Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Battle For New Orleans

How many hazards were faced and overcome?

On the night of April 23, 1862, roughly fifteen federal gunboats were lined up, with Farragut’s flag aboard the USS Hartford. Knowing that the chain was broken helped to lift the spirits of the men: even so, many of the officers wrote farewell letters to their families and sweethearts. The attack commenced at around 1 A.M.

The Confederates knew the attack was coming and had done all in their power to prevent it. As the federal steamboats passed through the former chain, they came under heavy fire, which was returned in kind. That was nothing compared to the flotilla of Confederate steamboats that descended upon them, however, and for the next two or three hours, something akin to hell enveloped the area. There were numerous barrages and salvoes, but there were also many attempts to ram: only one of the federal vessels was sunk in this manner, however. Farragut, who believed in leading from the vanguard, nearly perished when he swung amid the ropes and lines, trying to get a better glimpse of his foes. But with each passing minute, it became clearer that the Confederates were outmatched. As the hapless Confederate commander of New Orleans admitted, the Mississippi riverboat men were a poor choice as defenders: they were ill disciplined and disorganized. The Confederates had pinned their hopes on the construction of the CSS Manassas, a powerful ironclad, but it exploded after a particularly destructive barrage. By morning, the federal victory was complete.


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