The Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, La.
(18-24 April, 1862)
Early in 1862 the Union undertook the campaign, championed by Gen. Winfield Scott, and aimed at dividing the Confederacy and recovering the Mississippi River from the mouth to Cairo, Ill. Capt. David G. Farragut's oceangoing West Gulf Blockading Squadron was given the mission of ascending the Mississippi and capturing New Orleans, the South's largest city.
To guard the river approaches to New Orleans, the Confederates had occupied and strongly garrisoned 2 masonry forts--Jackson on the right and St. Phillip on the opposite shore--some 12 miles above Head of Passes. To hold Union warships under the fire of the forts' waterfront batteries, Southern engineers moored a line of hulks across the river. Auxiliary to the land defenses, the Confederates had a heterogeneous naval force consisting of 4 vessels of the Confederate navy, 2 belonging to the state of Louisiana, and 6 manned by the river defense fleet, 2 of which were ironclads. But the former's engines were not powerful enough to propel the ship, and in the ensuing battle it was moored to the bank above Fort St. Philip and employed as a floating battery.
From his advance base at Ship Island, Miss., Farragut prepared to ascend the Mississippi. Through the deep draft-draft screw sloops were lightened, considerable difficulty was experienced in dragging them over the Southwest Pass bar. It was 8 April before Farragut assembled his 24 vessels and Cmdr. David O. Porter's 19 mortar schooners at head of Passes. Each of Porter's ships mounted a 13-in mortar.
To soften up defenses at Forts Jackson and St. Philip, the mortar schooners opened fire on the 18th, lofting their 200-lb shells into and around the works. The Bombardment continued for the next 5 days, the Federals focusing on Fort Jackson. Meanwhile, on the night of the 20th, several gunboats opened a passage through the obstructions.
Satisfied that steam-powered could pass forts, designed to cope with sailing vessels, Farragut put his squadron in motion at 2 a.m., 24 April. His ships, except 3 gunboats, fought upstream through the hulks and by the forts. Then, in a wild melee, they avoided fire rafts and the bull-like rushes of the ram Manassas and smashed the Confederate fleet. Continuing up the river 70 miles. Farragut went ashore to accept the surrender of New Orleans on the 25th. 3 days later the Forts Jackson and St. Philip garrisons, isolated by Farragut's bold dash, mutinied and surrendered.
This Page last updated 01/12/03
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