Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
MILITARY OPERATIONS IN LOUISIANA IN 1862. (1)
ON the 1st of May General Butler took possession of New Orleans, and immediately afterward of all its outlying defenses. (2) His instructions from General McClellan, as General-in-Chief, dated February 23d, the main object of which had now been so successfully accomplished, looked to the occupation of Baton Rouge as the next step, "and the opening of communication with the northern column, bearing in mind the occupation of Jackson, Mississippi." Mobile was to follow. The whole force assigned to General Butler, for all purposes, was 18,000, but his actual force can at no time have exceeded 15,000; it was now probably about 13,000..(3)
Two weeks before this the "northern column " under Pope, had been called from Fort Pillow tv Corinth; consequently there was no longer a northern column to cooperate with; and Jackson, Mississippi, meant Beauregard's rear.
Promptly on the 2d of May Farragut moved the fleet up the river, and on the 8th General Butler sent Brigadier-General Thomas Williams, with 1400 men of the 4th Wisconsin and 6th Michigan regiments, and two sections of Everett's 6th Massachusetts battery. On the 12th the troops landed at Baton Rouge and took possession of the town. The advance of the fleet anchored below Vicksburg on the 18th, ,when Commander Lee and General Williams jointly demanded from " the authorities" the surrender of the town which was refused.
The whole available force of the department, as things were then, could not have held Vicksburg. Farragut's guns were heavily handicapped by the extreme elevation required to reach the batteries on the bluff, 200 feet above the river, .
while Williams could not land till the batteries were silenced. After a thorough reconnoissance on the 25th it was decided to drop down the river, leaving six vessels to keep up a blockade and an occasional bombardment. The Confederates now rushed the work on their batteries on the river-front, and in a short time the whole ten were completed and about 25 heavy guns mounted.(4)
On the 29th of May the troops were back at .Baton Rouge, where they landed and went into camp for the first time in three weeks; indeed, the men had been almost continuously on the crowded transports, in a great state of discomfort, since the 17th of April. General Butler sent up reenforcements, and with them orders "to proceed to Vicksburg with the flag-officer, and then take the town or have it burned at all hazards." Accordingly, on the 20th of June, General Williams again set out for Vicksburg, under convoy, this time with four regiments and ten guns : the 4th Wisconsin, 30th Massachusetts, 9th Connecticut, 7th Vermont, Nims's 2d Massachusetts battery, and two sections of Everett's; leaving the 21st Indiana, 6th Michigan, the remaining section of Everett's battery, and Magee's troop of cavalry to hold Baton Rouge against a possible attack from Camp Moore, near Tangipahoa. At Ellis's Bluffs, and again at Grand Gulf, troops were landed to drive off the field-batteries that had been firing upon the gun-boats. On the 25th the troops were back at Vicksburg where the bulk of the fleet and sixteen of Commodore Porter's mortar-boats, or "bombers," as they were rather familiarly called, were now lying at anchor.
After the failure of the attack by Farragut and Porter's fleets on the 28th of June, Farragut sent an urgent appeal for aid to Halleck, at Corinth,
(1) For an account of the Naval Operations, see p. 551.
(2) General Butler at once declared martial law (by a proclamation dated May 1st), abridging the liberty of the press and placing the telegraph under military espionage. On the 6th a military commission was established to try capital and other serious offenses.
On the 13th an order was issued forbidding fasting and prayer under the proclamation of Jefferson Davis ; on the 15th an order (No. 28) prescribing that women guilty of insulting Union soldiers should be treated as "women of the town"; and on the 16th an order forbidding the city and the banks from receiving Confederate money, and fixing the 27th of May as a date when all circulation of Confederate notes and bills should cease in the Department of the Gulf. William B. Mumford, who hauled down the flag which by Farragut's order had been raised over the Mint, was convicted of treason, and by General Butler's order was hanged on the 7th of June from a gallows placed under the flag-staff of the Mint. Mumford, who was a North Carolinian, though long a resident of New Orleans, addressed a vast crowd from the gallows. He spoke with perfect self-possession, and said that his offense had been committed under excitement.- editors.
(3) General Butler raised, on his own motion, two good regiments of infantry, the 1st Louisiana, Colonel Richard E. Holcomb, and 2d Louisiana, Colonel Charles J. Paine, well commanded and well office red; three excellent troops of Louisiana cavalry under fine leaders, Captains H. F. Williamson, Richard Barrett, and J. F. Godfrey; and three colored regiments with white field and staff officers, designated as the 1st, 2d, and 3d "Louisiana Native Guards" (a name "captured" hy General Butler), Colonels Spencer H. Stafford, Nathan W. Daniels, and John A. Nelson. I believe these were the first negro troops mustered into the service of the United States.-R. B. I.
(4) On the way down the river a Confederate battery at. Grand Gulf fired about sixty shots at short range at the transports, killing one private and wounding one officer (Captain Chauncey J. Bassett) of the 6th Michigan regiment. The gun-boat Kineo, Lieutenant-Commander Ransom, shelled the town, and General Williams sent four companies of the 4th Wisconsin, under Major Frederick A. Boardman, to disperse the neighboring Confederate camp. A skirmish in the dark followed, in which Lieutenant George DeKay, Aide-de-Camp to General Williams, was mortally wounded, while in front of the advance-guard.
De Kay was a most estimable young man, much loved by all that knew him, and was the first officer killed in the department.- R. B. I.