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Chapter 8: from Hatteras to New Orleans.

  • Sailing to the South
  • -- ashore on the Shoals of Hatteras -- a narrow escape -- a Maine Chaplain's cowardice -- Yankee ingenuity stops a leak -- arrival at Ship Island -- making ready for the attack on New Orleans -- Hampered but not delayed -- below forts Jackson and St. Philip -- Porter's mortar-boat fiasco -- cutting the chain cable -- how Farragut passed the forts -- Army goes down the River and up the coast and moves against the forts from the Rear -- circumstances of their surrender to Porter -- testimony of the Confederates -- some remarks concerning Porter

It was my intention to call at Fort Hatteras in my steamer, the Mississippi, to take off General Williams, who had been in command there and who had been detailed to me as a brigadier-general, at my request.

The sea was calm and the night beautiful, with a light southwest wind blowing. As we were to go around Cape Hatteras, a course always difficult of navigation on account of the trend of the eddy of the Gulf Stream toward the shore, I stayed on deck for some considerable time and then observed that the captain was below. It startled me a little. He had been waiting days in port, and so had no occasion to make up for any lost sleep, and I thought a careful and prudent man would have remained on deck, especially as the rebels had extinguished all the lights in the light-houses on that coast. I knew that the shoals from Cape Hatteras extended out a great distance, much farther than any sight in such a night would reach.

Toward morning the wind increased, and then not far from us the breakers became visible. I directed the captain to be called, and he put us about and stood for the east. Not only that, but he stood east until morning, and those who wanted to see a gale at sea were fully satisfied. The sun, however, came out bright, and the captain took an observation at meridian and went into his room in the deck-house to calculate his position. No land was in sight. He gave his calculation to me, and I looked at the chart and was satisfied that, if everything went well with us, we should have no difficulty in weathering Cape Fear and Frying-Pan Shoals, which extended some thirteen miles out. During the night the wind lulled, and those of us who had been kept up the night before sought early rest and quiet. [338]

The captain joined me at the breakfast table, and said, as he sat down: “Well, General, I think I made quite a mistake yesterday in my observation. I am inclined to think I am twenty miles farther east than the observation showed.”

“Well,” I said, “that is a good mistake, because it gives Frying-Pan Shoals a wide berth.”

A few minutes later, and while I was still seated, I felt the vessel strike something and apparently pass over it, with a peculiar g rating sound which everybody who has been at sea knows. I thought we must have struck a sunken wreck or a whale. The captain immediately rushed up the companion-way, and I followed him. Upon reaching the deck and looking around we saw land within five or six miles of us. Evidently we were where we ought not to be. I then heard the captain give the order, “Let go port anchor.” “Port anchor, sir.” “Yes ; let go,” and immediately the port anchor was ordered over. It struck bottom almost instantly, showing that the vessel was aground. The whole thing had been so easy and so quiet that it substantially disturbed no one on the ship.

I stopped into the captain's room and motioned him to follow me.

“ We are on the shoals, Captain?”

“ Yes.”

“ Whereabouts?”

He put his thumb on the chart, a condensed chart of the whole coast, covering several miles, and said: “We are here.”

“ But exactly where, Captain?”

“I don't know.”

“ But you told me this morning that you thought you were several miles further east than your calculation showed you to be, and you were far enough east by that. Now, how came you here?”

“ I cannot tell, General.”

“Have you been on deck before this morning, Captain?”

“No, sir; I went directly from my berth to the breakfast table.”

“ Do you know what is the state of the tide?”

“I do not, General.”

“ Can you find out?”

“ I can by examining the nautical almanac.”

I stepped to the door and called one of my staff, Captain Davis, and said: “Davis, we are ashore here, and I should like to know [339] what is the state of the tide; look at the nautical almanac and find out.” Turning again to the captain of the vessel, I asked: “Captain, what depth of water have we under us?”

“I don't know.”

“Well,” said I, “get your dipsy [deep sea] lead and come forward with me. We seem to have struck forward.”

We went forward together and met the mate, and upon sounding found that we were in fourteen feet of water. We were on a sandbank which seemed to me to be quite a round bank just above the foremast. The vessel drew eighteen feet of water.

As I went aft, three or four of the officers and some of the men gathered about me and said: “General, this captain is a secessionist, and he got us ashore here on purpose; he is a Baltimorean.” A very deep and savage murmur began to circulate among the men, for the matter seemed to have been talked over. Fearing trouble, I stepped to the quarter deck, called the adjutant, and ordered the best drilled company I had to be paraded on the quarter deck. Lieutenant Fiske, afterwards General, a most steadfast officer, was put in command. The men were instructed that they should load their muskets with ball cartridges. Then, turning to a squad of the men who had followed me aft, I said: “Men, we are in considerable peril on board this vessel. There must be the most perfect order, and I think we can get out of it. Lieutenant Fiske, fire upon any man that attempts to leave this vessel without orders. Adjutant, order every officer to put on his side arms and revolver. Orderly, hand me mine.”

The men had just scattered forward when Lieutenant Fiske came aft and said: “General, the water is rising very fast in the forward hold, which is my compartment. My men's berths are all being flooded.”

I ordered the mate aft and said to him: “What is the matter in the fore hold?”

“ Nothing,” said he, “except that when the captain ordered the anchor to be let go the ship forged around on to a fluke of the anchor and it has gone through the side, making a hole about five inches square.”

“Very well,” I said, “she has got water-tight compartments.” I turned to the captain and said: “Do you know whether the valves that close all the water-tight compartments are in order?” [340]

“No,” he said, “I have never tested them.”

I turned to the mate and said: “Mate, can you tell by going below?”

“ Oh, yes; very easily.”

“ Find out and report to me.”

While he was gone I turned to the captain and said: “I don't think your life is safe here, sir. The men were a good deal infuriated toward you even before they learned of your conduct with the anchor. Step into your room, sir, and don't attempt to come out of it or have a conference with anybody without orders. Lieutenant Fiske, put a sentry at the captain's door, and don't let him out or anybody confer with him, except by my order.”

Meanwhile one of my staff came to me and said: “General, when I was forward among the crew I heard the sailors say that the mate and the engineer would take boats and get ashore.”

I at once instructed him to have good men to guard the boats, and let no one interfere with or touch them without my order.

“ Bring the mate and the engineer aft,” said I, “and clear the quarter deck.”

The engineer and mate came aft, and I began to talk with them, I found the engineer very quick and prompt to answer everything about his engine. He said that it was in good condition; that it worked until after the anchor was thrown and then stopped regularly, and he had no doubt that it would work now. I talked with the mate and found him almost a dote. He attempted to answer only a single question, and that we put to him theoretically about some ordinary matter about the ship's tackle. Beyond that he did not seem to know anything.

I directed the mate to go forward and put everything in order on board the ship. I went into the engineer's room to have him start the engine and keep it running, in order to work out, by the motion of the propeller, the sand from under the after part of the ship. I asked him to take great pains to see that the engine and propeller worked well and regularly, which he promised to do.

Meanwhile Captain Davis reported that we had struck about two hours after the change of tide, now at ebb. Then, looking at my situation, I became almost overwhelmed and distracted. Here I was, in an iron ship of fifteen hundred tons, with a hole in her so large [341] that the water rose in the forward water-tight compartments just as high as the water on the outside; no officer to advise me; the captain under guard; the mate suspected, if not worse; no one on board who had any more nautical knowledge than myself, and with me more than fifteen hundred of my soldiers, whose lives depended upon what I might do — because it was certain that the ship could not lay there an hour after the sea rose, and her position was such that she would break up and we should all perish.

As I sat with my hand covering my face, I felt a light touch on my shoulder. I looked up and Mrs. Butler was standing beside me. “Cheer up,” she was saying; “do the best you can, resume your command, and perhaps all will be well.”

It may be thought very singular that it had never occurred to me that my wife was in the stateroom below. It was enough. I jumped to my feet and became again the general commanding. Almost the first thing I did was to call a sailor who seemed to be intelligent, and send him to the mast-head to look out for any passing vessel. Our masts were quite tall, as the steamer was brig-rigged. Then my attention was drawn to the shore. There lay Fort Macon within five miles of us; horsemen were riding up and down the beach, artillery was being exercised, and with my glass I could see that we were great objects of interest to those on shore, who could conceive of us only as an enemy there for the purpose of attack. I called two of the gentlemen of my staff and told them to keep watch of the movements of the people on shore, not knowing that they might not organize a boat expedition against us if they found out our condition. I thought, however, I would discourage that idea as much as I could; so I ran up the flag, and, clearing away my six-inch Sawyer rifle, I trained it in the direction of the fort and fired. The shot being the range of some three miles, I thought that would be sufficient information to the enemy that they had better not get within that distance.

I then directed my staff and the mate to have the hatches taken off and the ship lightened, although to raise her to fourteen feet from eighteen feet seemed substantially impossible, especially with our forward hold full of water.

The next thing done was to throw over from the medical stores all the alcohol of every kind that we had on board, except a very [342] small package which was sent into the general storeroom for safe keeping. Details of soldiers were busy lightening the ship by throwing everything overboard to that end.

As I came from below, after having the package of liquors stored away and the door locked, I had a good laugh, notwithstanding our situation, when I saw going overboard several packages of mosquito netting with which my staff proposed to protect themselves against the enemy on Ship Island.

Then came these thoughts: What is the use of trying to float the ship? Who knows where the channel is by which we can get out? These shoals extend some thirteen miles from the shore. There is a middle channel here, I know, for I passed through it when I went down to the Charleston convention. How shall I find the channel, and how shall I mark it when I do find it?

The men were then lightening the ship by throwing overboard barrels of pork and bags of grain. With the assistance of the mate, crew, and some of the men we started the hoops of the pork barrels so as to take the heads out without injury, and delivered the contents to the fishes. In like manner we emptied the grain over-board but kept the bags. After replacing the heads on the pork barrels and making them tight, we got some cordage and made gaskets around the barrels so that we could hold them. We then put one empty oat sack inside another and put eight-inch shells inside the double bags thus formed. Then with some marling stuff we tied the double bags very tight and secured each one to a pork barrel by a cord which was left thirty feet long. We got a couple of these on board one of the ship's boats, and Major Davis and some of my soldiers who could row were sent out to row around the ship and find a place where the water was at least eighteen feet deep and then to try to mark a channel, dropping our shells overboard for anchors, and so anchoring our barrels for buoys at the proper spots.

At this stage of the business we heard from aloft: “Sail ho.”

“ Where away?”

“ Broad off.”

One of my staff ran up to the mast-head with his glass and reported her as a steamer coming toward us, flying the Confederate flag. This, of course, was wrong, but it always looked like a Confederate flag, whoever looked at it. [343]

Calling in one of the boats, I directed Major Bell to put himself in full uniform and go out and speak the steamer. If she should prove to be a United States vessel he was to have her come and help us, and he could inform us a good way off, if she were, by swinging his cap from the quarter deck.

“ But, General, suppose she is a ‘reb’ ?”

“ Then God help you, Major.”

He raised his cap and went over the side of the vessel.

We stopped all our efforts except to keep the pumps manned and work them with full details of men. Our men worked with a will. We kept that going until late in the afternoon, when the water began to come in faster than we could pump it out. Thereupon I took great pains to scold the soldiers whose detail could not pump the water out as those who did it in the morning, so that there was a great deal of rivalry at the pump brakes. The fact was that the tide had been running out in the morning and was now running in again; but it was better the men should be kept busy.

We made preparations to receive the incoming vessel, whether friend or foe. She came within fair gun-shot, approaching cautiously and slowly. Then she stopped, and with our glasses we could see Bell waving his cap. We then saluted her with our flag, and the vessel's gig came alongside with Major Bell accompanying Capt. O. C. Glisson, who was welcomed by me on deck. He reported that he was the commander of the United States steamer Mt. Vernon, and that he was stationed at Cape Fear River as a blockader. I then told him our condition. He examined it, shook his head, and said that he was afraid we could never get the vessel up high enough to start her, but he would try to see if he could pull her off. I said to Captain Glisson:

You see I am without an officer who knows how to take charge of this ship. I cannot at present release the captain from his confinement and I must have an officer. Now, pray loan me one of yours.

“I am pretty shorthanded in regard to officers,” he replied. “I can let you have a regular officer, and will, if you prefer; but I have a volunteer officer who has been for some years in command of a whaler from New London, who I think would be best for you, if you can have the confidence in him that I have.”

“ Certainly,” said I. [344]

“ Then,” said he, “I will detail acting master Sturgis;” 1 and he came on board and navigated the vessel to Ship Island.

Captain Glisson informed us that just ahead of us was the channel, by which, if we could reach it, he could tow us down, and we could anchor in the lee of Cape Fear. He did his very best, but broke his warps and almost got his own vessel aground.

Meanwhile the wind from the southeast rapidly increased, and the sea began to grow turbulent, the waves striking heavily against the ship. I asked Glisson whether he could take on board the Mt. Vernon a portion of my troops. He said he did not know how many he could carry, but would try to take on as many as three hundred men. I had the Western Bay State Regiment of Massachusetts and the Fifteenth Maine Regiment commanded by Col. Neal Dow. In order to deal fairly with everybody, I took as many lucifers as there were companies and cut the heads off of some. Then I allowed first an officer of one Maine company to draw out a match, and then an officer of one of the Massachusetts companies, and so on until all the companies had drawn. Those drawing the five shortest were to be taken on board the Mt. Vernon. It so happened that they were five of the Maine companies. I turned to Colonel Dow and said:--

Colonel Dow, you had better go with these men on board the Mt. Vernon. They will be safe there.”

“ And leave you here, General?”

“ Oh, yes; I must stay here.”

“Unless you order it, I shall do no such thing. I shall stay with the majority of my regiment and stand by you;” and he did.

Captain Glisson's boats not being many nor large, it made his crew a great deal of labor to transfer these men, especially as the sea began to roughen very considerably. When a wave struck the ship she groaned and quivered a good deal, and we hoped that the sand would settle under her and keep her up somewhat. To aid that I got our men in two lines, cleared the decks as well as we could and then I stood on top of the house and gave orders by which the men at double quick were run backwards and forwards as fast as they [345] could, so as to shake the ship out of the sand. We kept that going for a long time. At last Captain Glisson came back in his gig and said:--

“ General, I cannot take any more men; they are packed in my ship like herrings in a box. I have come back for you and Mrs. Butler.”

“I will go down and see Mrs. Butler,” said I.

The men stood at halt. I found her in our state-room. I explained the situation and told her that I had come for her and her maid; that I must stay and see the matter out, although I had little hope that the ship would live out the night; that it certainly would not if there came on a blow, but my duty was with my men.

“I cannot go and leave you here,” she at first said.

“ Stop a minute, Sarah,” said I. “We have three children. Is it best to have them lose both father and mother, when one can be saved?”

“ I will go,” she said.

We came on deck, and with a kiss we parted.

The sea was so uneasy that it made it difficult for the captain to get up to the side of the vessel, so he waited in his boat a little distance off. When I stepped on the house the eye of every soldier was upon me. I hailed the boat.

Captain,” said I, “I will be obliged to you if you will take Mrs. Butler and her maid. They can be of no use here. But as for me I shall be the last man to leave this ship.”

That decision was received by the men with very tumultuous and heart-spoken cheers, to which I answered: “Attention: double quick, march,” and the tramp went on over the decks with renewed briskness.

I had no heart to see Mrs. Butler leave me, and wishing to be sure not to give way I kept my head turned steadily forward, as she went on. An officer came up and spoke to me. He was the chaplain of a Maine regiment. I will not give his name though I ought to. “General,” said he, “if you desire, I will accompany Mrs. Butler on board the Mt. Vernon.”

“Oh, no, chaplain,” I said, “you need not trouble yourself to do that. Captain Glisson is a gentleman and will see that she has every attention.” [346]

“ General, I prefer to go.”

“The devil you do! Look here, chaplain, the government has trusted the bodies of fifteen hundred of its soldiers to my care, and their souls to your care, and if your prayers are ever going to be of any use it will be about now, as it looks to me. You cannot go, sir,” and I turned away.

Night was closing down. The high tide was approaching, and the vessel was more and more uneasy. We put all the sail that we could upon her but did not “sheet it home,” that is, so set it that it would draw and exert any force on the ship. We got up all the steam we could. I went to the side of the vessel, dropped over the dipsy lead, a large, heavy ball of lead held fast to the bottom by its weight, and then drew the cord to which it was attached up to a mark on the ship's rail. Then,waiting until the wind lulled a moment, I gave the order: “Sheet home; jingle the engine bell.” I watched with breathless anxiety whether, with all the means of moving we could possibly have, and with all the tide that we could have, the ship would move.

The hold was full of water, and this, which we thought was our destruction, proved to be our salvation. The force of the sails and the pressure of the propeller started her; her weight broke down the bank of sand on which she was resting, and she moved forward into deep water. All was well and we were safe, and cheers uprose from that vessel, the like of which I never heard before and shall never hear again.

The stern of the ship was at least three feet higher than her bow, but we followed the Mt. Vernon to the mouth of Cape Fear River, and anchored. Here we lay quietly all night.

I made a thorough examination of the ship after she was put to rights, and found that her engine was all right and that her forward bulkhead would probably hold the pressure of water if it were stayed and supported somewhat with braces of joists. Accordingly, I decided we would try to go to Port Royal, if the Mt. Vernon would accompany us, where we hoped to be able to repair. Suspecting our men would be nervous because we appeared so much out of trim, and thinking that it would give them much confidence and comfort if I brought Mrs. Butler on board again to go in our vessel to Port Royal, I rowed to the Mt. Vernon. As I approached the quarter deck, whom should I see on her deck but my chaplain of the long flowing [347] curls and Byronic collar. Hardly waiting for the exchange of proper courtesies with Captain Glisson, I sprang to the chaplain and said:--

“ How came you here?”

“I came over last night.”

“In what?”

“ With Captain Glisson.”

“ What? In the last boat with Mrs. Butler?”

“ Yes, General.”

“ After I ordered you not to?”

“ Yes, sir.”

“ Go below at once and write your resignation. I will accept it, and don't let me ever hear of your trying to get into the army again. Go.”

I then told Captain Glisson what the man had done. He said he never would have brought him away from the ship if he had known that; he understood that I wanted the chaplain to come.

While this conversation was going on the chaplain came up with his resignation.

“ Very well, chaplain,” said I, as I looked it over, “I will send your discharge to your post-office. Now, Captain Glisson, you can keep this fellow or throw him overboard, just as you choose; I wash my hands of him. I haven't any more use for him, although he may be the Jonah that went overboard and saved the ship.”

Captain Glisson took myself and wife back in his boat, and, having had a belief that I should bring him back with me, I had made preparations that he should have the best breakfast that the Mississippi could serve — and she was pretty well provided.2 [348]

There was no incident on the trip to Port Royal to which I need pay any attention. True, we had a thunder storm with vivid lightning, which left the sailor's fireballs attached to the yards of the rigging, much to the horror of our landsman soldiers. We attracted great notice in the fleet, being a vessel coming with her nose apparently in the water.

Consultation was had with the naval officers how our ship could possibly be repaired there, and in that consultation Captain Boutelle, of the Coast Survey, then in command of the little steamer Chancellor Bibb, gave me most effective aid. We were towed to Seabrook up Skull Creek, which was deep, but only wide enough to turn the vessel around in. The place was a sea island cotton plantation which the owner's family had deserted, an excellent place in which to encamp our troops. It also had a small wharf to which we could fasten the ship.

There we went through the great labor of unloading everything from the hold of the vessel, fore and aft, and as we had about thirteen hundred tons of coal on board when we started, that was no small labor. Then the difficulty was to get this water out of the [349] forward hold. There were valves which could be opened so as to let the water flow through each bulkhead into the well of the vessel where it could be pumped out by the engine. As the vessel had been fitted out and loaded under the command of Captain Fulton whom I still held under arrest, I found it necessary to release him and engage his help. He was then and there investigated by a board of inquiry and restored to his command, Mr. Sturgis having gone away with Captain Glisson. We then found that the captain had put in no water-ways to conduct the water from the water-tight compartments, so that it might run through freely without spreading over the compartments. We further found that the lower hold had been filled up with coal, and in consequence, there was so much coal dust in the well that it would not do to pump it out lest we should disable the pumps,--another evidence of the captain's inefficiency.

Therefore we rigged the pumps on the forward deck, but found that in spite of all we could do the water came in faster than we could pump it out. We tried spreading a sail over the forefoot of the vessel so that it might be sucked into the aperture in the hull and thus partially stop the leak, but that was found useless. A diver was sent down, and he found the hole to be in what the ship builders call the garboard streak,--in this case the lower iron plate just above the turn where the keel joined the vessel's bow, so that it was impossible to prevent the water coming in at the open space between the keel and the point where the sail would strike the side of the ship. The ship carpenters gave up in despair,--they were wooden-ship carpenters,--and my expedition to Ship Island and New Orleans seemed to have come to an end.

At last, after much thought, I hit upon this device,--which I will describe, at the expense of a page perhaps, for the benefit of whoever may find himself in like situation. I sent the diver down again and found the size and character of the hole. I then took a sheet of iron such as that with which the vessel was plated, about sixteen inches long, twelve inches wide, and about three eighths of an inch thick. I had a hole put through each corner, and then had it cushioned on one side with oakum finely picked, and covered with a couple of thicknesses of the stoutest canvas. I had the cushion soaked with melted tallow. I then tied four light, long lines to the punctures at the corners and carried two of them on one side under [350] the rigging and chains that fastened the bowsprit, and brought them under the keel of the vessel. I then hauled up on the lines on one side until I got the cushioned side of the plate about opposite the hole and a little above it, with the other lines pulling up on the other side of the ship, thus holding it loosely. I then sent down a diver and he shoved the plate over the hole and held it there for a second while we hauled in on both sides and made it fast where it was. Then we began to pump. I sent the diver down again to press the plate against the hole if it was in the right place. Fortunately it was, and then the suction of the pump held the plate there firmly. Then we fastened our lines so as to assist in keeping it in the same place whether we pumped or not. This being done, it was not a long job to pump out the water, for the cushion on the plate was sucked into the hole which had been punched inwards by the anchor, and held it substantially tight, only a little water leaking through the broken part of the sheathing plate.

I then turned the job over to the carpenters to stop up the hole tightly inside, as they said they could do it. We then went to work to get our cargo on board, as it did not leak enough to do any harm, and we got ready to start. Before we started of course we took off this plate because it would be very easily driven off in the seaway. When this was done the simple pressure of the water stove the carpenters' work all to pieces, and the water came in the hole apparently faster than ever. We replaced the plate over the hole, pumped out the water again, and I undertook a little job of blacksmithing.

I had the engineers with their cold chisels cut out the little pieces of plate that had bent inwards, and smooth the rough hole inside where it had been punched in. Then I took another plate cushioned just like the first one and placed it on the inside. I put two jackscrews between the iron keelson and the sheathing of the ship over the hole, and then bound those screws so as to hold the cushion plate over the hole, as strongly as I dared to. I then put a couple of joists from the timbers above and wedged them in firmly so that the jackscrews should not work up, and I thought I had the thing reasonably tight. But as I was going up to camp I saw a barrel of rosin. I brought it down to the wharf and melted it; built a box about two feet square, one side of which was the keelson and the other side opposite the sheathing of the vessel, the box just holding the plate [351] and jack-screws in it. I then filled the box up with hot rosin, and when it cooled and became perfectly solid I did not believe that the hole would start again. I was so confident of it that I left off the outside plate at once, and no more water leaked in than would make a stream the size of a goose quill.

And the Mississippi was run from Port Royal to Ship Island, and from Ship Island to New Orleans, and from New Orleans back to

Ship Island in 1861: view of Island and fleet, Fort Massachusetts. View of Island from Fort.

Boston before that hole was any further repaired, and it never gave way.

Ship Island is an island of white sand thrown up by the winds and waves. It is between five and six miles long, and is about ten miles distant from the Mississippi coast. At the upper part of it there is some soil on which is a growth of pine which serves at once [352] for the fuel and for the timber required. This eastern end of the island rises to some considerable height above the waters of the Gulf. The western end is more flat and rises only a little above the sea, in places less than two feet, and in case of any considerable sea, the waves wash over it. It was about 1843, if I recollect aright, a place of seaside resort for the people of New Orleans, many of whom had built cottages there and occupied them, when a storm, accompanied by rain and lightning, drove the water over the island and washed off substantially all the inhabitants.

The United States, at the breaking out of the war, had partly finished a fort upon the island called Fort Massachusetts.

At the time of the arrival of my troops there was not a house on the island. We brought some section houses to be put up for hospital purposes and to cover stores and supplies, but we relied for shelter upon our tents.

The sand of the island was of dazzling whiteness and drifted about in every wind storm as if it were snow. We had been told that this drifting sand was very dangerous to the eyes, and therefore all the officers and some of the men had provided themselves with blue and green glasses to keep the sand out of their eyes.

I was warned that it would be impossible to maintain ourselves upon the island because there was no fresh water there. But I had learned from the experience of the British in the war of 1812, that they had obtained their fresh water from that island for their army. Furthermore, I knew that as a general rule on all flat sand beaches on the southern coast just raised above high tide, by digging a hole in the sand and putting a headless barrel into it so that the bottom of it would be even below tide-water, the barrel would soon be filled with very passable soft, fresh water, up even to the height of the tide, and I relied upon that means for my supply of water.

The fact was found to be as it was stated to me. By placing barrels as I have indicated, a supply of water, wholesome and but very slightly brackish, was furnished for a considerable time. But I learned another fact about it; and this was that after a few days the water would become impure, emitting a very perceptible and offensive odor of decaying animal matter, and then that barrel would have to be abandoned. But it was very little trouble to put down another barrel in the immediate neighborhood of the first, which for [353] a time would give us reasonably pure fresh water, so that difficulty as to the water was not serious.

I investigated the causes of this change in the water and came to the conclusion that the water we drank was rain water, which had sunk into the sand and been prevented by capillary attraction from flowing into the sea. When an opening was made, it percolated through the sand into the barrel. But this sand itself had been thrown up by the sea, and while in the sea had attracted to itself the adhesive animalculae with which sea water is filled. Thus it contained animal matter, and this was carried into the barrels by the rain water, and, after a few days' exposure to the sun, it putrified, destroying the water in which it was found.

We also found upon experiment that we were entirely mistaken in our idea that the sand would affect our eyes, and consequently our provision of spectacles and glasses was a useless one. But this attracted my attention: We found that when the wind blew the sand flew with great ease and rapidity, and sprinkled everything. Indeed, in the storms it banked up about our tents and on our plankwalks, exactly as the snow would do in a northern climate. Why, therefore, it should not affect the eyes as the shifting sands in the Desert of Sahara do, as I have read, I could not understand. In my younger days I had been something of a microscopist, and I had taken my telescope and microscope, as well as other scientific instruments, when I came on the expedition. Upon examining the sand I found that the reason it did not affect our eyes was that every particle of sand that I could find was globular in form, like the larger shingle of the beaches, where it is rolled about and washed by the waters. Being globular, it had no sharp corners with which the eye might be scratched, and when the sand got into the eye it worked out without injury, like the little pebble called an “eye stone,” or a flax seed, which is in some parts of the country used for the same purpose.

Notwithstanding all my unfortunate delays I found that I was quite in season in my arrival at Ship Island. Indeed, I had to wait there not only for the admiral's fleet to get to the mouth of the Mississippi, but some fourteen days more, while the ships were being worked over the bar.

When I contemplated my position at Ship Island it seemed as if I had an herculean task before me. In the first place, I learned [354] that the fleet could not go to the mouth of the Mississippi for want of coal. Their boiler grates burned only anthracite coal, and no sufficient quantity of coal had been ordered to fill them up and supply them with what was necessary to go up the river to New Orleans. There, if they took the city, there was plenty of coal, yet it had not been taken into consideration that it was soft coal and could not be used under the boilers with any effect. A supply had been sent by the Navy Department, but

Admiral David G. Farragut. From a photograph.

the schooners carrying it had been dispersed and nobody knew where they were, whether above or below the water. It would take more than thirty days to send up word to the Navy Department at Washington and get a supply of coal back. Flag-Officer Farragut, as was then his rank, was almost in despair at the delay. I was enabled to relieve him, however, because I had chartered a very large number of ships with a provision that they should be returned in ballast. [355]

Now the usual way of ballasting a ship is to fill it up with stones, take them to the end of the voyage, and then throw them overboard. But I had to return the vessels in ballast. I saw that anthracite coal was steadily rising in the market when our equipment was forwarded from Boston, and I assumed that if I ballasted all my ships with anthracite coal the coal would be worth more when it got back to Boston after having gone down to Ship Island, than it was when I put it on board, and so something very considerable might be saved to the government. I had therefore directed my quartermaster to buy coal enough and put it on board to ballast all the ships on their return voyage.

“ Well, Admiral,” I said, “I guessed that somebody might want coal and so I brought a large quantity with me. I have twenty-five hundred or three thousand tons that I can let you have as fast as you can put it on board your ships, and I will ballast back again with dry sand if I can find nothing else.”

“ Why, this is almost providential,” the flag-officer said.

“ Yes,” I answered, “I provided it.”

“ But,” said he, “how can you in the army let the navy have the coal? Your army regulations are against it, are they not?”

“ I never read the army regulations,” said I, “and what is more I sha'n't, and then I shall not know I am doing anything against them, If the navy uses the coal for the benefit of the government, I, as a lawyer, know that the government will never get the pay for it out of me again.”

It took days to get the coal matter settled. I may refer to this again, for the result of this proceeding on my part brought upon me great obloquy, as my accounts were not regular.

Another trouble at the same time came upon me, which might have had somewhat fearful results. It was another example of the fact that a junior officer, except in case of dire necessity, ought never to interfere with the action of his senior officer without orders. What General Phelps did, as we shall see, was done honestly and, as far as he knew, properly; but it might have entirely nullified our whole expedition, and possibly have turned back most men.

I had chartered the Constitution at three thousand dollars a day. She could steam fifteen miles an hour, and before I left Washington I had sent her to Ship Island twice, once with three thousand men and [356] a second time with five thousand men, with thirty head of cattle on her guards for fresh meat, and three months provisions for my command in her hold. I relied upon her to be the great transport ship of my expedition. On both voyages she made quick time, landing her troops and provisions with safety. After she had discharged the second time, she lay there some days, under a daily demurrage of three thousand dollars, waiting for me to come. But I was so baffled by the intrigues at Washington, and afterwards by the perils of the sea, that I did not get to Ship Island until the last of March, while I was expected there the first of February.

After waiting some time for me to come, General Phelps thought it a pity that the government should be losing three thousand dollars a day and the boat there doing nothing. Accordingly he ordered her home, never once thinking how, in an emergency, he was to get away from there without any steamer,--for she was the only steamboat he had. Sometime before this he had written a proclamation freeing the negroes. He excused himself for sending the steamboat home on the ground that he was afraid that my expedition had been broken up, never considering, I repeat, how he and his eight thousand men were to get home, if it had been. He would have found himself without any means of transportation by steamer, if I had put my men on sailing vessels, as I had to do afterwards, for I had no steamer there except my little headquarters yacht, the Saxon, and the Mississippi, with a five-inch hole in her nose.

This also stared me in the face: I had sent down food and necessaries for a three months stay. These were rapidly being consumed. I had left orders with my quartermaster and commissary that after I had been two months away from Boston they should send me provisions for ninety days more. But before the time arrived for them to act, they were deprived of their commissions, their appointments being rejected by the Senate. This was done by the influence and the malignity of Governor Andrew and his crew of patriots simply upon political grounds. Although I made requisition for a new quartermaster and commissary to be sent to me as soon as it could be done, they did not get to me until after I had been in New Orleans more than thirty days.

Thus I was left without the services of a quartermaster and commissary who knew anything about the details of the expedition or its [357]

Map of lower Mississippi River

[358] provisions. I should have had no notice of what had happened or of the difficulty I was in, for none was given me, had not my brother taken passage in a sailing vessel and come down, giving me the information. He had also, upon his personal responsibility, shipped provisions enough to carry me along, and had given notice to Mr. Stanton that provisions must be sent. These came in due time; otherwise a starving army would have landed in a starving captured city.

Again: I hoped to have been at the island two months earlier. I had brought with me more than one hundred Massachusetts mechanics to build boats with which to get through the bayous, lagoons, and morasses in the rear of Fort Jackson or St. Philip, as the case might be, and to construct scaling ladders with which to assault the parapets, rafts on which field artillery could be transported to aid us in our siege operations, and flats in which to transport provisions in those shallow waters. For I had foreseen that had we brought army wagons to New Orleans they would hardly have been of use, so I had but four or five.

All this, if I were to support Farragut, was to be done in seven days. Fortunately it took him fifteen days and more to get over the bar at the Sou-West Pass at the mouth of the river, and eight days more were consumed in waiting for that superbly useless bombardment, which Farragut never believed in from the hour when it was first brought to his attention to the time when the last mortar was fired.3

But through the energy of Lieutenant Weitzel, my chief engineer, those accessories of the expedition were fully got ready and put on board ship, with a large number of fascines or fagots for filling up ditches.

In two days after the bombardment commenced I had six thousand troops in the river in different sailing vessels, and I had more in the Great Republic, a sailing ship of three thousand tons burden, which could not get over the bar. The army was all ready. [359]

The plan of operation against New Orleans had been agreed upon in a consultation between Flag-Officer Farragut, Captain Bailey of the navy, who afterwards led one of the divisions by the forts in the Cayuga, Major Strong, my chief of staff, Lieutenant Weitzel, and myself, Captain Porter not being present. The plan then adopted was substantially the one carried out, which resulted in the capture of the city:--

I. Captain Porter, with his fleet of twenty-one bomb-schooners, should anchor below the two forts, Jackson and St. Philip, and continue to fire upon them until they were reduced, or until his ammunition was nearly exhausted. During the bombardment, Captain Farragut's fleet should remain out of fire, as a reserve, just below the bomb-vessels. The army, or so much of it as transportation could be found for, should remain at the mouth of the river, awaiting the issue of the bombardment. If Captain Porter succeeded in reducing the forts, the army would ascend the river and garrison them. It would then be apparent, probably, what the next movement would be.

II. If the bombardment did not reduce or silence the forts, then Captain Farragut, with his fleet of steamers, would attempt to run by them. If he succeeded, he proposed to clear the river of the enemy's fleet, cut off the forts from supplies, and push on at least far enough to reconnoitre the next obstruction.

III. Captain Farragut having passed the forts, General Butler would at once take the troops round to the rear of Fort St. Philip, land them in the swamps there, and attempt to carry the fort by assault. The enemy had made no preparations to resist an attack from that quarter, supposing the swamps impassable. But Lieutenant Weitzel, while constructing the fort, had been for two years in the habit of duck shooting all over those swamps, and knew every bay and bayou of them. He assured General Butler that the landing of troops there would be difficult, but not impossible; and hence this part of the scheme.

Both in the formation of the plan and in its execution, the local knowledge and pre-eminent skill of Lieutenant Weitzel were of the utmost value. Few men contributed more to the reduction of the city than he. There were few more valuable officers in the service than General Weitzel, as the country well knows. [360]

Section of Mississippi River, showing defences of forts Jackson and St. Philip at time of bombardment.

IV. The forts being reduced, the land and naval force would advance toward the city in the manner that should then seem best.

The first day's bombardment set fire to the wooden barracks and officers' quarters, which burned all night. Porter ceased firing while the burning was going on, supposing that the fort would be destroyed. But that fire had the same effect as when the enemy fired on Fort Sumter and set fire to the same class of buildings. They supposed that Sumter must surrender on account of that fire. But that fire, and this one, too, only cleared the fort of obstructions and obstacles. Of the fact that the fort had neither been disabled nor surrendered Porter received information the next morning by a prompt and vigorous response to the fire of the mortars, and at 11.30 a rifle ball from the fort pierced one of his schooners and sunk it in twenty minutes. This bombardment went on for six days. How little harm was done appears from the report of the Confederate Brigadier-General Duncan, who had charge of the forts, in his report to General Lovell of the Confederate army:-- [361]

Heavy and continued bombardment all night and still progressing. No further casualties except two men slightly wounded. God is certainly protecting us. We are still cheerful, and have an abiding faith in our ultimate success. We are making repairs as best we can. Our barbette guns are still in working order. Most of them have been disabled at times. The health of the troops continues good. Twenty-five thousand thirteen-inch shells have been fired by the enemy, one thousand of which fell in the fort. They must soon exhaust themselves; if not, we can stand it as long as they can.

Duncan evidently made this report to show his men's courage and stimulate the hopes of the people in New Orleans. It is a very good specimen of the kind of report that is sent out by some commanding officers for people to read. Not twenty-five thousand shells were thrown altogether, but five thousand only. Not one thousand struck inside the fort, but only three hundred during the whole bombardment, and at the time of Duncan's report the last day's firing had not been counted.

Duncan's report reads exactly like some of the magazine war articles written by our officers who wish to establish reputations for bravery and endurance, but are somewhat economical of truth. As Duncan was educated at West Point he was taught in the same way as were these officers who write magazine articles and war books.

There had been two days bombardment, when consideration had to be given to another defence of the rebels,--a chain cable across the river. This barrier had at first been made of logs fastened by shackles end to end, so as to float upon the surface. It had been thrown across the river in the early spring, the chain of logs being within point blank fire of Fort Jackson and the other end on the bank near Fort St. Philip. This barrier had been found impracticable, because the floating timber and brush caught on the chain, and the pressure of the water soon parted it, the river being very high and the current swift. That made a resort to some other expedient necessary. Several schooners were anchored thirty yards apart in a line extending across the river. Heavy chains — which had been taken from Pensacola and Norfolk Navy Yards — were securely fastened together in a long cable. One end of this having been made fast on shore, the chain was carried across the schooners from one to another, being affixed to the foremast of each one, and so on [362] across the river, where the chain was as securely fastened on the other shore. This chain allowed the driftwood floating down the river to run through between the schooners without doing any damage.

The question was, how shall the chain be gotten rid of? By this time the naval men, and especially Farragut, had come to the conclusion that Porter would exhaust his shells a long time before he would substantially damage the forts, and therefore, upon consultation, the plan of a night attack, before arranged, was agreed upon.

Diagram of Fort Jackson.

The plan was that the fleet should start nearer midnight than dawn, and should advance in two columns or divisions. If the ships passed the forts, the troops were to go out upon the Gulf side and work up the Maumeel Canal in boats, and then, when we had a sufficient force there, we were to assault Fort St. Philip from the rear, and the fleet was to assist us from the river.

There had been a wonderful omission by the rebels of any preparation of defence for Fort St. Philip in the rear; they had mounted no guns to cover the side towards the Gulf. True, it was for several [363] miles a marsh covered with water and short shrubbery, but still, troops who were in earnest could get through it, as Lieutenant Weitzel informed us. Under the cover of night, in a boat from the Saxon, I sent Captain Everett, of my Massachusetts battery, to reconnoitre in the rear of St. Philip from one of the many little bayous [guts] which run out from the river into the Gulf. The first night he went in he explored enough to find that he could get anywhere he wanted to in the rear of the fort without being noticed. The next night he took a slightly heavier boat and some men, and went behind Fort St. Philip again. He ascertained that there were no guns mounted which would prevent our boats coming up the Maumeel Canal, and the only possible difficulty that he noted was the lack of depth of water in the upper canal to float a heavy launch.

The third night after the burning of the buildings in the fort Captain Bell was detached with the Pinola and Itasca. The Pinola was to blow up, by means of torpedoes fired by electricity, one of the hulks which floated the chain, while the Itasca was to board the next schooner, cut the chain and also the cable by which the schooner was anchored, and let the hulk swing round by the force of the current, to be held by the schooner anchored next to it. This would leave a passage of about one hundred and eighty feet, if both were successful.

There was a great rush of water driven down the river by the wind, and although a petard was thrown upon the deck of the hulk, yet her engine being stopped, the Pinola was swept away so quickly as to break the electric connection, so that the petard was not exploded.

In the meantime, the Itasca had laid herself alongside the next schooner near the middle of the river, and had made fast thereto. At that moment, she was discovered. Both forts opened fire upon her, but the darkness and smoke so covered her that the men worked in perfect safety. The chain was cut with sledge and chisel and the cable that held the hulk was slipped. Instantly the Itasca and the schooner were carried down by the wind and tide, taking the end of the chain with them and swinging around to the eastern shore under the fire of both forts. Here the Itasca grounded hard and fast by the bow. The Pinola, however, came to her rescue, and after an hour's tugging, started her, and both boats came down in triumph without a scratch. [364]

Immediately after, an immense fire-raft was sent down by the enemy. Perhaps a word to describe that contrivance of war would not be wasted. This fire-raft was an immense flat boat such as was used for bringing coal down the Mississippi. It was about two hundred feet long, forty feet wide, and six feet deep. It was filled, from stem to stern, full of light wood and cotton, well saturated with pitch and turpentine, the wood being packed cobhouse fashion, so as to burn easily and freely under the strong wind. The raft came through the opening in the chain, passed the Hartford within fifty feet, scorching the men on deck, just grazed the Scioto, and went on its way to the lower division of the fleet. Here the mortar men in their boats grappled it, towed it to the shore, and made it fast.

Four days bombardment had passed. Four thousand shells had been used, costing the government fifty dollars for each shell, irrespective of the expense of exploding them as fireworks. Still there was no sensible diminution of the fire of the forts.

Farragut had at first determined to make his attempt to run past the forts on the early morning of the 23d, the sixth day of the bombardment, but was delayed. The fire of the mortars on the sixth day was slow; the forts answered not a gun. The men at mast-head, with their glasses, descried twelve rebel steamers around the bend above the forts. The day was spent on both sides in getting ready. By an accident two of our gunboats had been partially disabled, requiring great efforts to put them in trim, which was finally done. The chain cables of the gunboats and ships were fastened in festoons up and down the sides of the vessels on both sides, so as to protect the engines and boilers.

On the evening of the 23d, arrangements were made for the fleet in five divisions to take part in running by the forts. The mortar boats were to remain in position, and aid the attack with the quickest fire possible. How quick that fire was, I had personal inspection. Following Farragut's division up to the forts in my headquarters boat as he went by, I came within six hundred yards, and saw eleven mortar shells, their fuses burning, in the air at the same time.

The six small steamers belonging to the mortar fleet, Porter commanding,--the Harriet Lane, Westfield, Owasca, Clifton, Miami, [365] and Jackson, the last named towing the sloop of war Portsmouth,--were to engage the water battery below Fort Jackson, but were not to attempt to pass the forts.

The Hartford, Richmond, and Brooklyn, Farragut commanding, were to advance upon Fort Jackson.

The Cayuga, Pensacola, Mississippi, Oneida, Varuna, Katahdin, Kineo, and Wissahickon, Capt. Theodorus Bailey commanding, were to proceed along the eastern bank and attack Fort St. Philip as they passed.

Captain Bell, commanding the third division, which consisted of the Scioto, Iroquois, Pinola, Winona, Itasca, and Kennebec, was to advance in the middle of the river and push on to attack the enemy's fleet above the forts.

The night was still, and a light breeze up river brought with it a haze, which clung to the water.

At two o'clock, a red light was run up the Hartford's mast-head, the signal to weigh anchor and advance. From the starting-point to a point in the river above the range of the guns of the forts the distance was five miles. The current was a strong three-mile current, and the order was not to attempt to advance faster than four miles an hour. My headquarters boat, the Saxon, took position in the line of advance immediately behind Farragut's division.

Lieutenant Weitzel, at Farragut's request, had stated to the assembled commanders the condition and formation of the forts. He said they both were very low down, especially Fort St. Philip, and that the gunners of all the batteries had been for days firing the guns at a very high elevation to reach the fleet below, and probably would retain them in that position. Therefore he advised that the guns of the fleet be fired very low down, or they would fire over the forts. He also suggested that if both divisions, as they passed the forts, were to go by within fifty yards of them, the guns of the forts would probably fire over them, while they, with grape and canister, would drive every rebel from his guns.

The moment Farragut's guns opened fire, the smoke settling down made it impossible to see anything one hundred yards away, except the bright flashes, or hear anything save the continuous roar of cannon of heaviest calibre. It is vain to attempt to give a description of the appalling scene. The best one I ever [366] heard was given by my staff officer, Major Bell, in answer to a lady who asked him to describe it. He said: “Imagine all the earthquakes in the world, and all the thunder and lightning storms together, in a space of two miles, all going off at once; that would be like it, madam.”

Forts Jackson and St. Philip, five views.

It is needless to tell of individual gallantry and courage where all did so well, but I may say that the Hartford bore the brunt of the battle. The gallant Farragut stood in the fore-rigging with his glass in his hand. He was under the fire of both forts at the same time. The rebel ram pushed a fire-raft against his ship's side, setting [367] her on fire fore and aft. Even then he did not call away his gunners from the guns, but ordered his fire-brigade to attend to the flames. Attacked by one of the enemy's gunboats, he set out to destroy her with a single broadside. Receiving all the time the fire of the enemy and giving them broadside after broadside, while at the same time pushed ashore by the fire-raft and struggling to get his vessel off in the darkness, not even knowing where he was, made a cluster of dangers and exigencies, at once difficult and terrible, sufficient to tax the greatest energy, courage, quickness of perception, and coolness of thought and judgment of any man in any war before or since.

Meantime our fleet destroyed and sunk all of the enemy's vessels, including the ram Manassas. One boat we lost, the Varuna, which was pierced by the ram. She sunk, but not until Captain Boggs had tied her to a tree.

Reaching quarantine, above the forts, Captain Bailey of the Cayuga captured the rebel regiment which had been stationed there to prevent my landing. All that had not run away surrendered, and, as Farragut said, “I paroled them, for I determined to hasten on and could not take them along, and so left them to the tender mercies of General Butler.”

Of all this, we below the forts knew nothing. Even the Kennebec, which had got afoul of the cable and had returned, and the Itasca, which had got a shot in her boiler and came back, could give us no information. But as the sun rose up in the heavens in the clear calm of a beautiful April morning, Farragut flashed back the signal of his triumph and victory by covering his entire fleet with flags and signals, as in the celebration of a gala day. That told the story.

My boat being partially disabled by accident, I went on board the Harriet Lane. She was firing away at the sinking ram Manassas that came floating down, but was already riddled and burning, so that the ammunition so spent was wasted. Here I borrowed of Porter the Miami. She had been a New York ferry-boat, and answered my purpose very well, for I wanted a boat to carry as many troops as possible. Then I started down the river.

With my glass I could see the rebel ram Louisiana lying at a point just above and at the side of Fort St. Philip. She had not [368] moved from the place in which she had anchored after coming down from New Orleans a day or two before. Two steamers near her seemed to be her tenders. Before the Miami got ready, the mortar fleet started down the river to the passes.

The Miami was slow, besides steering very wildly. When I got to the head of the passes, that is, where the Southwest Pass, the South Pass, and Pass a l'outre, to the easterly, form several means of passage from the river to the Gulf, all my troops and steamers, under the personal command of General Williams, went up to the rear of Fort St. Philip, and I made my headquarters on Sable Island.

I was delayed twenty-four hours by the Miami running aground, and I was much in need of light draft steamers, for which I had made requisition on the quartermaster-general on the 24th of February. That requisition had never been answered, and, in fact, I never received any assistance from that department, by its sending me anything, from the 24th of February to the 8th of May. I was enabled at last to disembark my troops and form a column of yawl boats in which they were conveyed up the Maumeel Canal as far as we could go. Then we left the boats and waded for miles up the levee near the quarantine station, for the purpose of attacking Fort St. Philip in the rear. To get there I myself waded in the water above my hips for nearly two miles--which was not unsafe but unpleasant. Here, Captain Smith, of the naval vessel Mississippi, which had been detained by Farragut to hold that station, kindly conveyed a detachment of my soldiers across the river, where we established ourselves by entrenchment across the levee.

To understand the purpose of this movement, it should be told that the only way to get up the river by land on either side was to go up its bank close to the water's edge. Here frequently there was no passable ground more than sufficient for a carriage road. So that when I had taken possession of the west bank of the river there was no earthly hope that the troops in the forts could get to New Orleans.

On April 27, the majority of the garrison of Fort Jackson mutinied against their officers, either spiked the field-pieces or turned them against their officers, and deserted and came up five [369] miles and surrendered themselves to my pickets. The day afterwards the officers surrendered the forts, having substantially no garrison, to Captain Porter, most of whose vessels were twenty-five miles below.4

While they were making terms for capitulation in the cabin of Porter's vessel, the naval officer in charge of the rebel ram Louisiana let her loose and set her on fire, and she floated down and blew up quite near the Harriet Lane. This was the ram that Porter was so [370] afraid of. Before this she had never moved a foot from Fort St. Philip, having no motive power. When reproached by Porter for this act of perfidy, the Confederate officers replied that they were army officers surrendering the forts; that they had no control over the naval officers.

As soon as the forts surrendered, I ordered General Phelps to get his ships towed up by Porter's mortar fleet, and take possession of the forts. This was done, since Porter was no longer afraid to have his mortar boats come up the river, the “lively ram” having been destroyed.

On the 27th, after the garrisons of the forts were captured at my pickets, I went on board the Wissahickon, Captain Smith, which was at quarantine, and joined Farragut at New Orleans, to consult with him as to the next move to be made.

Meantime Farragut had gone up the river, engaged the rebel battery at English Turn, and routed them with a broadside, and also the battery at Chalmette, being the fortified line that Jackson defended against Pakenham when he appeared before the city. All the rebel troops under Lovell ran away across Lake Pontchartrain, and very many citizens took steamers and went up the river to Alexandria and elsewhere, having burned and destroyed immense quantities of cotton, sugar, rosin, tobacco, and coal.

Lovell and Twigg having run away, Farragut called upon the city government to surrender and to hoist the United States flag in token thereof on the United States public buildings. This the mayor declined to do, making the excuse that he was not a military officer. Farragut then sent Captain Bailey and Lieutenant Perkins ashore with a party of marines and hoisted the United States flag over the United States mint, but did not leave it guarded except that he had howitzers in the main-top of the Hartford which bore upon it.

On the day before I got up to New Orleans a party of ruffians, headed by one Mumford, pulled down Farragut's flag, trailed it on the ground through the streets, tore it in pieces and distributed the pieces among the mob for keepsakes, their leader wearing a piece of it in the buttonhole of his coat as a boutonniere.

As we neared the city the next day the morning papers were brought to me on board the Wissahickon containing a description of [371] this performance with high encomiums upon the bravery and gallantry of the man who did it. After having read the article, I handed the paper to Captain Smith and said: “I will hang that fellow whenever I catch him,” and in such matters I always keep my intention.

I think a proper ending for this chapter, for the purpose of showing exactly how untruthfully and villanously Capt. David D. Porter behaved through this whole transaction of the capture and surrender of the forts, will be an extract from my official report written to the Secretary of War on the 1st day of June, the truth of no word of which for twenty-eight years was ever disputed, and then only by Porter in an interview in a newspaper, the authenticity of which he afterwards denied, and after I had put it before him as a statement of fact he never replied to it:--

I have read Commander Porter's official report of the surrender of the forts; and here permit me, for the sake of my brave and enduring soldiers of the Twenty-Sixth Massachusetts and Fourth Wisconsin regiments, who waded in the swamps in the rear of Fort St. Philip up to their armpits in water in order to cut off its garrison and get ready to assault the enemy's works, to put the truth of history right before the War Department and the country by the simple enumeration of the facts that it was due to their efforts and that of their comrades, and to those alone, that Forts Jackson and St. Philip surrendered when they did. No naval vessel or one of the mortar fleet had fired a shot at the forts for three days before the surrender, and not one of the mortar boats was within twenty-five miles at that time, they having sailed out of the river from prudent consideration of the prowess of the ram Louisiana, which was supposed to be “lively” near the forts. A majority of the garrison of Fort Jackson had surrendered to my pickets the night before the officers made a surrender to Commodore Porter and obtained from him better terms than has been or ought to be given during the war to a rebel officer or soldier, and under those terms the rebel General Duncan claims a right to be and is in the army of Beauregard, giving “aid and comfort,” and only holding himself “not to serve in arms,” which are the terms of his parole. I send a copy of the terms of capitulation. I do not wish to take from the well-earned and well-deserved consideration due to the navy for their brilliant exploit in running past Forts St. Philip and Jackson. I have borne and shall ever bear testimony to their [372] courage and gallantry on that occasion, but after that no shot was fired until the surrender, and the forts could have been held for weeks, if not months, so far as the bombardment was concerned, for in the judgment of the best engineering skill they were then as defensible as before the bombardment. I will not permit too great meed of praise on the part of anybody to take away the merit fairly due my brave soldiers, who endured so much hardship and showed as much bravery as the most gallant tar of them all, for we landed within five miles above the forts and “lively ram,” protected by only two gunboats, while the mortar boats, protected by seven gunboats, retreated twenty-five miles below the forts and out of the river.

Decorative Motif.

1 Acting Master Sturgis was a seaman in every regard, capable, faithful, and of the finest judgment. I feel that I almost owe the lives of my men, my wife, and myself to him. I made him captain of the port of New Orleans. When his term of service during the war was ended, I procured his appointment as one of the officers of the revenue marine service, which position he filled to the entire satisfaction of the department during his life.

2 I insert here another description of our adventures on Frying-Pan Shoals, written from Port Royal by my wife to her sister, which did not come to my eye until long afterwards:

We were at breakfast, congratulating each other on our escape from the storm, the delightful weather, and the rapid speed we were making. I left the table a moment, and was in my room preparing to go on deck, when there came a surging, grating sound from the bottom of the vessel. A pause — the engine stopped--(a hush of dread throughout the ship)--it worked again — another heavy lurching and quivering of the ship — again the engine stopped. We were aground on Frying-Pan Shoals, fifteen miles from shore. The coast held by the enemy. Four or five small boats, and sixteen hundred people aboard. Dismay on every face. I asked General Butler of the danger. “A hundred-fold more than the storm. But there is no time for words — I must look to the ship.” Yet for a time we were safe; the day was fine — the vessel imbedded in sand, so that her keel would not be stove with rocks. Brains and hands worked busily, devising and executing ways to get her off; and men watched for sails at every point, for there, in truth, was almost our only hope. At last, one appeared in sight. Signals were hoisted. (It was proposed to hoist it with the union down. “Not so,” said General Butler; “let the union go up.” ) Guns were fired to show our distress, though apprehensive she might prove a rebel steamer, and we be forced to fight in our crippled state, or yield, inglorious prisoners. She could not come directly to us, and hours were consumed before she could round the shoals, and feel her way slowly with the lead, somewhere within a mile of us. She proved a friend. It was now late in the afternoon. We ran on at full tide, and must wait till it returned, at seven in the evening, before we could hope to pull her off. A hawser was stretched to the other vessel, and the soldiers moved double quick fore and aft to loosen her from the sand. They labored and pulled, but failed to lift her; the tide was not yet full. Two or three hundred men were already sent to the Mt. Vernon. The wind began to rise, and the waves to swell into the heavy seas, that look so dark and wrathful, General Butler came to me and said: “You must make ready to go in a few minutes.” Captain Glisson was about to return to his own vessel, and would take me with him. The general's duty would be to remain until every man was safe, or while the ship held together. This was clear enough, and I only said: “I would rather remain here if you are willing.” I know not why, but I felt more safety where I was than in that little boat tossing below in the mad waves, or in the strange vessel in the distance. “Why do you think of such a thing?” he said. “Are you mad that you would risk to the children the loss of both?” --“I will go,” I answered, “when the captain is ready.” General Butler went away to the pilot-house. The ship was beating heavily on the surf, and men's hearts beat heavier still, as the night swept toward us. The deck was crowded with men. Major Bell gave me his arm. There was a move — a “Make way for Mrs Butler.” I was helped over the railing. (One man spoke out: “Well, if a woman can keep cool, it will be strange if we can't.” ) Captain Glisson preceded me down the side of the ship, and aided us as much as possible. The boat was tossing like a nut-shell far below, as down the unsteady ladder we slipped. When nearly at the bottom, the captain said: “Jump, madam--we'll catch you;” and down I went into the boat, “Pull, men — be lively!” the captain called out every few minutes. A wave leaped up and drenched the man at the tiller; he shrank from it, but the captain urged to greater speed. In a quarter of an hour we were aboard the Mt. Vernon. Only two boats followed--two more were obliged to put back; the waves were so rough they could not make the ship.

I sat in the cabin sick and trembling. If they could not get her off the shoals (where in a little while she would beat to pieces), how could those thousand men escape? The duty of the officers was to take care of the men, and the highest in command must be the last to leave. The Mt. Vernon was too small to take them all, even if they could reach us. One would not like to encounter many such hours.

The captain came often to tell me what was doing. He had sent his best officer to our ship, and, when the tide was full, there was a chance she might be moved. (I saw he had little hope she would be.) Only one ship ever escaped from those shoals that met the misfortune to ground there. Soon after the captain went out, there came a long shout swelling over the water — not a cry of distress but a shout of joy: “Hurrah! hurrah! she is off the shoals and into deep water!” In two hours we were out of those dangerous waters, and safely anchored. The Mt. Vernon touched three times while she was aiding, but happily escaped.

The next morning General Butler came on board to breakfast. It was decided we must keep, on to Port Royal, a hundred and sixty miles, and there repair. Down the ship's side, and again on our own vessel. This time I was drawn up in a chair draped with flags. I think many were, glad to see me back; it looked as though we had confidence in the ship I have not yet told you her condition: her forward compartment filled with water, and leaking into the next — the pumps working continually to keep it out; the bow much deeper in the water than the stern, but the machinery quite perfect. Our safety must depend on the weather. I must tell you the hole in the bow was made by the anchor, thrown over after we had grounded, the ship working round on to it. One would have thought we were fast enough without the anchor.

3 When Farragut was called to Washington and the naval part of the expedition was confided to him by Secretary Welles, Porter having a month before that gone to New York to prepare his mortar flotilla, the Secretary says:--

He gave his unqualified approval of the original plan, adopted it with enthusiasm, and said it was the true way to get to New Orleans, and offered to run by the forts with even a less number of vessels than we were preparing for him, provided that number could not be supplied. While he would not advise the mortar flotilla, it might be of greater benefit than he anticipated, might be more effective than he expected, and he readily adopted it as a part of his command, and he thought it would be likely to warn the enemy of our intention.

4 There have been three contested questions of fact, on which the officers of the army and Porter, on behalf of the navy, have differed:

The first is that the forts were surrendered solely because the bombardment had made of them such perfect wrecks as to be no longer defensible. He so reported to the Secretary of the Navy on the 30th day of April. That 1,800 of his mortar shells had fallen within it he reported to the Secretary of the Navy, June 10.

Second,--that the surrender was wholly on account of the bombardment.

Third,--that he remained with his mortar fleet from the time of Farragut's passage on April 24, until April 30, the day of the surrender, and did not go down the river.

A part of these questions have been heretofore discussed; but we have now, from consultation of the War Records, the testimony of the enemy. Brigadier-General Duncan says (War Records, Series 1, Vol. VI., pp. 529-532):--

The demand was rejected, and the bombardment was reopened about 12 M. It continued until near sundown, when it ceased altogether. The entire mortar fleet and all the other vessels, except six gunboats, then got under way, and passed down the river and out of sight, under full steam and sail . . . .

So far, throughout the entire bombardment and final action, the spirit of the troops was cheerful, confident, and courageous. . . . A reaction set in among them during the lull of the 25th, 26th, and 27th, when there was no other excitement to arouse them than the fatigue duty of repairing our damages. . . . They were still obedient, but not buoyant and cheerful. In consequence, I endeavored to revive their courage and patriotism by publishing an order to both garrisons. . .

I regret to state that it did not produce the desired effect. Everything remained quiet, however, until midnight, when the garrison of Fort Jackson revolted in mass; seized upon guard and posterns; reversed the field-pieces commanding the gates, and commenced to spike the guns, while many of the men were leaving the fort in the meantime under arms. All this occurred as suddenly as it was unexpected. The men were mostly drawn up under arms and positively refused to fight any longer. . . .

Every endeavor was made by the officers to repress the revolt and to bring the men to reason and order, but without avail. Officers upon the ramparts were fired upon by the mutineers in attempting to put a stop to the spiking of the guns . . .

In the meantime we were totally ignorant of the condition of affairs at Fort St. Philip; and as all our small boats had been carried away by the mutineers, we could not communicate with that fort until the next morning . . .

With the enemy above us and below us, it will be apparent at once to anyone at all familiar with the surrounding country that there was no chance of destroying the public property, blowing up the forts, and escaping with the remaining troops. Under all these humiliating circumstances there seemed to be but one course open to us, viz.: to await the approach of daylight, communicate then with the gunboats of the mortar flotilla below under a flag of truce, and negotiate for a surrender under the terms offered us by Commander Porter on the 26th instant, and which had previously been declined . . . .

For these reasons a flag of truce was sent down to communicate with the enemy below and to carry a written offer of surrender under the terms offered on the 26th instant.

Thus it appears that the besieged were obliged to send a flag of truce down to Porter to get him to come up and take the surrender.

As to the condition of the forts because of the bombardment, we have the testimony of Lieutenant Weitzel, who was sent to make an official report for the purpose of putting them in repair; we have the report of Captain Palfrey, assistant engineer, who was in charge of the repairs; of Colonel Hazeltine, and of General Dow, who certifies that the worst thing that had happened to the forts was the “extreme slovenliness” by which they had been occupied by the enemy.

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