The Capture of New Orleans

At the onset of the Civil War, New Orleans was the largest city in the confederacy as well as a large inland port. New Orleans was the transfer point where products from Mississippi, Louisiana and other confederate states along the Mississippi river, the low draft river boats could transfer their stock to ocean going vessels for sales in Europe. The defenses for New Orleans were about 70 miles down river on opposite sides of the river named Fort Jackson and Fort Philip.

In what became a huge piece of the puzzle for General Winfield Scott’s “Anaconda Plan,” a naval blockade of the mouth of the Mississippi River and associated ports would begin. The next part of the plan was to take the Crescent City, Taking control of the Confederate’s biggest city and port. Public favor inside the city was likely more friendly to the Union, the residents of New Orleans wanted the city to remain a free city and stay outside of the conflict. Thomas Overton Moore, who was Governor at the time that Louisiana seceded held a closed meeting before the vote for secession, where only about 5% of the state was represented and in that meeting the decision to secede was made.

To capture New Orleans, General Scott felt that the Union would need a large flotilla of well armed boats and ships, Fort Jackson and Fort Philip stood in the way. The Union would deploy 17 Ships of war, as well as a number of Mortar Boats to take out the two forts and proceed up the river to capture New Orleans. On April 18, 1862, the Union Navy under the command of Flag Officer, Admiral David Farragut would begin a five day bombardment of the two forts, firing 16,800 shells and mortars upon them. After 5 days of bombardment, the forts had not fallen. With no clear end in site, Farragut order the naval crews to continue up stream to capture the city.

Admiral Farragut – History Central

The Confederate defense of New Orleans was under the command of Major General Mansfield Lovell. When Lovell heard that the Union Navy had moved past Fort Jackson and Fort Philip, he knew it was a matter of time before they arrived to take New Orleans. The protections that existed between the mouth of the Mississippi and the city were meant to stave off ground attacks, not a naval attack that could land soldiers directly at the port, very few of the gun batteries that were placed were in a position to fire upon the river. He had 3,000 militiamen to fight off ships, mortar boats and 5,000 Union Troops on the way under General Benjamin Butler. The Union ships would easily overrun the city since the river is higher than most of the city, the ships could easily fire anywhere in the town, or fire into a levee, breech and flood the city. Lovell had one choice, evacuate the troops and all military equipment from the city. Lovell sent the Confederate artillery as well as ammunition and other stores to Vicksburg, where he felt they would be safe. He had the militia burn all the store houses, the troops then departed by railroad to Camp Moore about 80 miles to the north.

New Orleans – Bangor Daily News

Farragut arrived at New Orleans with his ships several abreast occupying the river. At 2:00 p.m. on April 25 Farragut sent Captain Bailey, Commander of the USS Cayuga to accept the formal surrender of the city, angry mobs gathered to resist the Officers and Marines sent to take the surrender. The Mayor of New Orleans and General Lovell refused to surrender the city. Rather than destroy the city, Farragut moved his ships north to take out other Confederate defenses near the city. On April 9, Farragut sent 250 Marines to New Orleans city hall, to take the building, remove the Louisiana flag, and raise the stars and stripes . On May 1, 1862, General Benjamin Butler arrived with 5,000 men to begin occupation and military control of the city, the 5,000 troops met no resistance.


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