The Capture Of New Orleans



A.D. 1862


From Lovell Farragut's Life of Admiral Farragut (New York: D. Appleton and Company).

One of the chief Federal successes of the year 1862 was that won by the naval expedition of Captain David Glasgow Farragut at New Orleans. He compelled the surrender of the city after a warlike exploit which at once made him a conspicuous figure among naval heroes. The defences of New Orleans, the largest city in the South, were very strong, as it was of the utmost importance to the Confederate Government to hold the place and command the mouths of the Mississippi. Seventy-five miles below New Orleans were two formidable forts, and a little farther down a chain was stretched across the river. At each end of the chain were earthworks. In the river between the chain and the forts were five rafts loaded with inflammable materials. Here also were thirteen gunboats, an iron ram, and an iron-clad floating battery.

Farragut was to be assisted by Commander David D. Porter with a mortar-fleet of twenty-one schooners. Sailing for the Gulf of Mexico, in the sloop-of-war Hartford, Farragut reached Ship Island, February 20th. The two forts - St. Philip, on the north bank of the Mississippi, and Jackson, on the south bank - mounted about forty and seventy-five guns, respectively. To force his way through the obstructions and past the forts, overcome the hostile fleet, ascend to New Orleans, and demand its surrender - this was Farragut's task. His fleet, including Porter's, consisted of six sloops-of-war, sixteen gunboats, twenty-one schooners each carrying a thirteen-inch mortar, and five other vessels. On April 18th they were all in position. For six days and nights a ceaseless fire was kept up by the mortars - mainly on Fort Jackson-but beyond a few casualties to the garrisons, no serious damage was done. As Farragut impatiently observed, the bombardment served chiefly to warn the enemy of the intended attack by his ships. Farragut, who had never put much faith in the use of the mortars, determined to run by the forts. The following account of this feat and the success that followed it is by the son of the intrepid officer who performed this great service for his country.

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