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necessary to break the obstructions below Fort Jackson — chains, supported by the hulks of sunken vessels, stretching from bank to bank of the river. This was accomplished during the night of the 19th-2oth. After further bombardment of Fort Jackson during the next two days, all was ready at sundown for the undertaking planned for the coming night. At 2 o'clock on the morning of the 24th the fleet proceeded in the following order: Farragut, with the three largest vessels, the Hartford, Richmond and Brooklyn, nearest the west bank, firing on Fort Jackson; Captain Bailey, with the Cayuga, Pensacola and six other vessels, next the opposite bank, engaging Fort St. Philip; and Captain Bell, with the Scioto, Iroquois and four others, keeping the middle of the stream, with orders to engage only the enemy's fleet which was guarding the river above. Farragut, from the mast of the Hartford, kept close watch with his glass, as all moved, about half-past 3 o'clock, to execute his orders — the fleet making only four miles an hour against the current. Both forts promptly opened fire as the craft came within range. Part of Bell's command and all of Bailey's got safely past the forts; and of the three larger vessels, only the Brooklyn was mentionably injured. Above St. Philip all had to encounter the attacks of the Confederate gunboats, eighteen in number, among which were the formidable Manassas and Louisiana, until these were finally vanquished. It was a spirited but brief conflict. Thereafter Farragut cautiously advanced up the river, meeting no further opposition until — before noon on the 25th — he reached the English Turn, seven miles from New Orleans. Here new earthworks, the Chal
mette batteries on both banks, became visible; but their guns were soon silenced; and at I o'clock in the afternoon, in the midst of a thunderstorm, the victorious fleet confronted the levees of New Orleans, on which, for miles, were seen the smoke and flames of cotton and other staples of the South fired by Confederate orders. Evidences of like desperate destruction had already been visible to the ascending victors in the shape of burning vessels floating down the river. The Confederate forces under General Lovell had escaped, flying northward, and the city helplessly though sullenly submitted.
General Butler, having seen from his reconnoitering steamer, the Saxon, that Farragut had run his main force past the forts, brought up the army contingent and isolated both, while Porter's mortars continued shelling from below. Fort Jackson was surrendered on the 28th, its garrison having, in defiance of their commander, refused to maintain any longer a useless contest. The other fort capitulated without such interior compulsion. The two important forts thus re-possessed” were properly re-garrisoned and put under the charge of General Phelps. Butler took possession of New Orleans on the ist of May. Farragut proceeded up the river; and Baton Rouge, the Louisiana capital, was soon occupied by General Thomas Williams, who commanded a brigade of Butler's army.
The fall of New Orleans, “ the commercial capital of the South and the largest exporting city of the world,” says a Southern historian, was a terrible disaster, and more than anything else staggered the confidence of Europe in the fortunes of the Confederacy.”
* Pollard's “ Lost Cause,” 254.
The series of Western victories, beginning in January and having this brilliant culmination, gave needed consolation for Union reverses of the previous year, and helped to break the force of other disasters soon to follow. Had the earnest intentions and efforts of the President and Secretary Stanton been availing, and had General McClellan's pleasant vision of a campaign “short, sharp and decisive" come true, the fall of Richmond would have closely accompanied the fall of New Orleans, and the summer of 1862 would have outlived the war.
Not such was the divine decree.
Army of the Potomac – McClellan Moves against Rich
mond - Yorktown - Williamsburg - Fair Oaks.
The great Union army on which the country chiefly relied was yet far from Richmond when New Orleans fell. Months before Lincoln had said: "I would like to borrow the Army of the Potomac for a while, if I only knew how to use it.” On his part there had been no lack of persistent endeavor to get something done. A memorandum in Lincoln's handwriting, indorsed “Without date, but before the ist of December," (copied by permission in 1864,) contains certain questions submitted to the General-in-chief, and the latter's replies filled into the blanks left for the purpose, showing an attempt to draw him into the collaboration of a plan for disposing of Joe Johnston's army. “How long would it require to get in motion?” was answered: “If bridges and trains ready — by December 15 — probably 25th.” The number of troops which “could join the movement” in total was given as 104,000 — “from southwest of the river,” 71,000; “ from northeast of it," 33,000. The President proposed that part of the troops across the river (blank filled with " 50,000" by McClellan) should “menace the enemy at Centreville, and the
remainder move rapidly by the Richmond road from Alexandria to the Occoquan, to be there met by the whole movable force” from the Washington side of the river (33,000), having “ landed from the Potomac just below the mouth of the Occoquan,” — and so forth. Beyond answering questions in the briefest way, the General was not inclined to collaboration. “Information received recently,” he wrote, “ leads me to believe that the enemy could meet us in front with equal forces nearly — and I have now my mind actively turned towards another plan of campaign that I do not think at all anticipated by the enemy nor by many of our own people.”
December and January passed. The Army of the Potomac, still in extemporized winter quarters, numbered on the ist of February, 222,196 — present for duty, 190,806. This force included the greater part of the regular army, and volunteers who had been trained in camp, some for more than five months and most through a large share of this period. On the last day of January the President — evidently having the Occoquan plan still in mind — issued the following:
Ordered, That all the disposable force of the Army of the Potomac, after providing safely for the defense of Washington, be formed into an expedition for the immediate object of seizing and occupying a point upon the railroad southwest of what is known as Manassas Junction, all details to be in the discretion of the Commander-in-chief, and the expedition to move before or on the twenty-second day of February next.
The General in a personal interview urged the President to recall this order, and obtained permission to present his own views in writing. The plan of removing