the American flag floated gaily over the fort — none of its stars dimmed. General Green and his army retreated and left Donaldsonville in peace. One hundred and twenty of the Confederates got inside of the fort, and were captured and distributed among the different vessels for safe-keeping.

Take it altogether, this was a handsome affair. There is no knowing what might have happened had it not been for the skill with which the naval steamer was handled and the bravery of her commander, officers and crew, who at times fought their guns lying on the deck, which they were obliged to do to escape the riflemen's unerring aim.

What vessels remained of the mortar flotilla had been for three months in front of Port Hudson bombarding that place. and the vessels, with their commanders, officers and crews were spoken of by those who witnessed their work in the most enthusiastic manner. Not only naval officers, but officers of the Army who witnessed the practice, acknowledged the efficiency of the mortar-shells when managed by intelligent officers and men. And yet a high official, whose duty it was to perform a fair and impartial part towards every officer and man in the Navy, attempted to depreciate the services of this gallant little flotilla that had more than once helped Army and Navy on to victory.

Admiral Farragut on June 3d, 1863, recommended for promotion a young Ensign (Adams) who had commanded one of the mortar vessels (the Orvieto) at Port Hudson, at the same time calling the attention of the department to his heroism, endurance and obstinate determination to hold his ground until compelled by his commander to fall back, when his vessel was being cut to pieces.

The last affair of any importance that took place in the river before July 10th, 1863, was the attack of some Confederate field batteries upon the U. S. steamer New London, Lieutenant-Commander G. H. Perkins.

The New London was on her way from Port Hudson, having on board a bearer of dispatches from General Banks, announcing the unconditional surrender of that place. [351]

On his arrival at Donaldsonville, Lieutenant-Commander Perkins was directed to proceed to New Orleans, the Winona to accompany him past some batteries at Whitehall Point.

At 1 o'clock, A. M., as the New London was passing this point, the enemy opened on her with artillery and musketry. The third shell entered one of the boilers, and exploding, made seven holes in a line with the upward flues, scalding six persons severely. Another perforated the steamdrum, and the vessel was disabled and enveloped in steam. The Captain put the vessel's head toward the eastern shore, but the steam escaped so rapidly that the men could not stay at the wheel and the New London grounded under the battery. A rocket was sent up to call the attention of the Winona that she might come to the assistance of her consort, but she was not in sight. The port battery was manned and commenced playing on the opposite shore where the Confederates were posted. The fire of the enemy's batteries was very severe, and though it was night their range was improving all the time.

Lieutenant-Commander Perkins lowered all his boats and got kedges out astern to haul his vessel off the bottom, which he succeeded in doing, and drifted down the river until out of range of the upper batteries. The principal battery being below, Lieutenant-Commander Perkins towed the New London with his boats to the east bank and made her fast During this operation, a continuous fire was kept up by the enemy's infantry upon tie boats and also on the vessel. It was nearly daylight and the Union commander, expecting a renewed attack by the enemy, sent his men on shore under cover of the levee to guard against it. Pickets were stationed up and down the river and messengers sent to Donaldsonville to state the condition of affairs, and also down the river to obtain the assistance of the iron-clad Essex and steamsloop Monongahela.

The messengers returned from Donaldsonville, stating that no assistance could be rendered, and the two couriers from below returned with the unsatisfactory news that the Essex and Monongahela could not be found.

This was not the kind of an answer the Army would have received from the Navy if the general in command had made a requisition for gun-boats when attacked by the Confederates. It was not the kind of message Commander Woolsey sent from the Princess Royal when the post at Donaldsonville was attacked by General Green, who with his large force would have carried the works but for the tremendous enfilading fire of the Federal gun-boat. But General Weitzel was in command at Donaldsonville and he did not seem to think a gun-boat of much importance. or perhaps did not think it prudent to weaken his garrison while there were Confederate field-pieces in the neighborhood.

But Lieutenant-Commander Perkins, knowing that the Confederates would attack him at night with a force he could not resist. determined to go and convince General Weitzel of the necessity there was for sending troops to the assistance of his vessel, and succeeded in doing so; but on returning to the place where he had left the New London, he found her gone. During his absence, which was only of two hours duration, the Essex and Monongahela had come up the river and towed the New London down!

The Confederates did not easily relinquish what no doubt they considered a certain prize. They contested the passage of the Essex and Monongahela with much determination, and the infantry even stood up for some time against the fire of the heavy guns of three vessels; but they were scattered by grape, canister and shrapnel, which proved too much for them.

This affair was well managed by Lieutenant-Commander Perkins, who did all that lay in his power to prevent his vessel falling into the enemy's hands; displaying cool judgment and bravery through all. Some officers under the circumstances might have abandoned the gun-boat in the night, and escaped in the boats after setting fire to her; but Perkins preferred to use his boats to tow her out of range of the enemy's guns until he could obtain assistance, which by his perseverance he succeeded in doing. Farragut blamed him for leaving his ship to go after assistance himself. No doubt the principle that every commanding officer should be the last man to leave his vessel, is the right one, but here there was no danger of capture in his absence, as the enemy was on the opposite shore and could not reach his vessel in the short time that he was away from her.

The last of the reports from Admiral Farragut to the Navy Department, published in the year 1863, conveyed the melancholy news of the death of Commander Abner Reed of the Monongahela. He was mortally wounded by a rifle-shell while passing the batteries, twelve miles below Donaldsonville, and Farragut says of him: “Commander Reed was one of the most enterprising and gallant officers in my squadron, and the very mention of his name was a source of terror to the Confederates--the country could well have spared a better man.” No higher eulogium was ever passed upon any officer, and it should be recorded in history. [352]

Captain T. A. Jenkins, who was on board, was severely wounded.

This brings the narrative of events up to July 28th, 1863.

The news of the surrender of Vicksburg had been received in New Orleans, and that of Port Hudson immediately followed.

The Father of Waters flowed peacefully to the sea, free and untrammelled. The great chain of slavery was broken, never to be again united. The work of setting free the great artery of the North and South, so essential to our nationality, had been accomplished, and the foul blot of human slavery had disappeared forever from our escutcheon. The squadrons of the Upper and Lower Mississippi had shaken

Commander Abner Reed

hands in New Orleans, and the great highway between Cincinnati and the Queen City of the South was once more open to commerce with the North and with foreign countries. The power of the United States Government had been restored and its authority vindicated in more than half the territory claimed by the insurgents.

It is to be hoped that the future millions who will dwell along the banks of these mighty waters, which were emancipated by the valor of the Army and Navy, will not withhold a due share of credit to the officers and men of the Navy, who performed their important part in those eventful times with such an unflinching devotion to the Union.

A quarter of a century has passed away since the events took place which are here narrated. Many of the men who figured in those scenes have been overtaken by age, and Time, the great destroyer, has somewhat impaired their faculties, but they are the same in spirit as in 1861, and still entitled to the gratitude of their country

The men in civil life who read the stirring incidents of the war by their cosy firesides should not forget that they have reaped the benefits arising from the incessant toil of the Navy, and should therefore forbear to speak unkindly of a profession whose officers and men would tomorrow — if war should again arise — exhibit the same zeal, energy and courage as was shown by those who so well performed their parts in the late conflict.

On the receipt of the news of the fall of Vicksburg and Fort Hudson at New Orleans. on the 10th of July, there was great rejoicing on the part of our Army and Navy. The commanding officers of both branches of the service ordered salutes of one hundred guns to be fired — the sound of which carried joy to the hearts of those who sympathized with the Union cause, and dismay to the hearts of the Confederates. The latter element predominated very largely, yet on the whole the people of New Orleans were pleased with the hope of seeing the commerce of the North and West return to their once flourishing city and again crowd its levees with the splendid steamers that formerly kept their storehouses supplied with the products of the Upper Mississippi. But war had made sad ravages in this class of vessels; hundreds of them had been sunk or burned in the Red, Yazoo, Arkansas and White Rivers, and the few that now came creeping out of the bayous and small streams where they had been laid away, were in so dilapidated a condition that on their appearance at the levee, the very sight of these vessels called to mind the decayed condition of this once flourishing city and brought tears of sorrow to many an eye. These people were only repaid for their faithlessness to a form of government under which they had reaped so much prosperity and from which, even in their wildest enthusiasm for the Confederacy, they received protection.

Few of the seceders would believe that Vicksburg and Port Hudson had surrendered, for they were so infatuated with the Confederacy that they could not but believe that it was the strongest government on the face of the earth, and that its resources were illimitable; forgetting that it only derived its present strength from coming into possession of the forts, navy-yards and arsenals which had been taken from the true government by the very persons for whose protection they had been built. [353]

New Orleans, after it had been conquered by Farragut's fleet, became a model city as regards its police and sanitary departments, for the first time in its history. No city in the world ever possessed a more turbulent mob — and in no city were the municipal laws less respected (before its capture)--at the end of 1862 its streets were as well kept as those of the cleanest village at the North and the citizens had never enjoyed such safety as they did under the Butler regime, when General Shipley was the military governor of the city.

With the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson the flying detachments of Confederates that lingered along the Mississippi and in the bayous and inland rivers drew back into the western part of Louisiana, or into Texas, where most of them came from. They were a fearless set of men (unlike the home-guards of Tennessee), who seem to have been drawn to the banks of the Mississippi for the purpose of aiding their besieged friends in Vicksburg and Port Hudson; and although they were sufficiently active in annoying gun-boats and transports going up or down the river, they did not resort to the vile measures of the Tennessee home-guards or commit depredations upon inoffensive citizens. They were soldiers in every sense of the word, and risked their lives fearlessly in making attacks on the Union fortifications; fighting in what they considered the defence of their own soil, until the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi had fallen.

The surrender of the two great fortifications relieved a large force of the Army and Navy from close confinement around the enemy, and allowed them to be used all along the river and coast. This, too, in a measure helped to get rid of the artillery and mounted rangers, who, though not numerous enough to make a stand against the Federal troops, had been very annoying. The Federals had frequently to acknowledge that the Texas and Louisiana troops were more than a match for them; and if they had not been so strongly backed by the naval force, it is doubtful whether Butler or Banks could have held their positions for a month.

After the fall of Vicksburg, Rear-Admiral Porter descended the Mississippi as far as New Orleans, where the command of the entire river and all its tributaries was turned over to him by Farragut, who could now give his whole attention to the coast and its inlets, which were still in the hands of the enemy.

Farragut had calculated on capturing some of the enemy's strongholds on the coast as early as 1862, but the latter held out defiantly — very much strengthened, doubly armed and trebly manned — their commanders arrogantly flying the Confederate flag and bidding our wooden vessels to come to the sacrifice that awaited them.

After Farragut had turned over his part of the command in the Mississippi, it belonged to his successor to see that the enemy built no more forts along the banks of the great river; to guarantee a safe passage to army transports and commercial steamers, and to see that no provisions or troops reached the Confederates from Arkansas, Louisiana or Texas.

These duties were faithfully performed. The tin-clads and gun-boats, now amounting to about 112, were spread along the whole length of the river (below Vicksburg) and at or near the mouth of all tributaries. The vessels were divided into squadrons under young and competent officers, who vied with each other in carrying out the orders that were issued from time to time “to keep open the free navigation of the rivers.”

It cannot be said that peace was actually established, but the transit from Cairo to New Orleans was not at all hazardous for the travelling community; the little towns began to exhibit a desire to trade, and the people on the plantations soon found that they received more protection from the gun-boats than they did from the halfstarved Confederates, who had been accustomed to make frequent raids upon the coast (as they called the river-banks) in search of food and plunder.

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